Wednesday, October 12, 2005

speaking up

Living with integrity means speaking your truth, even though it might create conflict or tension. -Barbara DeAngelis

I just got this in my email newsletter that I get weekly "Your Daughter Can Thrive" from Sharon Day I rarely read it because I don't have time. Today I did. What it says really spoke to my life right now.

How well do you speak up for yourself? How does your daughter do in this department? I don't mean the kind of bravado some folks display, brashly volleying opinions and emotions around like the weapons they can be. Some women say they're "in-your-face" in the name of honesty, when what's really going on is a self-preservation tactic. The teeth and growl of all those 'honest' words simply keep people from getting too close, and keep that woman from feeling below the surface.

No, I'm asking how able you are to simply state your feelings (especially those strong feelings) in a neutral, calm, yet accurate fashion. Most of us have had zero training, no role model, and, in fact, have been severely conditioned to do exactly the opposite.

Marianne Williamson says it beautifully in her classic, A Woman’s Worth: [As women we] "are still in emotional bondage as long as we have to make a choice between being heard and being loved." This is the legacy we have inherited, from eons of women being subjugated, marginalized, and shushed with the words, "Be nice!"

I feel this tension so intensely - I have some friends who have the opposite problem of not speaking their truth at all, but I am very good at speaking up for myself but the reality is that I must not do it well because I end up pissing people off when I do it - am I the kind of person who brashly volleys opinions? I would say in person no, I present my concerns calmly and rationally. But I think when email is the only option that my words or rants can come across just that way - very different than how I am in person or how I feel in my heart. But at the same time, it doesn't matter, it is indeed self-protection mode. I was so neglected and lonely as a child -and told that what I believed was inaccurate and untrue - that I have an incredibly intense need for my truths to be heard. I would rather be heard than loved.

I also can feel very angry at a situation and as soon as its resolved it's over. But if it does not get resolved it festers and I can't go on with that relationship. I tried in my marriage for way too long at this - the friends who know me and have been there with me through my life know I'm very loyal. I don't have conflicts with many people. But if someone is upset at me, I will try to see it from their perspective and honestly apologize - but I also will speak my mind and people don't always like this in any capacity, even calmly.

I cling to making things work almost to a fault - I stayed in my unhappy marriage for years and years and years thinking I could make it work, that I was a failure if I left, that I would be a failure as a Christian if I got divorced, a failure as a mother. I don't EVER want someone to be able say that I didn't do everything in my power to make it work - whatever "it" was. And yet the other party usually doesn't see it that way - and they are usually partly correct - maybe I didn't try as much if trying means to know when to stop or when to shut up and let well enough alone and let things go. How I wish I could take the feelings in my heart and make someone else feel them and know I was being true and honest - as much as I know about myself and my motives I reveal. Sometimes realizations dawn slowly on both sides.

Since my divorce, I am learning that when things are not good I know it fairly quickly and I need to walk away more quickly from the situations that are not positive for me. I get along very well with most people up until the time there is tension - then I have found most people prefer to not resolve or address issues and I fight it to the death - my fighting may be my voluminous emails, but I'm trying to force my opinions and perspective on another and you know, it just doesn't usually matter to them. True friends care, but most people - acquaintances - really don't care. There are some unusual souls who do have a lot of compassion for people they don't know well and they are blessings to the earth.

I come to the table assuming people want to work things out. I bring my concerns forward because I lose my motivation very quickly when I feel frustrated, and so I know myself well enough that I need to resolve the issue. Yet rarely have difficult situations been resolvable other than walking away. That is a shame. I remember that Debbie Ford - like me - says she was a fiercely independent self-starter who felt she had to rely on herself in the world. She hated "weak and needy" - but of course it kept coming up for her. And yet she said that it was in being defeated that she finally turned a page in her life and found joy.

In reading the Sharon Day newsletter further, wow, she has a story where she's sitting in the gynecologists office in the gown for an hour, and when the doctor comes in and asks how she is, she calmly and even a bit playfully responds, "You know, actually I'm cold, uncomfortable, and frustrated. I've been here for an hour." And yet Sharon says of the doctor, who she describes as generally a very caring, attentive doctor, "even someone this evolved was flustered by my simple statement of truth. She explained. She sort of apologized. ... Through the whole visit, though, I could feel her disdain, rather than an appreciative, "Thanks for telling me! I wonder how many other patients have felt that way and never had the guts to tell me?" as I had hoped."

This is pretty much exactly what I have found to be true.

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