Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gifts of the past

When I was in my final year of High School I shuddered at the thought of slicing up baby chicks and dissecting frogs. An honours student, I approached my biology teacher and proposed I run an experiential learning experiment with two separate Grade 3 classes in the elementary school across the square from our HS. He agreed and thus began a year long odyssey into How Children Learn through Vicarious Experiences.

It was a challenging, fun and exciting process. I got to 'play' with the students twice a week and at the end of it, write a report about what I'd experienced, observed and learned. And I never had to lift up a scalpel and cut through the connective tissue of a frog's leg.

The exercises I created focused around 'soft-skills'. Teaching kids how to interact more effectively with each other through role-playing games, language, creativity etc.

Last night, as C.C. and I delved into one of those heart-stomping ground-breaking conversations about me and you and what we need to deepen our relationship, I was reminded of that class long ago.

"You don't listen to me," he said.

I wanted to respond, "Yes I do." Because, seriously. Me? Not listen? hah!

Fortunately, echoes of lessons learned in the past prompted me to stop, take a breath and listen. "I hear you saying you don't feel I listen to you. Can you tell me more?"

"Yeah. You..." and he began to tell me what he thought of my listening skills.

I took a breath. "I find myself resisting listening when the sentence begins with 'You'. I'd like to invite both of us to commit to speaking from our 'I', that place where the 'I' expresses what I'm thinking, feeling, seeing, hearing, doing. Not the 'You' where I'm telling you what you're thinking, feeling, seeing, hearing, doing."

It can be scary leaving the "You Make Me... Language Zone". As human beings, we all have a tendency, especially in emotionally charged moments, to wander into the "you" name it. To tell the other person who they are, what they are, how they are. It takes real practice and a conscious commitment to stay grounded in your 'I'. To speak from your place, without putting the other in their place.

You know -- that place where I want you to know just what a jack-azz you've been. Where each sentence begins with, "You always .... You don't... You never... You said.... You make..."

I was blessed. C.C. heard me. We got to be together without dissecting each other's heart.

What a gift.

Suddenly, where I had felt myself fencing my heart in behind my wall of self-defeating games, I felt my mind and my heart opening up. Hearing. Listening. Feeling without trying to defend myself over what I perceived to be an onslaught of critical-speak.

And in the process, I too shared from my heart as I let go of my fear of being criticized or shut-down. We heard each other without claiming the other's feelings. Without blaming the other for our behaviour. Without shaming the other for our hurts and pains and misunderstandings and all the misgivings of the past!

At one point C.C. said he felt intimidated speaking about heart issues with me. I heard him and tears immediately sprung to my eyes.

"Wow," I said. "I don't know why that hit me so hard. I need to stay in these tears. To simply let myself be okay with feeling this vibration and not push it back. I need to ask if you can let me feel this without being scared away by my tears."

In the end, I got insight into a trigger within me that, as I told C.C., had nothing to do with him and everything to do with me and my fears. In that word, intimidate, my facile little brain leapt into the fray, grabbing hold of the emotionally charged moment and beating me up with it's insistence C.C. was accusing me of being "intimidating."

It's not a way of being I ever want to own. Having spent way too many years feeling intimidated by other's belief they had the right to tell me what to think, hear, feel, do, I never wanted to send out that message. And here he was, telling me I was doing just that.

Except. He wasn't. And when I stopped and listened, when I heard what he was saying, I heard his truth -- without trying to make it mine.

He fears saying the 'wrong thing'. I fear hearing the 'wrong thing'.

It was a win/win for both of us.

Taking time to breathe. To simply sit quietly in my tears, I opened up to C.C. about my fears of being judged and told to be quiet. How I have spent much of my life letting people tell me what I needed to do or be to fit into their worldview of me and how I should be in the world.

I don't want to do that with you. I want to come from this place of authenticity and vulnerability. Of being 'me', exactly the way I am. Of loving you, exactly the way you are. All of you.

