Why I’m not a #survivor

Ok, I am. I HAVE survived. A lot. Which is my point.

I think I have much to say on this topic, but perhaps social media and the need to get to the point has played into my lazy “how quickly can I get this done” mentality! So, hopefully for you – I will be short, concise and easily understood.

Saying “I am” is a deep statement.  “I am” is about the depths of my soul.  My innateness, my sheer existence and the things that make me specially me. If you are a quick thinker you may already have gone there…. “But don’t your experiences make you who you are?” I’ve heard and thought that “Our experiences shape us” That’s what I want to talk about. **disclaimer:  I’m not done with me, so this particular piece will never really be done. Feel free to comment your thoughts after reading!

Religion, spiritual gurus and philosophers have been tackling the idea of “self” for as long as we’ve been thinking… And even though I think I am a deep thinker, in reality, I prefer to wade.  I like the safety of the shore and the “idea of” the ocean.  But if I go too deep I can feel the strong undertow and have to retreat back to a depth I can feel comfortable in.  All that to say: I don’t think this is gonna be too deep.  😉

Experiences vs Self

I think of my SELF as separate from what happens TO my self.  So if you can hang with me there that would be cool. If I am my self, what happens to that self is a separate thing.  So saying “I am a survivor” as in ‘a person who survives’ is still ok with me – except for the whole death thing. Should my headstone say “She thought she was a survivor. PWND!”  Anyway…What’s not ok?  Marketing (oops, I mean ‘awareness campaigns’).  Glorifying of shitty situations.  Making ‘war heroes’ out of people who have accomplished not dying.  (That is everyone’s goal.  Everyone fails.  Everyone.)

Let’s break it down.  I survived sexual abuse.  I survived domestic abuse. I survived losing a child. I #survived breast cancer.  But what I don’t understand is that that last one earns me the hashtag rights.  The “survivor” in quotes rights.  Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t feel bitterness.  I think we are victims of feeling good about ourselves based on marketing campaigns and a herd-like mentality.  Again, don’t misunderstand.  I think we SHOULD feel good about ourselves.  Our innateness. Our being.  I think it’s a pretty big deal to exist.  The alternative is huge…. right.  I feel GOOD that I exist.  I like the me inside of me.  I like the me I am being.  I find flaws, things I don’t think belong to that me – but mostly, I like me.  I don’t like many of the things that have happened to me.

And so my first question is; Why define myself by what has happened TO me? (side note:  semi-colon??? I mean it’s two complete thoughts, but maybe different punctuation is required here.  Let me know in the comments, I am blogging and don’t have time/inclination to research proper punctuation.) 

“Why define myself by what has happened to me?”  Why identify with, any more than necessary, the role of a victim, for example?  Sure, stuff I have experienced is shitty.  Actually, really traumatic. Some people DON’T survive  – they die as a result of their sufferings – accidentally-ish, we call that manslaughter sometimes, or purposefully- or they are so stuck they kill themselves to escape. There are levels of survivorship too, right?  Some people manage to live through the horrible things that happen to them only to be stained, sometimes for their entire lives…. choosing situations that perpetuate feelings of or actual continued victimization.  They can’t talk about what’s next for them because their minds are stuck in what happened to them.  They can’t feel joy in shitty moments because they are still reeling from past shitty moments.  No.  This isn’t an indictment.  I don’t know why some people are able to move on and others aren’t.  It weighs pretty heavy on my heart.  I was stuck for a VERY long time. I was a #survivor, an #overcomer.  For me, THAT was the problem.

