Brave Conversations

This month I wrote the scariest message I’ve ever sent to anyone.  Really.  Ever.

“I don't know what to do with this.  It's a lot to feel.  And it is haunting me.  I've held back from saying anything for weeks, maybe it's been months now.  Maybe if I'm honest...years.  But I didn't know.  I didn't understand the underlying anger, feelings, edginess that's been there. I've tried every forgiveness practice I have on hand.  I've tried every self-processing process I know of.  I tried them all in hopes of releasing this once and for all.  To move on.  And yet still it haunts me…”

It’s a work morning and I have other things waiting on my to do list, but this message feels like it cannot wait.  Sinking into the squishy softness of my favorite couch I feel an unexplainable, unspeakable, nonnegotiable force urging me to type despite my fears.  Like all of my spirit guides, protectors, ancestors, friends, loved ones, and my own deepest self, are holding their breath in anticipation for me to type the message that’s calling out from my bones.  I share that in my message: “As if the story is resting in my bones needing to be told…”  It feels like that.  It’s aching, it’s pregnant, it’s spilling out, and strangely it’s steady.  It’s angry, it’s hurt, and it’s also peaceful.  I'm ready to tell him everything.  Until this moment, I didn’t know I could hold so much in one space...with presence.  I feel both powerful and completely undone.  

Months before on a call with a potential client, she tells me the story about her deepest desire for a future where her favorite hobby becomes her career.  Excited to help her make that a reality, one of my closest friends pops into my mind.  He’s been slowly turning his side-gig into a paid gig.  It’s been pretty awesome to watch and I thought she might enjoy connecting with someone not a thousand steps in front of her, but maybe just 20.  Just as I’m about to offer to connect the two of them I feel something inside of me pull back.  As if someone has gently placed their hand on my shoulder in pause.  The call ends and I sit confused.  Why did I hesitate to offer and give out his name?  Why did it almost feel impossible to say what I thought I wanted to say?

I got quiet.  As I tuned in, I found a hole I had been ignoring.  Unhealed emotional wounds.  In the past, my friend and I walked the line, the question, of becoming more than friends.  Our boats always were arriving to shore at different times.  He wanted something more when I didn’t.  I wanted something more when he didn’t.  After both agreeing just friends was best, we took several months off to create a clean slate.  We stopped talking and texting.  We made a full transition to being just friends once and for all.  Despite our decision to be just friends, memories haunted me.  They felt unresolved, but I wasn’t sure why.  

I was scared to go all the way down the rabbit hole because my unsettled feeling had to do with questions around consent.  Moments where I felt pressured to become more than friends despite making up my mind and declaring that we were simply friends.  Moments where I witnessed him walk a fuzzy line with other women, not committing to relationships, but not just being friends.  While he and I had several conversations about this before and I used to get extremely angry about it, this had simmered down for a long time.  So why was this coming up now?

The truth was I didn’t want to connect my client to him because I feared he might create a blurry line again.  A blurry line with a woman who had been hurt many times in the past by men.  Who was looking to continue her own healing from messy romantic connections where she felt taken advantage of.  Where her desire for commitment wasn’t honored.  I didn’t want to be the source of this abuse cycle again.  Wait, was one of my closest friends abusive to women?  Subtle abuse?  What do I call what happened?  This made me pause and wonder if I should have a conversation with him and at the time I decided not to and left it at that. The story silently waiting in the crevices of my being.

Then the #metoo campaign happened.  If you have no idea what I'm talking about Google #metoo and you'll be up to speed.  Despite sitting with questions of sexual harassment and assault in the past, something was different about this conversation.  As I read stories and articles, I found words to sort through fuzzy feelings like sexual microaggressions:  "small acts of boundary-pushing and coercion that might be easy enough to brush off in isolation, but in aggregate teach women that their bodily autonomy is revocable, and that violations of their boundaries and sense of safety aren’t just tolerable, but utterly and completely normal."  There’s a really great article about this topic HERE.  My feeling was right...the feeling of being disrespected, manipulated even if unintentionally, dishonored was real, and I had words, context, to explain what previously felt unexplainable.  

“What I know is this, I know that you are a good person, as is everyone on planet earth.  I do believe that.  Our social conditioning, our parenting and family examples, the stories we buy into, the media we expose ourselves to, all embed in us.  Yet knowing that doesn't make it unpainful if that makes sense.  I know you never meant to hurt me, yet in your selfishness, your clouded sense of privilege as a man, you did hurt me.  I don't know where this takes us.”  I tell him everything.  What I feel, what I now know, what felt wrong.  As I type the message, I realize I’m steeped in both empathy and anger.  A desire to understand and be understood.  

I’m starting a brave conversation.

