Tag Archives: understanding

Relationally Challenged

Relationally Challenged

I’m back to blogging – it feels like having coffee with a long-lost friend…who’s never really all that long-lost if they’re a true friend…you just pick up where you left off.

My biggest challenge here so far in this country (aside from the month-long sinus infection and now a staph infection diagnosed today – are you kidding me?!) has been my gender. The simple fact that I have a V and not a P has proved to be quite a troubling issue…and it’s not even because I’m in a country where women are looked down upon and expected to rarely seen and never heard. It’s being a woman here on base among the majority of male soldiers and contractors. Let’s tackle this one challenge at a time.

First is the gossip. As a woman, I stick out. There aren’t that many of us here, and as such, we’re noticed for every single move we make. For example, I had made a friend with a contractor here on base – let’s call him Jack – and asked if he’d like to grab coffee one day at the chapel (because the chapel has two Keurig machines available for a nice cup of joe at all times). We sat out on the small chapel porch out front in the sun and “talked story” (Hawaiian term for shared stories, laughed and forgot about work) for a little bit. I had such a nice time, I kept asking if he’d join me for coffee and it became a daily routine. I asked the guys in my office if they’d like to join for 10am coffee, and sometimes some would. Either way, I knew at 10am I got a mini break while refueling on some caffeine. This past week, I ate lunch with a Croatian soldier, and afterwards he was warned by some other person on this base to be careful where I was concerned because I was Jack’s. Hold up there, I’m whose?? If I play ping pong with someone, if I play pool with someone, if I go running with someone, it’s noticed and talked about in gossip form.

Second are the wives and girlfriends back home. Because their boyfriends and husbands have a female coworker (that would be me), they’re suspicious of any and all interaction I have with them. If I post a funny comment on one of their Facebook (because they all post funny comments to each other’s Facebooks), they immediately get the third degree…”Who’s this AMY chick posting stuff on your page?! What’s she like? Why is she posting to your page?” There was one dramatic instance where one of the guys was having a bit of a struggle with his girlfriend and I suggested he stop writing passive aggressive things to her and for a whole week just write nothing but nice and loving emails and see how she responded. He said he didn’t have any ideas, so I wrote him an email with suggestions on loving things he could write to her. WELL, his girlfriend hacked his email account a few days later and what did she find but my email with all my suggestions. She spent the next two days yelling at him over phone calls about confiding in the AMY GIRL, and since then (about a week ago) he no longer talks to me anymore. I can eat with these guys, work out with them, and work with them for over twelve hours each and every day, but there’s a subtle and constant reminder – I’ll never really be one of the guys here.

Third is lack of women. I really have come to value female friendship over the course of my life…it’s one of those essential elements we as women need for a healthy life. You can try to argue with me that you are happier with men as friends, but I can argue right back with you because I used to be one of those girls, and I can tell you that life is richer and deeper and brighter with strong female friendships. I have one growing friendship with a female Croatian soldier named Vlasta – we work out together and eat meals together sometimes – but she can get pretty busy with missions at times, and sometimes I only see her once a week. In my hyper-awareness of gossip about my every action here, I set out to establish more female friendships. Last night as the work day was wrapping up around 9pm or so, I noticed the only two other girls in my office were leaving to go back to their rooms. I jumped out of my seat and went out the door with them. Once outside I said, “Hey girls, I know you hang out together sometimes, but would you ever be interested in going to grab a bite to eat together or just have some girl time like once a week or so?” Simple enough, right? Here’s me like the girl on the kindergarten playground outright asking the other girls if they will be her friend. One of the girls looked straight at me and without expression said, “No, not really.” SLAM…that was the feeling my heart felt as it was squarely rejected. I forced myself to bounce back and said as lightly as I could, “Oh ok, no problem, have a good night.” I turned and walked away and felt embarrassed and hurt – like the little schoolgirl who was just told she couldn’t be in the cool club. Ouch! I thought when we’re such a minority that us gals were supposed to stick together! What the HECK (I really would like to replace that word with something much worse) was that about? Doesn’t she know I’m cool and fun and funny and loyal and all that other great stuff that comes with a female friendship?? Ok so those two are out – the awkward part is I have to work next to them still. I will continue to be on the lookout for any new women who come to this base – they won’t even know what hit them – I won’t even ask them, I’ll just make them my friend! …poor things don’t know what’s about to hit them.

