Published on Medium.com at https://medium.com/journal-of-journeys/finding-my-voice-when-im-not-sure-who-wants-to-hear-me-bb7c12359d47?source=friends_link&sk=2db9677ad88cd6ac4b3e81d5ddcb9d2f
Have you ever felt the need to wipe away the energies of the day? I’ve felt it a lot lately. And sometimes, like today, it is a reason for me to take a shower at 3am and eventually go back to sleep instead of waiting and starting my day.
What do I mean by “energies of the day?” The thoughts that won’t go away. The feelings from listening to others or hearing the news or reading the reactions to any of the above. I want to clear the brain and reset (and actually sleep). Today, I find the need to write first.
One of my reflections lately has been about my birthday. The last post came before my birthday. Now that the odometer has officially flipped over, I am almost two weeks into a new decade. A friend ahead of me in the same year reassured me that it would be ok and there wouldn’t be zombies after me, or anything like that.
The other reason I have thought a lot about this birthday is because as an adult it has always been my effort to celebrate, especially for decade birthdays. Ten years ago I was still married. My (ex) husband had a decade birthday first and made a fuss about celebrating. When my turn came around – nothing. Our anniversary happened to be in October a couple of weeks later. My ex not only had to work, he didn’t offer to make plans over a different weekend, which is what we previously had done. The marriage, at least from my point of view, was rocky for many reasons. After the anniversary discussion I decided that I was finished. Instead of celebrating a relationship, I went apartment hunting, happy, at least, that I’d be returning to Kalamazoo. By the end of October I had moved (with the cat) and (re)started single life.
I moved several times since first returning to Kalamazoo. Some moves I chose to do while others I had to. For example, when the landlady died and the family wanted to make sure the house could be included as part of the estate. I had time, as long as I hurried up.
Moving this year is not something I expected. I actually have enjoyed living in a studio and made it feel cozy. I guess it had been more cramped than I realized, though. When the opportunity to move upstairs came along, I jumped. I could’ve moved to a bigger studio, too. I was only interested in the upstairs apartment. So for the last two weeks of September, I figured out where things generally would go and moved (with some help) upstairs to an apartment with three or four times the space. It seemed “right sized” – not as big as when I rented entire houses, and still bigger than the studio.
What I have noticed is that there is a different feeling when you have the space to move around. I will still be downsizing things. I believe my brain is also trying to download things. Maybe things that I didn’t completely have the room to put it in. Or the words to express. Or lost when in places too big. So, here I am at 4 in the morning, reflecting. I feel cleaner from writing as much as from showering. Just like that first move to the single life, this feels like a transition, too. Like there is more happening than the fact of organizing from a move. It’s probably been happening, and I am at a point where things slowed down enough (I mean, it IS 4am!) that I can acknowledge this change.
I have to say that I am excited. I also want to note that the last 10 years, even the parts more recently, seem like a long time ago (yes, in a galaxy far away, too). It’s experience, yet right now and whatever is coming up is what seems exciting and I don’t even know what that is. Have you had any similar experience?
Thanks for reading!
Have you ever stayed silent because if you said anything it could hurt your job or status or something similar? It’s like a wall that holds you back, even when you disagree. I’m not talking about being polite. Rather, disagreeing or having a different view point is what could get you into “trouble.” Another part of this is being afraid and not doing something because of that. How many people won’t venture out because it is too cold, too hot, too rainy or snowy, or too far away?
I had a conversation with a friend recently related to that last part. My friend thought that I’m not scared and that’s why I am willing to do things like riding my bike at night. I replied that I might be scared, and I’m not willing to have that as a reason to miss out. I do make sure to take precautions. The anxiety that I feel is a motivating factor to prepare and stay safer or drier or whatever the case may be.
