Day 70: The Art of Questioning

So, as I mentioned this has been the first week of really digging into coaching work and we started with the art of asking questions.

Our instructor posted a few challenges for us. 1. Listen to the questions being asked around you. What are they like? 2. Listen to the questions you ask other people, what are they like? 3. Listen to the questions you ask yourself, what are they like?

I have really learned a lot about questions, about how people ask questions, how they interpret them and how people listen. None of it is revolutionary, it’s kind of what I expected, but now there is an awareness about it that I didn’t have before.

What I learned is that people love having the chance to talk about themselves and open ended questions really allow them that space. I first learned about open ended questions in vet school with respect to getting histories from clients, so it hasn’t been hard to move that over to coaching.

I also learned that not a lot of people listen. The vast majority of people are waiting to give their response and their experience and sometimes are so impatient that they cannot even wait for your sentence to finish before jumping in. It is also really obvious when people don’t care very much and cut people off and change the conversation.

People are selfish. Myself included. I love to talk about me and my problems (hello, I have a blog all about ME), but I think that one of the greatest gifts we can give to people is to listen. To be present in the moment and let them talk without worrying about where the conversation will go or what to say next.

Try it. Sit and just listen. People may not realize or tell you how amazing it feels, but I promise if you are consistent you will see people coming to you for advice and friendship more often. This can be a blessing and a curse. One has to remain powerful in themselves, and not take things on from other people, but it can also be magical experience and one in which you can learn SO much about yourself and how you show up in the world. ❤ ❤

Image by Frank Winkler from Pixabay

Day 59: A Prelude to Happiness

I think there is something that happens when you grow up in an environment where you are not loved in a way that you need to be loved. I think you don’t learn what love is supposed to be and when the only thing you know is fear and insecurity you adapt and figure out how to live there quite successfully. When you have adapted to any situation it starts to feel normal. Then, at some point in your 30s you realize you want to know what happiness feels like.

It seems like it should be an easy thing to do, find things that make you happy and then embrace it.

For me, that is not my experience. I could find things that made me happy for a split second, but it was as if there was something preventing that feeling from traveling to my heart. I knew I was happy in those moments but I didn’t FEEL happy.

Then I learned about love. I learned that love can be the most overwhelmingly beautiful experience and also one of the darkest parts of living. Love can heal and destroy. I thought true love would be this nirvana, and I still think it can be, but I think that real love comes in layers. Once there are enough layers of experience and disagreements and sticking around love settles in for the long haul. This to me is true love. Love that stays.

My love experience has been a rocky one the last few months. I have no clue where my future will end up, what man I will end up with, if I will even find a partner. But I do know that I am loved, very very deeply. When that love isn’t around I feel really sad.

I used to think that the depth of anguish I felt was in direct proportion to how much I loved someone. It turns out that depth of pain is really a reflection of how strong I am and how much I can handle. In an effort to feel something, sometimes I will amplify that pain to the point of near breaking. It expands that boundary of what I am capable of feeling. I am really well versed in expanding the pain and it is and has been, where I have lived for many many years.

This morning for a second I felt a glimmer of happiness in my heart and I immediately squashed it. Didn’t I remember I was supposed to be mourning the loss of Mr. X in my life (in the capacity I wanted him anyways)? The feeling came again for a second and again I thought, aren’t I supposed to be sad?

What is the prelude to happiness? For me, it was giving myself permission to feel happy.

I was driving down the road repeating to myself, “It’s okay to be happy. ” It is okay to be happy in the middle of sadness. That pain isn’t gone, it just released and moved around a little. It is okay to experience happiness even though your heart is breaking. It is okay to feel happiness during mourning.

After repeating these things a few times, the guilt started to dissipate. I remembered that another thing love is to me is wanting the person you love to be happy, whatever that looks like. In that moment I knew that Mr. X would be happy that I was happy. Happy that I was smiling in spite of the pain, happy that I was moving forward without him.

So I chose to smile, to sing a little in my car, to embrace the feeling and let it plant a seed in my heart. The next time it comes to bloom I will welcome it with arms open a little wider. ❤ ❤

Day 52: The Energetic Door Slam

Okay, technically it’s day 53. I didn’t write last night. I was in the throes of emotional agony and firmly adhered to my bathroom floor.

I am fascinated by my Myers-Briggs type right now. I am not sure why this is coming up, likely because I am still trying to find all these little pieces of me that have been scattered about my life. I wrote about my “personality type” here.