This has proven to be a difficult struggle for me. I’m a relational person stuck in a strange social test of an environment – like I’m in a glass cage for everyone to observe how I will respond to a life of no relationships or companionship. I think I’m failing the test. …or maybe I’m passing…this is the normal response of a healthy woman…getting to the point where I want to cry out, “WILL SOMEONE PLEASE BE MY FRIEND?!” I can be friends with plenty of men here, it’s just I have to not care, and accept the consequence that I’ll be talked about as if I’m sneaking behind dirty connex boxes having sex with all of them. I might have quite the tarnished reputation on this base by the time I leave – all for no effort at all! Grandpa, if you’re reading this, I apologize for my lewd imagery…I blame the Navy! :)

I love that there are life lessons to be gleaned from anywhere we go in life. In the throes of war in Afghanistan, I am learning that I am more of a relational person than I realized, and that not only do I like being in friendships and relationships with other people, but I need it, I crave engaging with others. I think we all do – well, maybe not some of my geeky coworkers who just go back to their rooms and play video games every night (and I’m not talking behind their backs – they openly admit they’d rather be alone) – but I concur with the many wise sages before this time that humans NEED community and relationships and other humans. Lesson learned, Afghanistan, now what’s next?! (This should be good!)

Self-Rejection

Self-Rejection

“Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.” … [My dark side says,] I am no good… I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.” ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen (one of my favorite authors)

Life’s Lessons

Life’s Lessons

“This is an important lesson to remember when you’re having a bad day, a bad month, or a shitty year. Things will change: you won’t feel this way forever. And anyway, sometimes the hardest lessons to learn are the ones your soul needs most. I believe you can’t feel real joy unless you’ve felt heartache. You can’t have a sense of victory unless you know what it means to fail. You can’t know what it’s like to feel holy until you know what it’s like to feel really fucking evil. And you can’t be birthed again until you’ve died.” ~Kelly Cutrone

I’ve always been of the opinion that there are certain life lessons we must learn, and until we learn them, they will keep popping back up in our lives until we get it right. Then and only then can we move on to the next lesson or set of lessons. I’m not sure if this is a hierarchy of life lessons – if certain lessons need to be learned before others – or if each set is different for each person. It seems that we can learn multiple lessons at once – unless I’m just unusually trusted by the universe which I highly doubt – but these pesky little lessons absolutely will not go away until you score a high enough grade of understanding. Even when we lapse and mess up and make embarrassing mistakes that make us want to burry our heads in the sand, I sense that’s all part of the giant Life Lesson – and it’s not going backwards at all – just finding a different path forward.

I’ve also always been of the opinion that our talents were meant for the benefit of others, while our weaknesses were meant to allow others to help us through their talents – like a puzzle – where our talents and skills is the part of the puzzle piece sticking out which fits into another puzzle piece’s (person’s) cavity or void or shortcoming…so that in the end we’re all one big puzzle together…or as the Bible says a little more eloquently, one body. But that’s another blog entirely!

Lessons I’ve learned in the past: (pretty much in the order they were learned)

  • I have to take responsibility for my own actions, but not for others’
  • Anger is okay to feel, but it is not okay to express in a way that hurts others
  • Forgiveness is more for my own letting go than letting the other person “off the hook”
  • Forgiveness is paramount to be able to move on and live a whole life
  • Forgiveness of self is as important as forgiveness of others
  • You cannot love others until you love yourself
  • Love is an action, not a state of mind
  • Girlfriends are essential to a whole and happy life
  • Take care of the skin and body you live in…no dress rehearsals here
  • Isolation from others does nothing but prolong and increase sadness…
  • Connectedness and community are as necessary as air

    Lessons I’m learning now:

  • I’m worth it.
  • What my gut is telling me is probably right
  • We all get in our own way when it comes to finding the right answers for us…and if we can get out of our own way long enough, we may be able to answer our own deep questions
  • Timidity is not becoming
  • Vulnerability and emotion are strengths, not weaknesses

    I found the below insert from an online search, and interestingly enough, it talks about the very concept of life lessons I’ve always imagined…

    10 Rules for Being Human by Cherie Carter-Scott
    1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it’s yours to keep for the entire period.