Wearing my experiences like a badge. But that badge is a label.  It’s an I AM.  It defines, or represents at least, the depths of me. Like the bigger, badder shit I went through… the better person I was.  Do you realize how messed up that is?   I am not what has happened to me, it actually has little to DO with my me-ness. This logic in turn takes AWAY from the me-ness of others.  What if you never suffered horribleness?  Does that make it any less amazing that you exist? Is your uniqueness any less unique or beautiful? Where’s YOUR hashtag? How will we #recognize you and easily label you?  How will people know where to give their money so they feel like they’ve “done something”. No. I didn’t just say giving money is a way to feel like you are doing something without actually doing something (but sometimes it is).  I also didn’t say that donating to research, cures, and programs that help people is bad.  Here’s the other thing about that ‘badge of honor’ #survivor… it feels like a competition and I WON!  I won the prize.  Those who died didn’t.  They didn’t “WIN!” The subtle and sometimes overt implication is that they were ‘weaker’ or somehow ‘less than’ or – the opposite, they are worshipped. They are ‘true heroes’.  I call bullshit.  Let’s not just think in 1’s and 0’s… blacks and whites.  And don’t think that just because I am writing this my thoughts are finished, proven and refined.  I, like you, am still figuring out what I think about ALLLLLL this. (life, suffering, joy, existence) I also still don’t have a favorite color.  I know. ugh.

So when I think about me, I think about what drives me.  I sense what drives me by recognizing the types of things I want to accomplish.  I want people to live in joy.  I want to help people around me live meaningful lives.  I want people to be self-actuated. I want people to figure out the good stuff in ways that give meaning to them- and hopefully the rest of us.  I want to point to the good stuff, generate my own good stuff and kind of roll around in it. Then I want to hop to my feet and run to the next good stuff.  Being present during the bad stuff – mine and yours is part of that.  Living through the bad stuff isn’t who I am, it’s a consequence of being alive.  It can be part of my rolling in the good stuff.  Sitting with you, listening to you when you are sad. That is pretty precious.  To experience the honor of being present as the depths of your being is revealed is a huge thing. It reminds me of my smallness in this world and my greatness in that I, too, exist. It can be laying on a table in a big room while the amazing RADIATING MACHINE pushes it’s rays through my skin to kill the nasty cancer that happened to me.   Did I “Kick cancer’s ass”?  Well, I think the doctors and “The Radiators” kicked cancer’s ass.  I didn’t do much but show up. Did I impact the people around me anyway?  Yup. That’s ME.

Am I a #survivor, though? Yes, I lived through it. I am NOT saying you were wrong to be excited for me. I am NOT saying you were wrong to say “Yay, you are now a “survivor”!” because that was you being happy I didn’t die from breast cancer.  (Shit! I’m glad, too!) I am glad that you are using the best words you have to say those things.  Thank you.  But to answer my real question; no, I am no more a “survivor” than anyone else in this world.  You may think I am because my shitty bad stuff looks big and scary to you.  But, guess, what… there is worse. There is stuff I wonder often about how people come out of with their selves in tact.  But when I look you in the eye, I don’t see someone less than, or more than.  I look for a friend, a fellow exister. (That just made me smile SO BIG!) Just THINK what life would look like if we could shake ourselves free from our experiences.  Stop the subtle and overt comparing.  Step away from the pink ribbons and the black flags and the iconery and hashtags and the stuff that feed the money mill for just a bit….

Isnt’ it crazy that a KNOWN fundraiser (I LOVE fundraising!) is talking like this?  A cynical “money mill” statement thrown into the mix?!  Let me clarify a bit…I want my/your money and effort to go the actual things that are important to me or you.  I want you to KNOW that TOO many people are trafficked for sex and slavery (those words don’t need to be separated, do they?). I want you to know that there are ways to detect breast cancer. I want you to help pay for cures and research and people’s overwhelming medical bills during crazy difficult (physically, mentally, emotionally) times.  I don’t do pink ribbons or #hashtags too often because I think they make us just a little complacent.  They DON’T remind us that we are responsible for what we do with the tools we have (our brains, our money) and to have great marketing doesn’t mean you deserve our dollars. It also doesn’t mean you don’t.

It means that WE are sometimes too lazy about intentionality, about thinking and about loving each individual just because they exist.  It’s easy to let marketing campaigns make us feel good and important more than actually BEING GOOD and recognizing our innate importance.

