Enough about you already. Let’s talk about YOU.
It’s not that I’m antisocial; I hate useless small talk. It’s not that I don’t enjoy good conversation; I want dialogue that involves some amount of meaning. My head spins when people give me the rundown of their weekend (e.g.: I did this here and then I ate this and did these chores and this thing that has little to nothing to do with anything that really matters to you, or me for that matter, I’m just filling up your time with useless facts about my life because I’m uncomfortable with silence).
Seriously. Enough already. Aren’t we beyond this by now?
I want to know (ala The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer) what is on your heart, burning in your mind, making you want to scream with joy. I want connection. I want authenticity, even when it involves some amount of mess (maybe even especially if it involves some amount of mess). Anything else, when it doesn’t entail matters that I need to know (such as weather patterns that involve a need to run for cover, gather emergency equipment, or make plans to escape to higher ground), doesn’t usually interest me.
I blame it on the cancer.
After being diagnosed with cancer five years ago, I realized I had little room for crap in my life. In fact, I worked pretty hard to limit the people whose energy dragged me down. As one colleague kindly described it, I encouraged more “net positive” people into my life and limited the amount of “net negative” folks. It’s been quite lovely, actually.
I’m not saying I only want positive folks in my life. “Net positive” is not exclusively positive. It’s not happy go lucky. And it’s not fake. A net positive person is authentic, genuine, willing to admit to limitations, able to sit in silence before giving unwanted advice, and totally, beautifully, perfectly infallible (i.e. very messy from time to time).
When I am around someone who is net positive, I feel whole and lifted and not dragged down.
A net negative person, on the other hand, could be someone who is passive aggressive, painfully phony, or tedious. A net negative person most likely has little insight into their own crap and tends to be one sided and self-centered.
When I spend time with a net negative person, I am antsy, exhausted, frustrated, and often distracted by thinking of ways out of the situation.
Unacceptable. Best to cultivate net positivity in my life.
A few ways I encourage net positivity, wholeheartedness, authenticity, and realness into my life:
- Allow for messy. Perfection makes me uncomfortable and just a little skeptical. I crave a little bit of mess in my life, which means I want to be able to see other people in less than perfect states. Part of asking for messy means that I have to admit to my messy.
- Stop doing. Just be. This goes beyond mindfulness where one is expected to breathe into discomfort, be in the present moment, blah, blah, blah. I love that, too, don’t get me wrong, but what I mean here is to stop trying to do, help, or fix what isn’t broken. Listen more. Love more. Forgive more. But mostly, stop and just be present with another person. It’s a miracle.
- Send out love without being prompted. A text, a card, an email, an impromptu hug or appreciation. I work at being grateful for the small and large miracles in my life that come in the form of human beings, and let them know what it is I’m grateful for.
- Model authenticity and positivity. As easy as it sounds. When someone is draining my happy juice with their negativity, I do my best to infuse the conversation with as much realness and positivity as I can possibly muster. And when that fails;
- Walk Away. It’s ok to pass. It’s ok to decline offers for dinner, walks, coffee breaks, telephone chats, etc. If it’s draining and awful, I pass it up. I make it my own personal responsibility to fill up my own container of happy for when I might need it one day.
And for inspiration, I refer to someone like the amazing Brené Brown, Ph.D.:
Authenticity is a daily practice.
Choosing authenticity means: cultivating the courage to be emotionally honest, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable; exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made strength and struggle and connected to each other through a loving and resilient human spirit; nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we let go of what we are supposed to be and embrace who we are. Authenticity demands wholehearted living and loving- even when it’s hard, even when we’re wresting with the shame and fear of not being good enough, and especially when the joy is so intense that we’re afraid to let ourselves feel it.
Mindfully practicing authenticity during out most soul-searching struggles is how we invite grace, joy, and gratitude into our lives.
Be authentic. Be messy. Be wholehearted. Be YOU. And then tell me about what’s really going on.