The Hard Part
An organization that I have been involved in for about a year and a half has been a love/hate type of relationship. Early on, I decided that as a volunteer I could take the risk of speaking out and I wanted to make my voice heard. I had some initial support that allowed me to be a part of the steering committee. As I have stated in other posts, I am much better at writing than I am at speaking. I remind myself constantly that my belief in the potential community impact and importance of the organization is why I stick around. To you, that may sound silly. However, I have seen and experienced snippets of that impact and still feel it is worthwhile. Some examples of the challenges of continually speaking out include being a woman around a majority of men, high versus low engagement, and communication misunderstandings.
To be clear, most of the time I can get along with anyone who is willing. The willing part sometimes falls off course. For example, the conversation I have with some of the men comes from the attitude that I am someone to flirt with and it doesn’t matter the age difference or either person’s relationship status. Other than the flirting, there is never a reason to talk to me or take me (or any woman) seriously.
Some men insist on what they refer to as “chivalry,” always giving things up to let the woman make a first choice. I believe in taking turns. Or, for example, if you are going to hold the door open, do it because I am the next person behind you, not because I am a woman. Chivalry might be ok for a date or in certain other circumstances. As a rule, it stinks because it is as if women need the advantage of going first or cannot open the doors themselves.
Then there are the men who either joke all the time or are a$$holes. In these cases, it is challenging to have a serious conversation when that is the intent. Jokes are a way to be distracting and blow things off. The flip side, sometimes from the same people, is the a$$hole side of giving everyone a hard time to get through a conversation just to give someone a hard time. That is the only point – to tease or give a hard time. I am ok with this attitude if there is an actual point to it and the delivery is in a way to bring attention. Usually, though, it is joking, a hard time, or sometimes being completely ignored or hijacked. An example of hijacking is when I am directly asked a question from one person and a second person answers without acknowledging that the first had been asked. Sometimes this is the most challenging because it is like being invisible. Plus, it would take someone who is seen (not invisible) as an authority to make the point and potentially get behavior to change. I have spoken up about a couple of these. Apologies or not, the behaviors return.
High or Low Engagement
My philosophy is to be involved as much as possible when it is something I am passionate about or trying to learn. I admit I have a hard time when others do not put in the same efforts. Equally, sometimes my involvement is invisible as far as an output other than my physical presence. Overall, especially a year ago as a student, I have felt spread too thin and have had to make choices.
This particular organization is still in a startup stage with a lot of setups being created. In other words, even if I solely focused on tasks for the one organization (which I cannot do because I need to keep my paying job), the tasks would range. Some of the work has been openly divided up. The problem is that where I consider the work similar to a paid job, not everyone does. As a volunteer, it is a choice of how much to do. If it is considered a job, that means if I am expected and cannot make it, I let someone in charge know. If I promised to do something, I work on doing it. If I have a question, then I also expect at least a direction if not a final answer. I do speak up since I am around. Still to be determined if my efforts are appreciated. See previous section for reasoning.
Do you remember the Universal Translator that tends to be available as needed in Star Trek episodes? In this case, the foreign language is still English. The interpretation differences probably have to do with backgrounds and how the communications have been previously interpreted. When interpretations have occurred that made it seem like I am “this” type of person and in reality I am completely different, it puzzled (and puzzles) me. This happened with my ex-husband, too, someone who was supposed to know me. It is much clearer when it happens now because I usually know what the interpretation is and sometimes there is an actual discussion and the “Universal Translator” has worked. I tend to forget about some of the other interpretations until the situation repeats. People have been mad at me before because of those differences in interpretations, which is not a friendly environment. When I can get a discussion in, I do.
The whole point here is to be able to respectfully speak out and take the risk even when afraid. If nothing else, I am learning how to deal with the situations and getting practice at being better at speaking out. In a more established or formal organization, I probably would have been fired several times by now. The question is, if we cannot speak out and everything stays as is, what is the point? The challenges and changes are what makes us grow and mature. Are you satisfied with the current state of life in the world you engage in or will you walk the line (respectfully) for something more?
Thanks for reading!