    2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called, “life.”

    3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error, and experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiments that ultimately “work.”

    4. Lessons are repeated until they are learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.

    5. Learning lessons does not end. There’s no part of life that doesn’t contain its lessons. If you’re alive, that means there are still lessons to be learned.

    6. “There” is no better a place than “here.” When your “there” has become a “here”, you will simply obtain another “there” that will again look better than “here.”

    7. Other people are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.

    8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.

    9. Your answers lie within you. The answers to life’s questions lie within you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.

    10. You will forget all this.

    “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy…I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” ~Art Williams

    Happy learning!


  • It’s Not ALL About YOU

    It’s Not ALL About YOU

    “When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” -Miguel Ruiz

    I love having no clue what I’m going to write about next because all I can do is wait patiently for the universe to teach me my next lesson – whatever it may be. Today’s lesson came in the form of a phone call from a friend. I was explaining that I was sick of doing things I thought other people wanted me to do instead of what I wanted to do. She suddenly interrupted and said, “I never asked you to do things you didn’t want to do.” It stopped my in my tracks and I shook my head smiling and gently chided, “This isn’t about you, it’s about me.” We both laughed and moved on in conversation, but as I thought about the conversation dynamic, I realized how often we take what other people are saying and make it our own whether it was meant for us or not.

    It’s not all about you. I read a funny definition of paranoia online: It’s when you’re sitting in the bleachers at a football game, watching the players in a huddle, convinced they’re talking about you.

    There’s a certain freedom to understanding that when other people snap, cut you off, don’t respond, or even say something unusually rude, it’s usually not about you. I have to caveat it with usually because I’m sure there’s the rare sometimes. We tend to give ourselves more social credit than is due to us. For example, I used to be physically unable to say no to a social invitation because I didn’t want to appear rude. Sounds ridiculous, right? It wasn’t until I finally understood that the happiness level at the party was not dependent upon my presence and my uniquely gifted charisma. I had imposed too much self-importance to the point of unneeded stress.

    This happens every single day – whether in big-boom or little pebble sort of ways. There is a conscious choice we make to either take it personally and let our day be a little gloomier while our shoulders sag just a little more, or we can understand that the rude behavior was not aimed at us and let it roll off our back. An unanswered text, a brush-off from a boss, a sudden exit from a phone call, being cut off in traffic with an accompanied “bird,” an acquaintance in public that doesn’t recognize you. Don’t you dare say to yourself, “What did I do wrong?”…because the answer is nothing. That person is not responding to you or anything you’ve done. The goal is to get to a point that when we come across someone who’s a real crab, and we can say, “Wow, they’re having a tough day,” and leave it at that.

    I think this lesson is especially hard for me because I’m a recovering people pleaser, so any amount of dissatisfaction from other people is a big no-no in my book…also I’ve been around a lot of yelling and anger that feels both deeply personal and hurtful. To lift myself above my initial hyper-sensitive reaction, I have to understand that the anger is coming from a deep place that was likely already there before I was, and that it is not being aimed at me. Note: I’m going to make a second caveat here and say that if you’re in the middle of a relationship that is either verbally or physically abusive, even though his anger is not about you, you still need to get the hell outta there and go surround yourself with some serious TLC…because his anger will eventually eat away at you until it becomes your anger too.

    I realize I’m writing this on the brink of the unleashing of the next generation who is our most self-righteous and entitled generation yet, so this message can extend beyond the “don’t take it personally” to the “no really, the world does not actually revolve around you.”

    Hooray for Confusion!

    Hooray for Confusion!

    “When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” ~Harriet Beecher Stowe

    First, stop and take an opportunity to breathe in life, and exhale out all the worries and stress that found their way into your week. Look around you and see color (unless you’re color blind). Listen to the sounds. Feel your heart beating. You get to be a part of life today! You are a real character in this real deal, no shit miraculous life! But then as soon as your focus comes back to you, something happens. The stresses, the worry, and the self-imposed weight of the world comes barreling back to resettle itself squarely on your shoulders, and you’re left feeling confused. If life is so great, and I’m meant to be this wonderful moving piece of it, then why am I sitting here feeling like a broken cog from a rusty wheel?