Anyways…. I have always been a runner. Nope, not physical runner though I did do that for a time, but I mean a runner in life. When things get “bad” in one place I pack up and go and start over again. This is a repeat pattern for me. I realized a while ago that running and not dealing with things means I find myself in the same situations. Maybe I’ll write more about this tomorrow. As I was reading about the INFJ personality type I came across this article about the INFJ door slam. What is a door slam? Basically it’s shutting someone out of your life, there are some that think INFJs are more likely to door slam and do it harsher than other personality types, some think there is no difference. I can only speak from personal experience and for me I am well versed in cutting people off emotionally.

In my life, love takes a long time to die, it’s a really long road, but once I reach the end it’s really hard to come back. The door shuts, firmly. There are times when the door shuts and there is no amount of knocking that will ever open it again, and then there are times the emotional door shuts but I keep in contact with the person in question. What happens to that love? I like to think each person has their own container, labeled for them. Some have a HUGE container, some have a teenie tiny one. The love that is in those containers doesn’t ever die. It can’t really, but the flow can be cut off totally so there is not even a shred of outgoing light and that love can be redirected.

It’s an interesting phenomenon too because INFJs, in general, are super sensitive and feel really really deeply, which means that things said can cut deep and have a lasting impact. Often times the person who is making the cuts doesn’t realize the damage that is being done and then when the door shuts they can find themselves confused about what happened or why it happened. I am experiencing this with my mother actually. She has asked me to tell her what she did wrong to elicit me setting boundaries. The truth is she hasn’t done one big thing, it’s more a series of small indiscretions for decades that have resulted in an avalanche of emotional shit between us. The reason the door is even cracked at this point is because she doesn’t know how her behavior effected me and my job as an introvert and as just… a decent human… is to communicate when there are issues. Of course, as a child in an abusive home, these are not conversations that happen. It would be so easy for me to close this door, and a few others in my life. And I will to those that become too toxic to tolerate, but this isn’t something that can or should be done lightly.

The thing that I am struggling with at the moment is how to maintain boundaries and still forgive people. I have this warped sense of forgiveness and this fear that to forgive someone means to open your entire heart to them. I haven’t figured out how to manage giving acceptably sized chunks of my heart, it is kind of all or nothing, and I haven’t figured out how to shift the relationship to something different. Fundamentally, I think people are doing the best with the knowledge they have and they make decisions and take the best actions with all of the information and wisdom that they possess. This doesn’t excuse bad behavior but it does take into account all of the warped conditioning people are subject to, the lies they tell themselves and all of the other fucked up cognitive distortions they have. We all do the best we can.

Sometimes the door needs to be closed temporarily. Sometimes it is like there is a tune up that is needed. The door needs to shut to close off all of the noise and confusion and to reset the relationship. This does not feel good. For me or for the other person, but it is in those painful decisions that a healthier set point can be obtained (I think…. I’ve never actually successfully navigated this but… I find myself trying).

That’s where I am at with Mr. X. For as much as we love each other and as much of an amazing connection that we have, love alone isn’t enough. When one person is so profoundly in love with another the switch to friendship can be a very long road. Right now my heart hurts deeper than I ever knew it could. It is a panicked, gut wrenching, not hungry, can’t sleep feeling, but the door needs to stay shut, until a time when I can open it with my heart in check and those feelings in a box. I don’t know if or when it will happen, and all I can do right now is process this situation. It is a death and rebirth all at the same time. Each step taken, not knowing if the next will be under my feet.

Sophocles wrote ” One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: the word is love.” When love with another causes that pain the only thing one can do is look inward. Find the love that exists in the heart, bring it to the surface and shower yourself with it. Realize that the pain is taking you somewhere. Somewhere different, somewhere clearer and ultimately somewhere better.

Hearts are the most painful thing to break, and they take the longest to heal.

Stay strong, friends. Shower yourself with your love, you’re worth it. ❤ ❤

Day 50: To All of the Difficult Ones

My dog is resting. He had his tests today. So far a couple abnormalities that we are looking into.