 

Recap:

  • #protip Great marketing can encourage laziness and a ‘sense of doing good’ when there are better good things to do.  There are lists that show how much $$ leaders of nonprofits makes and percentages of dollars that go to admin vs the actual cause.  Admin is important as is good leadership. Just don’t assume it’s good because there is a ‘pink ribbon’ (or other easily recognizable icon) attached to it.
  • Labelling people is constrictive.  What if the cancer comes back?  Do we remove the hashtag?  Oh, sorry… #notasurvivorreally. Or do you get extra hashtags for each “surviving”?  What are the RULES!?!?!? #beyourownlabel
  • We need to free ourselves from the judgement of ‘not enough’ and focus our energy on BEING in the best sense. Victimization is evil, I will not define myself by the moments someone or something else has threatened my being. I am above or maybe even simply OTHER than that.
  • We all die.  Surviving is what we do everyday… until we don’t.  Living in recognition of the level playing field is a beautiful.  There are people smarter, taller, less smart, shorter, more brilliant, stronger, weaker… then I am.  But I think we are all part of the same.  (No. Don’t stay with your abusive spouse… that’s not beautiful.  Let them find their innate worth…and yours – and then maybe we can talk).
  • I’ve spent my life trying to be good and right and follow all the rules and find all the right rules and be the right things to all the people and suffer well and live strong and I’ve been mistaken.  The best is to be.  To BE me. To not mind the rules… I mean if you don’t want me to step on your grass, I will totally try not to.  Not because I agree that your grass is more important that my feet, but because YOU are. Life takes balance. Balancing who you are with who others are.  Sometimes there isn’t healthy balance in those spaces.  Move on.

    Or should I say #moveon 😉

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Badass Branding

Lady Gaga.

gaga sound of music

(Listen to her Sound of Music Medley)

I probably could stop there. But for those of you who aren’t quite sure what I am talking about…

gag set

Now tell me, when she first started her singing career, were YOU a fan? (I have lots of friends who will answer ‘OF COURSE!’ and many who will say, ‘uh. no.’)

Did you ever think SHE would be asked to sing the “Sound of Music Medley” at this year’s Oscars?  Did you ever think she would look so “normal” or “princessy”?

Me neither.

Here’s my take.  Lady Gaga’s branding is an outlet for self-expression. Her branding allows her audience to relate and be heard.  Her branding gets her AMAZING voice attention. Her branding helps us look past stuff we may not understand, to be able to listen – either without the prejudice of our eyes or enhanced by our vision.

NOW….what if she had tried to be “the next Julie Andrews” or just another girl with a really great voice? Trust me, there are LOTS of girls with really great voices.  Why do you think it’s so hard to make a living in the music industry? …or any industry, for that matter.

There are LOTS of people with talent and skill; what YOU bring to the table is the differentiator.  You better bring it.

Beautiful on the inside

Today I shared (on Facebook) a video about being free from ‘beauty expectations and pressures’

I am not a fan of sappy, but I found tears streaming down my face.  I kept repeating “pretty enough, beautiful enough” as each woman became freer and freer with less and less makeup, hair extensions, photoshop treatments.

I enjoyed a friend’s comment about his daughters: “Funny, now that I have two beautiful daughters I’m so much more aware of stuff like this. Love it.”

I enjoyed how many people shared the video with their audiences.  But one lovely, well intentioned friend shared with a comment about ‘lasting beauty’ being on the ‘inside’.  Gosh, I was suddenly furious. (HAHA!  I am in my 50’s ok, maybe that has something to do with the intensity… maybe not.)

BEAUTIFUL ON THE INSIDE.  I would like to call “Bullshit” on that phrase. Here’s why….

It’s like ‘beauty on the inside’ is the consolation prize.  “Well, honey, you actually aren’t very pretty, but you are so sweet.  That’s all that matters.”  UGH. It’s almost synonymous with ‘ugly’.  Firstly, you aren’t the judge of pretty.  Well, actually you are, but keep your negative thoughts to yourself. They are for you. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”  You get to decide what is pretty/beautiful, but maybe it’s unhealthy to try to get others to conform themselves to your idea of beauty?