My fear is, I won't. I will let my fears shut me down. I will retreat when standing in broken ground is where I need to be to experience the gift of healing that comes when we open up to our fears and let love deepen our understanding.

I have to acknowledge my fear -- and set it free. When I stay conscious in my 'I', I stay grounded in myself. From that place of power, confidence, trust, I open myself up to living fearlessly in the now, being all I'm meant to be without fear of never being 'enough'.

Years ago, I learned a way to speak that has served me well most of my life. But, as I told C.C. last night, sometimes I struggle to stay in my 'I'. Sometimes, I want to give up my power and make the other person accountable for my feelings/actions/hurts and pains.

I am perfectly human in all my human imperfections.

In standing our own ground last night, in sharing from a place of 'I am', we stepped away from that place where 'what you did' was dissected under the light of all that was wrong -- with you.

In putting down the scalpels, we moved with grace and ease into seeing into each other's heart without the need to cut deep into the connective tissue of our love. In our open sharing, we had no need to cut up the other, and focused instead on listening, hearing, being in our hearts, from our hearts, living and learning together with our hearts wide open in love.

Years ago I learned new ways of being in this world, fearlessly in love with all I am. Those lessons from the past serve me well today.

When I let go of my fear of 'never being enough' I open up to hearing their call, I open myself up to the gift of time inviting me to be open and loving in this moment now.

What a gift the past is when seen through eyes intent on seeing the beauty of the present. What a gift to be able to listen fearlessly to my heart beat its steady rhythm of love knowing that In Love I am all I ever want to be with the world around me.



Maureen said...

Great illustration of how the "lizard brain" can arise and how wonderfully the dialogue works.

Hugs for you.

M.L. Gallagher said...

LOL -- I holding out the olive branch of friendship to my lizard brain. I'm hoping in its embrace he'll start feeling more secure and loved and have less need of leaping up and pounding the livin' daylights out of my peace of mind! :)

Hugs back.

Hope said...

yes the past is an opened gift, the future, a wrapped one and the present is one you open all day long.

if only i'd of known then what i know now

wonderful post, Louise

M.L. Gallagher said...

Ah yes Hope, the lure of the 'if only I'd known'.

I've finally come to a place where I know that I wouldn't know now what I know without the experiences I had in not knowing :)!

nance marie said...

oh i just hated slicing up frogs...and the smell of the man! and my teacher...a very weird man. he always called me by my last name, in a very hateful way.

you were very bright to come up with an alternative.

S. Etole said...

Okay, friends, what is a "lizard brain?" Maybe you said and I missed it.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Lol Susan -- lizard brain is our reptilian brain connected to our neadrathral roots -- uni-directional, short memory..... and always acts up -- critter, monkey mind chatter.... :)

M.L. Gallagher said...

nAncY -- I agree. And I was lucky to have a teacher who was courageous enough to admit... he didn't want me throwing up or passing out in his class!

JTS said...

The possibility of actually having conversations in this frame of mind, the I mindset, rather than "you...", sounds so healthy, so good. It is not an easy place to reach. As you said "when I let go of my fear of not ever being enough." Ahhh, breaking those old reactions comes hard, but I am learning and I am trying. This is how I want to be!

trisha said...

lessons of past can sometimes become treasure for today, future.

lots of love

Ruth said...

Oh yes. Don and I still have the same argument, after 33 years. We've made a little progress. But this that you write of is the hardest, when he starts with "you always" messages. I don't want to be kept in that historical box!

You've got a lot of wisdom packed in this post. The most important thing is to hear what the person is saying, no matter how it's said. If I can get to that, past those injured feelings of how I'm perceived, then the relationship can move forward because I can work on opening that line up.

Joyceann Wycoff said...

When I read your posts, I feel empowered, emboldened and "enough." Thank you for sharing your journey.

Joyceann Wycoff said...

Forgot to mention how incredibly impressed I am by your creativity in suggesting your own project. That is the stuff that makes my eyes light up and say, "Wow!" That we could all be so empowered when we hit a barrier.

You rock!