Fear

Standing My Sacred Ground – On Speaking Up Part II

| On Living Well

I hate introducing myself to strangers, starting conversations, or mingling at parties. Making returns or scheduling appointments over the phone make me nervous. In fact, I dislike most phone calls. I avoid them when I can. It is entirely possible that I have accepted crappy insurance, additional fees, or the wrong colored something or other simply because I didn’t want to talk to anyone on the phone.

All this to say, speaking up isn’t my strong suit.

It’s funny though. When I was in elementary school the teachers often told my parents I was bright and doing well, but I talked too much. I needed to stop talking so much. Middle school was a good antidote for that problem. Not only did I stop talking out of turn, I stopped raising my hand or otherwise volunteering my thoughts and ideas. Just stopped cold turkey.

If this was just an insecure adolescent kind of thing, it would have ended when I entered college. But it didn’t. I distinctly recall sitting in a lecture hall when a professor asked us to share some of the ways Alice Walker weaved purple imagery throughout her novel, The Color Purple. My fellow students offered up a list. And the professor waited. “What else?” she asked. Nipples, I thought. Duh.

She waited. No one said a thing. NIPPLES, I screamed inwardly. But I couldn’t bring myself to say it out loud. “Come on,” she coaxed. “What else?”

Finally, someone spoke up. “Nipples?”

Yes, gawd. Of course. Nipples! Why couldn’t I say that? When stuff like that happens, it’s like a little piece of my identity gets folded up and shoved in a box. Since then, I’ve made it my business to prevent my soul from becoming origami.

I was a bartender for a spell back during grad school, an experience I am forever grateful for. My first mentor was my godmother, a professional badass. While training me, she motioned to the entire bar and told me, “This is your ship. You are the captain. Don’t take no one’s shit.” I needed to hear this. Like, really. On more than one occasion I had to use my megaphone voice to stop drunken stupidity from taking over my ship. And it wasn’t uncommon for me to smack a customer’s hands. The things people try…

Actually, tending bar was pretty good training for life.

Brené Brown has a slightly sweeter (though, no less badass) way of saying the same thing as my über eloquent godmother. In times of anxiety, uncertainty, or stress, her mantra is, “Do not shrink. Do not puff up. Stand my sacred ground.”

I think these words are important because being motivated to speak up by a history of remaining silent means there is pressure under the surface, thereby leaving me at risk of shooting off my mouth – being a bit overzealous, rude, or hurtful. It has been a long journey of puffing up and shrinking down to get to a place where I feel okay (if not entirely comfortable) sharing how I feel about stuff that matters. Still, sometimes I over-share. Or use the wrong tone. Or get my facts mixed-up. There are more cases than I’d like to recall that left me wrought with doubt as to whether I said the right thing, or completely undone by something hurtful that came out of my mouth.

Do not shrink. Do not puff up. Stand your sacred ground.

So, I walk the line knowing that I’ll keep stepping over it. And when I do, I’ll say sorry and do what I can to right what I’ve wronged. In the end, I think speaking my truth is worth the fallout from a few (or more than a few) stupid things I’ll say in my lifetime.

Admittedly, it’s sometimes better to keep my mouth shut. But missing an opportunity to call someone out on racism, sexism, or general shittiness leaves me in a kind of emotional hangover, just physically ill. I think this is why I feel so fired up to speak out about what’s currently happening in this country. My heart still races. My palms still sweat. But I try really hard now to say what needs to be said.

Honestly, I could have used my godmother’s advice when I was 12. And 13. And every year after. It works in all kinds of situations. Your ship is your classroom, your office, your social media page, your home, your body. Don’t take no one’s shit.

____________________

Photo by Keleigh Layton

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The Magic of Life Outside of the Box

| On Living Well

Living Outside of the Box

 

When I was a little girl, my mother told me I was ugly.

Before you get the wrong idea, let me say for the record that my mom is amazing; she is compassionate, creative, silly, and I think she did a phenomenal job raising me and my sister. She was in no way abusive.

She saw a little girl who was about to be handed her worth in the form of compliments. She knew the world would tell this little girl they loved her dress, her hair, and her shoes. So she did the only thing she could think to do – she did the opposite in hopes her little girl would learn not to measure her worth in such limited confines.

According to my mom, every time she told me I was ugly, (more…)

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Hey Artist, Your Day Job is Fantastic – Here’s Why You Need It

| On Creativity

Hey Artist, Your Day Job is Fantastic – Here's Why

 

Most people don’t know this about me, but a very, very long time ago, I was an actress aspiring actress. I performed in plays during high school and while in college. Then I graduated and decided to just keep auditioning and acting until I “made it.” Whatever that means.

I didn’t have a job lined up for me as I traipsed across the stage with a diploma in my hand. But that was okay because I had a plan: get a job waitressing in a really cool place about 3-4 nights a week where people throw money at you, spend days auditioning, land agent, nab break-through role, make lots of money, live happily ever after leaping from compelling role to compelling role.

Good plan. Here’s what actually happened: (more…)

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You Only Have One Life Path – Surprise! You’re Already On it

| On Living Well

You Only Have One Life Path – Surprise! You're Already On it

There was this thing I wanted. And I wanted it bad.

Have you ever wanted something really bad? Like, you just keep thinking about how great life will be when you achieve it. And you imagine what you will wear, how you will act, and basically plan your entire future around this thing you really, really want? Anyway, that’s how bad I wanted it. So bad, I quit working towards it about seven years ago. (more…)

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When You Don’t Know What to Do With Your Life

| On Living Well

 

When You Don't Know What to Do with Your Life

 

“I don’t really know what I want to do with my life yet…”

Or

“I’m figuring it out…”

Or

“I mean, I don’t want to be a (fill in the blank) forever. But this is fine for now…”

These are some of the things I’ve heard from young people. And it really gets me down. It’s a trend I wish I could break; they feel like they should wait until they know exactly what they want to do before they take a step in any direction. Years go by and they still haven’t figured out what they really want to do with their lives. Lost time. Lost potential. (more…)

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