Honestly, I don’t think people who say that mean that you are NOT pretty on the outside.  I think they THINK they are saying 2 different things.
1. Outside goes away and is less important, so be beautiful in your personhood first and foremost. AND
2. The outside IS good enough.
 BUT… they don’t realize they are actually saying  – you don’t cut it. (well the people I am talking about anyway)
This may just boil down to
1.) Verbal laziness (their, they’re, there)
2.) Thought laziness (I don’t really want to tax my brain thinking what the underlying message is.  I would rather repeat things that sounded nice when I heard them)
3.) Ethos laziness (I don’t want to go through the effort of knowing what I am about and being about it to the core of my being)
Sometimes, though, it’s just hard to say what we think.  So, no judgement on you if you are saying these things.  I think the best about you. I hope you do the same about me. But if you, like me, are finding that so many of these “empowerment, beauty, girl power” statements are simply underhanded compliments… change it.

Crash sites….

cj 7 renegae

Not the car I totalled

“…and the sign said, long haired freaky people, need not apply…” was blaring from the radio as I was launched from the fabric door on my parents’ brand new CJ7 Jeep.  I wasn’t wearing a seat belt.  I landed alongside the road, in the grass, rolled head over heals a couple times and then rolled to my feet. As I stood there, music still blaring in the background, my friend’s car screeching to a halt behind the upside down Jeep on the gravel road. I checked my fingernails.  I don’t think I had even painted them.  I wasn’t much of a ‘girly girl’ then either.  Not too much make-up.  Pretty enough.  Nothing special, really.  My nails were in tact.  Whew.  They call that shock.

My friend, Janet, ran over to me…asking if I was ok.  I felt ok, aside from the sick feeling I had looking at that BRAND NEW most likely totalled car.  She crawled under the car. Turned it off.  The music stopped. My dad did LOVE Jeeps.  I lied to my folks, told them I had seen a chipmunk and swerved, rolling the Jeep.  HA!  My dad knew, of COURSE, that didn’t happen.  I had been fish tailing on the gravel and looked too long in my rearview mirror to notice the telephone pole in front of me.  I cranked the wheel hard. and Voila! Flying Beth.  Broken Car.  Even the roll bar. Janet and I went on to attend our friends wedding.  Grass stains on my knees.

We have all crashed.  At least once in our lives. Maybe not a vehicle – maybe just little emotional crashes that have us “checking our nails”.  Sometimes, tho, you feel like you have just had a crash you might not recover from, you know?

I remember seeing a video of my dad’s once. A long time ago.  He was super proud of it.  It was something I really didn’t KNOW he did. I think I actually knew, but it scared me so much, I tried to not think about it.  He was a pilot and flew a lot.  I was ALWAYS afraid he was going to crash.  I didn’t like when planes would buzz overhead, because it reminded me of that feeling.  Nobody really knew that’s how I felt.  That may have something to do with being motion sick most of my life.  (that is off topic tho..)

The video. It’s of a crashed airplane.  In an incredibly small field, with forest on all sides.  The plane doesn’t look too bad, but let’s be honest.  It had just crashed, so it can’t be too good.  The footage is of my DAD flying that plane out of the crash site… taking it to get repaired.  Really. ugh. He did this and loved it.

Sometimes you feel like you crashed from super high and your plane is stuck in a super tight spot. Emotionally there isn’t any space.  No tow trucks.  It’s “fly it out of there, or trash the whole thing” time.  Are you with me? I find myself there.  Every once in a while.  All the trying events of my life crash into me at once – history meets present. And I tailspin. Sometimes it’s an impending holiday.  Sometimes it’s a life circumstance, usually unexpected.    And for all the encouraging comments and loving friends.  I am still going down.  Like the guy in the tower.  Willing me not to crash, but my plane is not complying.

Today.  I see myself flying out of the crash site.  I feel like I inherited these badass, thrill-seeking, “let’s do this” genes.  Today.

my list

Going from friend to friend, talking about specific problems in your life…depending on which friend is best suited to help/understand/respond appropriately…. might also be called “using people.”

I am not saying you shouldn’t consider well who you share with, but do you have one or two friends you can share absolutely everything with?  Are you that kind of friend?