Have you ever had a change in mood and not know what triggered the change? Or maybe something is making you feel anxious or nauseous, and you cannot pin down the source. In reference to the title of this post, “Wakin’ Up” isn’t about wake up time or morning rituals. It’s about awareness. In particular, self-awareness. With the way society has rolled, at least in my lifetime, our brains default to automatic, a lot. Look it up – it’s biology and also psychology. More resources are available in our brain when things go automatic. For example – do you remember what you had to eat this week at every meal? Unless you keep a food diary, probably not. Or, if you drive to work, do you remember details from the drive? The point to all of this is being aware makes us more connected to what’s happening.
The last few years, especially, I feel like I slid backwards. My energy levels, appetite, and even social interests completely changed. Based on psychology class discussions and readings, if I better understand, then it will be easier to maintain and improve health. It’s also good for personal growth. The top three items that have helped push me in the personal growth direction are as follows:
When I began participating in yoga classes, I didn’t know exactly what that meant. I mean, I knew they were different than most gym classes, and the more I did yoga, the more I liked doing yoga. Plus, some days I know I need it.
My experience widened from a gym to a local yoga studio a couple of years ago. I learned more about types of yoga and hours of certification and how many people liked recovery type classes. I feel like I’ve been in recovery for “something” for a long time. Maybe I have been and maybe it’s multiple reasons. Yoga gives time for me and to slow things down for an hour. If I’m lucky, that time helps me to heal.
At the moment, my favorite class is a Friday night heated vinyasa. When I first started going a few months ago, I would get there and really “sink” into my mat cause I was exhausted from the week. The class has opened things up – less aches are good since inflammation seems to be a root cause of many health problems. Plus, there’s something about that group at that time making the transition to the weekend. Also, the instructor’s focus (which many there do) on cues and creating an awareness so we observe within – differences, aches, everything. I had a personal trainer who would do that – describe what I should feel and where. Otherwise, how are you supposed to know what is correct? Since we practice in a heated room, the heat stays with me and keeps me warm and happy until I am at home and fall asleep.
Sometimes in yoga the instructors refer to meditation. Plus, as Eastern culture penetrates more of Western society, it’s easy to find meditation references related to health, whether in schools or something that is trending. What is meditation, though? I mean, if we cannot remember what we ate this morning or anything about the route we drove to work, how do we connect through meditation? And is meditation really for anybody?
One of my friends happened to mention this book by journalist Dan Harris, “10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story.” After an on air panic attack, Harris began to unravel the real problem – the voice in his head (that we all have) – and take the reader with him on his journey to tame that voice. The journey includes a meditation retreat, and Harris describes his experience in details. The phrases people express about meditation, such as “clarity,” make more sense after reading Harris’ story. The reader learns as Harris learns. Plus, Harris is a cool (acceptable) guy to teach a reader not initially into meditation or anything similar.
Feedback from Others
Years ago, sometimes a member of my Toastmasters club would challenge a speaker to immediately redo a speech after everyone’s feedback. I accepted that challenge, too. For Toastmasters, feedback is expected, and the Club meeting is considered a safe environment. What if it’s more random and in the wild – as far as you don’t know in what form or the timing you may receive it?
Referring again to psychology classes and discussions – without feedback, needed change would be slow, if at all. So when I get picked on for mumbling or speaking too softly (which I know I do), the feedback is aversive enough where I want to change (and I want to be heard). Yes, the group picking on me might make it feel like we’re on the playground as 5th graders instead of at a meeting with adults. It works, and they’ve done it enough that I have become more aware of how often and when it happens and therefore I have a better chance of improving my life. In fact, I’ve told the people who provide the most feedback that I don’t want it sugar coated. I just want to know. Wow, has some of it been a wake up call, too. Feedback is also two way, so I hope what I provide helps others. What you do with the feedback you receive is a choice. Always consider it, then use it or push it aside.
The combination of reading the Dan Harris book, yoga, and feedback, plus my intentions, have helped me. I love that I feel more awake and energetic lately. I am grateful for these practices and experience. What are yours?