That same day I get a phone call from him.  I’m too raw in the moment to answer the phone so watch my phone light up and eventually stop ringing.  Immediately after clicking send I feel doubt creep in.  Crap.  Should I have sent that message?  Maybe I shouldn’t have sent it.  Was I being selfish?  Mean?  The “inner outer voice” as Sonya Renee Taylor calls it, tries to tell me it's still not safe to speak my truth.  It tells me to patch over perceived discomfort.  It tells me to be a “nice girl.”  It tells me I’m entirely responsible for other people’s responses and happiness.  I see it and despite it’s volume decide not to listen.  I call him back later that afternoon and we have one of the best conversations I’ve had in the history of friendship.  Honest, caring, understanding, he meets me with an honest desire to change and explore more.  I meet him with a desire to hear and understand his perspective.  I’m surprised and relieved.  I’m proud of where I’ve come as I hang up the phone and I smile to myself.  

Brave conversations are necessary for a life honored.  For a life of wholeness.  For a life where we tear down the barriers of ourselves and invite others to do the same.

These conversations have become a central cornerstone in the practice of my life.  Like on my first date with my partner when I asked “what are your intentions?”  Yes.  I really asked that.  Best question I've asked in years.  Or the countless times I’ve said “I’m feeling afraid of x because I feel y.”  I say what needs to be said even if it’s scary.  I honor myself and invite others to do the same.  I hold my strong feelings alongside empathy for the other person.  I practice living inside my truth.

A lot of courage and change is required to be brave enough to say what wants to be said regardless of the outcome.  My clarity used to be defensive, abrasive, positional, oppositional, and reactive.  It was born on a victim soapbox.  Before I started trying to speaking my truth again I was a master of avoiding conflict, appeasement, and being the “good girl” most of the time.  People pleaser PhD.  After tearing down the walls of the need to appear “good” a wild reactive energy broke through.  As the tiger inside of me tore through the house of my life at times, I learned how to mindfully let her run free by herself, settle down, and tell me what she really wants.  She desperately wanted to be heard.

When we try to speak our truth from a reactive place without reflection, we miss the depth of what’s truly speaking underneath.  We mistake our immediate emotions for our truth.  But our truth lies deep under the surface.  Like a tall glass of water, beckoning us to dive into the darker layers of water at the bottom.  

Most of the time, what is called truth speaking for many of us is dancing on the rim of the glass.  Surface level clarity.  This surface level layer produces a lot of pain for others and mainly for ourselves.  Because despite speaking our truth, something feels incomplete, unsaid. Sometimes this evokes us to have the same conversation multiple times, or to allow the conversation to drone on.  You know the phrase “beating a dead horse?”  These are moments where we are desperately clawing to find truth, but keep swimming at the surface rather than diving down.  

Diving down takes silence.  Diving down takes intimate reflection alone.  Diving down takes witnessing and watching the emotions and not disconnecting from them.  Diving down asks us to have the courage to follow the fishing line all the way to the bottom of the ocean floor regardless of what we are going to pull up.   

Brave conversations brick by brick empower us to come home to ourselves and create a sense of feeling at home in our relationships.  A sense of safety, security, comfort, belonging, that we can return to time and time again.  Brave conversations show us the intimacy with ourselves, with others, when we say what’s scary to say. Sometimes the brave conversation is with others, always it’s first with ourselves.  

For this week’s Joy Tip I want to invite you to create a deeper connection where facades fall and honesty is born. Here’s how to start birthing brave conversations:  

Start with yourself.  Before having brave conversations with others, we need to learn how to be brave and listen to ourselves. 

Pick a feeling that’s been quietly haunting you and remains unresolved.  Don’t start with the most sensitive unresolved issue you can think of.  Start with something that has some underlying energy, that you don’t think about often, but remains.  

Grab a notebook and pen, set a timer for 10 minutes and free write on the following questions:  what am I feeling?  What is this really about?  What is the most vulnerable thing I could acknowledge for myself?  After 10 minutes take a 5 minute break, then set the timer for another 10 minutes and write again.  If you feel complete, end there.  If not, do another round.

Sit with what you wrote for some time.  Give it space.  Give yourself space.  Maybe it’s a day, maybe three.  Don’t let this go for months, just a few days to take space and allow your conscious to sink a little deeper under the surface.  See what bubbles up from here and consider, where am I called to go next?

This is deep work.  It’s not going to happen over night.  Take this week’s joy tip as the first baby steps.  See where it takes you.  See what new emerges.  Hold it all with love, kindness, without judgement, and compassion.  Simply be interested in listening to yourself and see what newness you hear.  Write me in the comments below and let me know what you discover.  And if you are interested in continuing the dive, set up a free 30 minute discovery session with me HERE. It’s an opportunity to get to know each other more, spark some new clarity for you, and if we’re a strong match, plan some empowering 1:1 work together.  

In the meantime, be brave dear ones if your being called into it.  And trust me you are if you're reading this.  Something inside of you is ready to be heard, loved, seen.  The wise part of you brought you here, now its up to you to listen to what's next.

much love,