He is currently curled up underneath a faux fur blanket, he can barely be roused. The puppy is trying her hardest to get his attention but he is so groggy. His hind end is very weak and he is so doped up right now he could hardly figure out how to eat. I had him lay down and I fed him by hand. I had to wipe little food particles from his nose with a moist wash cloth. He looks so ….. old. I know he isn’t and I know he will be fine tomorrow but in this moment he looks so mortal. He is letting me take care of him, which is not something he usually does. This dog is all go. Sitting still or being coddled is not on his agenda, ever. He also hates needles, hates the vet’s office, hates restraint. Once he figures out someone’s trick to get a shot in him they will never be able to use it again. I seriously worry about what will happen if he ever has a true medical crisis. He is not a dog that would do well in hospital. He is stubborn and strong and delicate at the same time. He also requires enough drugs to stun an elephant for us to be able to do a full workup on him. He had that today and will be sleeping it off most of the day tomorrow too. For now he will remain curled up next to me, letting me wipe his droopy eyes and rearrange him so he is more comfortable. These are tender moments that will never leave my heart.

He is difficult to say the least. Difficult to love, no, not at all. Not for me. He is unique and intelligent and so strong willed. And I love that about him. I also love that when he is feeling crappy all he wants is me. It feels good to feel needed sometimes.

He mirrors the men that I bring into my life. Strong, independent, intelligent, protective, loving…. difficult.

It is in the difficulty though that is where the genius lives. It is in the refusal to pander to expectation, the reluctance to slow down … it is in the knowing that once I have their heart they will be loyal to me because it won’t have been easily earned, that makes me love them so fiercely. These are animals that are not submissive. They will do things only because they want to. Sometimes there is a conversation about it and paths are adjusted and sometimes there is nothing that will persuade them from a particular journey. When they let their super powers down around me, that connection is like none other, be it a man or a dog, that bond is solid and difficult to replicate.

I don’t love easy things. I never have. Things that came easily were often boring. It is a curse sometimes to want the puzzles, to want the difficulty, the passion, the struggle, but the end result, the connection of the heart… it’s priceless.

I remind myself on this eve of further heart breaking that I do this to myself. I am not satisfied with passive energy. I like passion and fire, and with those things comes heat and destruction at times. It is all a matter of knowing when to push and when to pull and when to walk away. Nature really does have it all figured out for us if we are just open to seeing the lessons.

I like the difficult ones, because I am difficult myself. I am not for everyone. In fact I am for a very few. I am for the ones that love fire and can handle the heat. For the first time in my life, I am okay with that, because when my love finds a place to settle, I know that that place is truly… home. ❤ ❤

Day 49: The Complexities of Relationships

Relationships are really fucking hard.

Especially when it feels like words and actions aren’t aligning. Even when the other person probably has a bigger picture view and you realize that. After all, everyone is compelled by their own wants and needs. They may love you, a lot. But at the end of the day they want what they want and I want what I want and those things do not always match up.

Relationships are a complicated dance. A dance of compromise, of love, of sacrifice sometimes.

Sometimes relationships need to be excised.

Sometimes they need the door to be closed for a while so they can be refreshed and renewed.

And sometimes they need to be fought for tooth and nail because that person is the best person that has ever come into your life.

Sometimes fighting for someone means shutting the door for a while so that both parties can have space for their hearts to heal. As much as a person can want to be in a different stage of a relationship, that shit takes time and can only bloom when both people are in the same heart space.

Every relationship brings ups and downs, reveals things about people that they would never otherwise see, and they all require growth of some sort. Relationships are humbling. Some days feel like an ecstatic triumph and others feel like one sucker punch after another. And sometimes you feel hit one too many times and it is revealed that what you have been fighting for so hard no longer exists. It’s heart breaking for the pieces of that person that you never want to let go of, but necessary sometimes to get back pieces of yourself.

Truly loving someone, opening your heart to them… for some people it is easy. For me… it is the hardest thing I have ever done. So tonight my heart is closing for a while, because it has been open and vulnerable and taken a few hits more than my delicate love can take. It will be repaired in that space, alone. It will come out stronger than before, smarter than before, with an unwillingness to compromise itself again at the hands of another person, no matter how amazing that person is.

Goodnight friends. May you close the doors that need to close, leave the ones cracked that bring you happiness and swing open those ones that fill your heart. The world needs more love in it, but tonight, it’s not getting one more speck from me. ❤ ❤

Image by SeaReeds from Pixabay

Day 48: For The Love of A Dog

This is going to be a short one. I am typing with one hand in the most awkward position imaginable.

Why?

I have a dog head in my lap. There is a gentle snore happening which is the sweetest sound I have ever heard. His head will fall if I move my other hand. This is what’s important to me in this moment.