Have you found that you are spread too thin and cannot be involved in all the activities you want to be doing yet can’t figure out what to give up? Would you rather choose to focus on one around your work and family schedule? When we spread out the way we do, similar to multi-tasking, we end up doing the minimum, sometimes barely, and not as well as possible. Being able to dive in deep and focus gives us the chance to engage. I know that I struggle because I like everything I am involved in, and it is too much. In a discussion with a doctoral student, she felt the same way about being in school. Nothing really zeroed her in, although she liked everything. She stated that the people she knows doing the best are out there making what they want to do happen.
What does it take to make something happen? I had the opportunity to facilitate a discussion in a psychology journal club (run by the same doctoral student) on the topic of going deep. This group is an example of being in an environment that is supportive at an intellectual level, and I am grateful to be a part of it. The doctoral student had advised looking at a special issue of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management with the topic of leadership and culture and choose two articles (noted at the end). One of the articles had a table that compared the needs of the working world versus characteristics of young professional. Some of the characteristics seemed to apply to a greater population. For example, being a passive consumer versus a dynamic creator. Also, doing as told versus seizing the day.
If you are willing to be a dynamic creator and want to “seize the day,” does that mean you will be able to? Here is another example of how the environment matters. Think about where you work (or have worked). Have you ever been encouraged to come up with ideas on a project, only to be shut down? Or maybe the words and actions do match, and you and the people around you thrive because you are given that opportunity. Those opportunities also encourage personal growth, which is another benefit. Being shut down, though, is like stating that you are not worthy. Being shut down or told what to do is a control. Sometimes, the controlling is necessary to make sure things like vision, mission and goals stay in alignment. Are there other ways to manage? How this is done is usually a part of the culture, and culture is typically based on what leadership does.
When being shut down happens to me and there is something keeping me connected, I may stay and at the same time look for other activities. In my life, for example, I have a paid job, I volunteer at a place where I am also a member, and I am a part of my local neighborhood board of directors. On top of these choices, I also have to maintain the personal end, such as grocery shopping, paying bills, cleaning my apartment and that I am eating/sleeping/exercising enough. That’s a lot, and I’m only one person! I do try to incorporate things such as biking for transportation because that is also exercise. For those who have a family, then some of the personal end also means making sure the family has what they need. After that, how do we have energy left to be creative and explore new interests? Is this why a more controlling structure evolved?
Again, I believe this is where environment matters. The people who I know that thrive are the ones with a great support system. Maybe parents take turns driving several kids in a carpool. Maybe grandparents babysit so the parents can have a break from that role. Maybe company leadership provides more of a support and feedback system instead of micro-managing. Maybe a group of friends takes turns with making a meal or cleaning or the group is good at knowing resources. How can there be growth if we keep following what society has taught us and keep to ourselves, listen and not question what leadership is telling us to do, and only seek answers?
Sometimes, being spread thin is a way to try different activities. At the local art institute, for example, they have an open night every once in a while. On the open night they have classrooms setup and each has a different type of activity related to their art school. Participants are able to try the different activities and see if they want to explore it further. What a great way to sell art school classes! And, what a great environment! Anyone attending already has that mindset of exploring. It sounds more like fun than work. Plus, once you do start learning and practicing, you have the chance to become really good.
The conclusion of the journal club discussion did not end with any solutions. I still do not know how to narrow down the activities so I can have the focus and become really good at something. The point of the journal club discussion and also this post, is awareness. If we are aware that there are different choices and that environments can change – at least your personal one – then we might be likely to ask the right questions and come up with solutions. What I do want to focus on is writing, although I do not know if writing is my answer. When it comes to environment and going deep, what do you think?
Thanks for reading!
Articles I read:
Geller, E.S.(2015).Seven Life Lessons from Humanistic Behaviorism: How to Bring the Best Out of
Yourself and Others, Journal of Organizational Behavior Management,35:1-2,151-170
Krapfl,J.E. & Kruja,B(2015). Leadership and Culture, Journal of Organizational Behavior