    Some good news is that confusion usually immediately precedes a new realization…so this feeling little and confused place that you’re in is a good and even natural part of life…and it’s about to get better. It’s one of those natural life-laws that we all follow: that clarity is ALWAYS preceded by confusion. In fact, our minds NEED confusion in order to have personal breakthroughs.

    Here is what apparently goes on…our minds are seeking a solution that doesn’t exist given our current internal brain connections (memories), so our unconscious mind takes all of our existing information and creates a new connection (a new memory) and it unfolds as a sudden burst of brilliance. Because it’s not in our basic survival makeup to just give up and die, we ask questions – lots of questions – and seek solutions when we’re at a point of confusion or a cross-roads in life and don’t know where to go next. After all the obvious questions and answers have been exhausted, you elevate yourself to a new point of creativity where your answer or realization will present itself. Your brain connects the unrelated and random information into a whole new solution. It’s either that or have a nervous breakdown. I’ll choose the former, please!

    It’s like being told to write down fifty ideas for a date. The first twenty or so will be the obvious “go to dinner,” “see a movie,” “go for a walk on the beach,” and that sort of thing. But by the time you force yourself to fifty, you’ll have bizarre things like “go on a roller coaster,” and “make up a scavenger hunt” that you would never have thought of initially. Confusion is that same exercise – forcing us to dwell on our dilemmas long enough to the point of enlightenment.

    So what? What good does that do you in your down and out state? Remind yourself that asking questions without answers and searching for helpful information is a good thing. Don’t give up on yourself because your intense desire to find a way will actually find your way. Don’t shy away from confusion – heck, confusing yourself more will actually help you to come to a purposeful inspiration.

    “Confusion heard his voice, and wild uproar Stood ruled, stood vast infinitude confined; Till at his second bidding darkness fled, Light shone, and order from disorder sprung.” ~John Milton

    A Little Humanity in Us

    A Little Humanity in Us

    “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
    Mother Teresa

    There’s a woman in my life that I didn’t care too much for. From day one, she rubbed me the wrong way and I kept a cold distance from her. She acted as if she was above the law, talked meanly about other people, name-dropped (one of my big pet peeves), and dressed in really skimpy clothes…which doesn’t really bug me but I’m trying to think of things to add to her bad list. She seemed to lack all of the qualities I admire most in people – warmth, compassion, friendliness, acceptance and being down to earth. I wasn’t mean to her, but I certainly wasn’t any of those qualities I just listed to her either.

    Then I something happened that changed my mind. I overheard her talking about herself and her life. She’d been through multiple divorces, and was now trying her best to put herself through school so she could stand on her own and make a new life for herself. With that insight, I saw her as a human being doing her best, and the rest didn’t really matter anymore. Maybe it’s a cover – maybe she puts on a tough bitchy face to make herself seem less vulnerable. Maybe she’s still in a lot of inner pain and drowns it out by cutting off emotion to other people. Whatever it is, all of her caddy stuff suddenly looked like surface, exterior fluff. Those annoying things weren’t her. Once I saw a glimpse of her humanity – the person behind the symptoms – I saw her through different eyes – with compassion.

    The whole thing made me think about how quick we are to judge other people strictly based on the outer fluff stuff. Maybe not everyone judges, but it is certainly a vice of mine. I’m an analyst, I’m paid to make assessments and judgments, and I let it spill over way too disproportionately into the real world. But quick judgments are the reason reality shows thrive – because the people seem so ridiculously stereotypical that we can’t believe they’re real, but can’t look away either. The bitchy housewife, the machismo guido, the trashy hoarder (no pun intented), the street thug…we actually enjoy making snap judgements on them. But I digress because those are just masks.

    It’s finding the humanity in other people – all people – that’s the challenge. If I stop and catch myself before I put a relative stranger into a superficial category in my mind, and see them for a human being with challenges and bucket lists and heartbreak and victories, then their depth reveals itself and compassion comes easily. Now it’s time to put theory to practice!