Beth’s friendship guidelines:

Listen without judgement or agenda.

with compassion.

without fear.

with hope.

without fixing.

with confidence.

without needing to be right or ‘heard’.

Be this kind of friend and chances are you will find this kind of friend.

What would YOU add to this list?

A special nod to my very dear friends who stand with me with their whole hearts, even when i am lost, floundering, insecure…and when I am powerful, confident and running like mad.  I love you.

…belonging

Time & Investment… and affinity. The stuff belonging is made of.

I had calories for breakfast with a new friend.  I like him.  but he’s new.  You can only go so deep.  Only share so much ‘belonging’.

(Oh, calories? Yeah, it was like pancakes, steak, eggs, french toast, cheese, sugar, sugar, syrup, apple, one walnut.  Maybe a little more sugar.)

Anyway, I have been in a pursuit of belonging lately.  Not happiness. Perhaps I believe that happiness comes with belonging. I don’t know if it does.  What stands in the way of belonging?  Language, buzz words, songs, partially assuming the same point of reference. They are also what make belonging fun.  You know that feeling when you know what everyone is talking about?  You share the same secrets and joys and ideals.  And you use all the same words to talk about all those things. But sometimes, it makes you talk around subjects. The effort to understand the depth of sorrow or contentment or struggle in someone’s heart is more difficult.  Because in the belonging marked by the trappings of sameness, we assume.

So maybe I have been looking for belonging in order to prove that it’s not what I think.  What we think. It’s not buzz words, or language or customs.  Those things maybe just take the place of actual belonging, or form around belonging and need to be fought. I think if something belongs to me I own it.  I am, therefore, responsible for it.  Not in a “conform or depart”  or a “conform or be forgotten” or a “you are incapable of self care” sort of way, but more of a “it’s my job to understand and accept and love what belongs to me”.  This takes a lot more words,  a lot more work, a lot more time, a lot more me- on both sides.

I like my new friend and in some ways I am sad that I find myself not only IN conversation, but outside of it – examining, evaluating, perceiving. I wonder, do I really want the intensity I seem to be seeking?  Or am I looking for easy?  Either way, I seem to be mildly disappointed. My guess is that it’s neither.  Depth and comfort aren’t the same as intensity and ease. See what I mean?

So, I wander. Just a little.  In my mind and in my heart.  Poking around, looking for meaning and belonging and depth and comfort with just a smidge of intensity and ease.  😉

 

 

Are you ready? Mentor ready?

You are a professional. At the very least you give care and attention to the things you do.  You want to deliver a high quality, consistent product, right?  Whether you are home raising your children, making / selling the latest widget, or providing a service to people at large….right?

That’s how I think about it.  But between you and me (and the other person who also reads my blog) sometimes I get lazy – or just manage my time poorly.  The result?  Inconsistency in product.  I snap at my kids.  I don’t do the homework required to actually be ready to help my prospect make an informed decision.  I can stop, right? You get it.

Yesterday was one of those days.  I had gone in to teach a class less than solid on my choreography (it’s a fitness class) I knew it well enough.  My class would mark “satisfied” or even “very satisfied” had I given them a survey. But that’s not the goal.  I recently sat in on a lecture by Fabio Comana (Exercise Physiologist; Faculty Instructor- SDSU, UCSD and National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)) where he shared a great concept. “Satisfied is not good enough”  In the fitness industry we need to provide memorable experiences.  We need to meet unspoken needs and not only help meet our clients goals, but create evangelists for our services.  I agree with this wholeheartedly.

In theory.

Back to yesterday.  I was gearing up to teach my favorite class when low and behold in walks my MENTOR.  ugh.  Really?  Today? He was gracious and when asked to team teach even studied up on the choreography and jumped in.  He delivered a top-notch consistent product…. with energy and enthusiasm!

Me? I choked. HAHA!  yes, really.

I did, however, walk away with new resolve (resolve seems to be a theme this week) to up my game, to inspire, to challenge and to impassion… through the delivery of a consistent high quality product.  Every time.

Are you ready for YOUR mentor to join you?