The truth is, he isn’t feeling well. He has been a little “off” for a couple weeks, nothing that I can really pin my finger on, so we are going in on Monday for a whole gamet of tests. This dog HATES vets. Well, no, not the vet really but anything to do with restraint or sitting still. He lets me do most of his work, but being an equine vet there is a lot I don’t know so he will be sedated and poked and prodded for a bit.

My last dog was my heart dog. She was this amazing creature. She got me through so much shit in my life. I loved the hell out of her. She was a really beautiful dog. She died the day before I was supposed to move cross country for my job. It was the most devastation I have ever felt. I don’t really connect with many people. It’s weird. I will open my heart as much as they do and it turns out, with many people, that isn’t very much. Or maybe my heart is just really big so it feels like a small opening. My dogs though, they get it all. When she died… I was not sure I wanted to move on. It was BAD. Then I got my current boy. It took us a long time to bond but now that we have we are pretty inseparable. I didn’t think another dog would ever fill my heart, but he does. He has a lot of anxiety and so do I and quite frankly we calm each other. There are not a lot of people who would take on a dog like him, he’s a bit of a nut, but, as with any dog, his heart is pure and his love knows no end.

He has helped me through so much and is the warm comfort of safety that allows me to sleep at night.

With my last dog I knew something was a little off for a few months and I kept taking her in and saying I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something was wrong. We could never find anything. Until one day she woke up bleeding into her abdomen from a tumor on her spleen. In a way I am happy I didn’t know sooner. She was great up until her last day, and there was nothing but happiness and love in her last moments. My regret is that I didn’t do more with her, see more of the world. Realistically, she was probably happy just to be with me, no matter where we were.

This situation feels a little similar. I am trying not to panic. He is young, 5 years old. I envisioned years and years with him and many more adventures. Hopefully, this will be nothing and he will come through with a clean bill of health. But this situation has weighed on me and made me really step back and look at what is important in my life. It makes me consider why I do what I do as a vet. Most importantly it has reminded me that life is short and we never know what’s around the bend, so it serves us best to be present with the moments we are given, try not to live in the past or future, show appreciation and love to those important in your life, and love like a dog…. with a fully open heart and a lot of tail wagging. ❤ ❤

Image by Jan Steiner from Pixabay

Day 41: Anxiety: Terrorist of the Heart

I have always been a little on the anxious spectrum (read: A LOT of anxiety). I have been accused of wanting things to be perfect more than once. I have stressed over really insignificant things. I had a panic attack or two in undergrad over certain courses. It’s fascinating though that I never had that issue in vet school. Maybe I matured, or maybe I was just so busy running down a metaphorical, muddy, wet, hill, trying to keep my feet under me, that I didn’t have the space for the anxiety.

I have been able to let go of so much over the last year and my life has been a lot better for it. I have days now where I am happy and full of a feeling of love and that never used to happen. It is truly a new and wonderful experience for me. One of those happy days hasn’t shown up in a while though. The last few weeks, shit, since the first part of December really, has been filled with hit after hit. I am used to dealing with pain in my life and I am used to moving on past it. I do this, most of the time, by starting over in a new location, a new job, a new life. Nothing has ever really changed though. Each time I have moved I have eventually been confronted with the same realities. I started to evaluate this a few months ago and I have realized that I need to change the way that I confront life or these patterns will keep repeating themselves. So I decided to stop running from things and start having the hard conversations and seeing if I could cultivate the relationships that I wanted to – including the one I have with myself.

I have been really REALLY struggling with my job situation the last few weeks. I have been thrown under the bus, threatened, lied about and had my concerns completely ignored. I have had to sit in HR meetings and hear that my feelings weren’t valid and that it would take 3-4 more indiscretions at the hand of this other person before they would actually interject. I have presented management with written proof of lies and still nothing was done, threats were not taken seriously and there were no suggestions made for solutions. The manager in question was offered a promotion and took it. Thankfully, my new manager sees a lot more than the old and is taking a firm line on nasty behavior and while I am grateful for that, I still go to work everyday completely dreading it.

My bouts with anxiety have usually been very small and short lived, but with a lot of little insults and it has taken a toll on my physical body, one which I have been really focused on adjusting and healing from. This current work situation though is causing all of these things to come up that I thought were handled, so clearly I need more work in that area. My health is suffering too at this point and I am at a place where all I want to do is hibernate from the world.

I have a REALLY hard time when there are outstanding issues with other people. I usually feel so much better once I have said my piece and so has the other person and we are able to move forward in a constructive manner. This guy though, he completely lies. Blatant, bold, lies. And I cannot move forward with a person like that. I cannot close this loop. There is almost this forced stagnation taking place that is causing a whole boat load of anxiety. Quite frankly I don’t know what to do about it. And in the interest of not running I am trying to stay and work through it. I am placing boundaries, being an adult when we have to communicate and trying to keep my head down and do my work. My new manager has asked me not to leave yet as she is trying to change things as I am honoring that. I find myself, however, once again working with this guy this weekend, just the two of us and each text or ring of my phone is causing this volatile reaction through my body.

I wish I could put into words what anxiety feels like for me. It is this deep sense of desolation, a gripping of my heart and an actual pain in my chest. It is a heavy weight like a blanket that covers me and I just cannot seem to get my heart engaged in anything. It is a buzzing stiffness in my nervous system that is almost palpable. It is almost like all of my other systems have gone quiet, until it is safe to come out again, including my heart. In these moments I literally battle myself because the point in staying and fighting for life is to come at and be able to keep your heart open in the face of adversity and I feel like I am wearing myself out trying to do just that. It is bleeding over into other areas of my life as well. I am also finding myself confused about when is appropriate to throw in the towel and move on versus what is me just wanting to run, and I feel next to nothing in my heart right now to even help make that decision.

I heard this quote yesterday from Brene Brown, she said something along the lines of “pain that is not transformed is transferred.” I am seeing this happen so clearly with my situation. From a health standpoint the anxiety is showing up as back and shoulder pain, stomach issues and debilitating fatigue. From a relationship standpoint I am catching myself mentally taking my shit out on others. I did have a pretty big win for me though earlier this week, when I actually told someone what I was feeling and that it wasn’t a good time to chat and they honored that and I ended up having a productive conversation with this person at a later time about it.

I know I need to move this. I need to broaden my perspective to see solutions that I cannot right now. I know I need to calm my nervous system and remember to breathe when I am confronted with this person. I need to put this energy into creating something, and I am doing that right now. I also know I need to have some patience and compassion for myself and some appreciation for the fact that I am doing the work and making progress, even if it’s hard to see.

I got out of my funk for a while today and made some space between me and this anxiety. I had to go on a call earlier and when the text came through I just started bawling. No part of me wanted to go. I wanted to sit in my own shit and sulk and cry and snuggle with my dogs and find all of the things that are wrong with my job and with this situation at work. I wanted to lament the fact that I was alone and getting through the pain of an already bruised heart and I wanted to be stuck, because it is where I have lived for so long there is some comfort there. I still battle with myself to change things. Not because I have a hard time doing it, but because sometimes I don’t know if I really want to. Then I wonder, what kind of person wants to stay in a pile of shit. I will tell you… one who believes they aren’t worth more. Even though I know that isn’t true, I cannot come up with another explanation as to why I choose to live my life in that way sometimes. I think in some ways it is an emotional addiction. It plays to the victim stories and fear that pervaded my childhood.

Every shift, every action, every word, every thought…. one has to be diligent in the area of transformation. I think for some people it is easier. They seem to get these concepts and actually FEEL them and make shifts and have epiphanies and pops and their world changes very rapidly. I am not like that. I get all of the concepts and in many ways have a wisdom about them that surpasses a lot of other folks in this space, but the shift from thinking to feeling has been and continues to be the slowest part for me. I asked myself this today, don’t you WANT to feel happy? And the answer in that moment truly was, I don’t know. And there is the ugly truth. I don’t know sometimes.

What’s that old fable about each of us having two wolves inside us and which one are we going to feed…. I feed both… and I still haven’t breached that 51% that feeds the lighter one. Some days I find humor and joy and love. Some days the anxiety wins. Some days I reach neutrality like I did today. I found some space between me and my emotions and I let them be but didn’t interact with them, didn’t let them devour me. Did I have a happy day? Hell, no. But I did claw my way out from misery and despair and that, that is progress. In doing so a little bit of energy came back, a little bit of motivation came back and my life got a little bit lighter. From that space I can start to use the other tools. I can start to focus on feeling lighter. I can shift my energy to what I am gaining from this situation knowing that every conflict or problem provides positives if you are just able to look for them and I can evaluate how this is helping me with my future goals. In doing so I feed that white wolf just a little bit more. ❤ ❤

Image by skeeze from Pixabay