What I Learned
Last weekend I had two excellent opportunities for growth from the most unlikely of places. The first was in a conversation with a perfect stranger about the intimate details of my life especially the areas about which I am most concerned. The second was an impromptu conversation with my mother.
I spent the whole day Saturday at a local teacher’s conference helping a friend who was managing the event. My job was to hand out name tags along with the conference bags to the participants who preregistered. I was paired with one of the officers of the group running the event, and during the down time, we got to talking. For some reason, I felt compelled to tell him my life story in which I focused on my reasons for possibly leaving Japan. At the time, I was horrified by my behavior, but in retrospect, I realize that what happened no matter how cringe worthy was supposed to happen.
Things were going well in our little chat until he asked me if I was planning to stay in Japan long term. Answering his question, I ended up spinning a yarn about the difficulties of raising children without support. The man I was talking to had a lot of really great questions that made me painfully aware of the seriousness of my situation. As I answered his questions about whether or not my husband was teaching our daughter how to read, I felt so embarrassed and I regretted ever opening my mouth. After about the third question, I was so ashamed, I just changed the subject apologizing for telling him my life story. He was really gracious about it, but I felt utterly humiliated. It was not my best hour, but it was a significant learning opportunity which revealed the areas of my life that need my immediate attention.
I spent most of the day trying to figure out why I told a perfect stranger intimate details about my life. What had possessed me? It was like going back in time when I used to tell every one I met everything about myself especially my shortcomings. I hated that about myself. I felt desperate and needy and it was really risky telling strangers about every vulnerability considering that not everyone has my best interests at heart, and some people could use that information against me. Not to mention the fact that divulging too much information too fast can really put people off, and it is a little rude. No one wants to know every gory detail of your life upon meeting you for the first time. Years ago I made a promise that I would never be that desperate again. Never say never, as they say, because yesterday that was exactly what I was-desperate. It had come out of nowhere. I had no idea I felt so insecure and unhappy about my life until I talked about it with a stranger. I had nothing good to say about my life, and the more I revealed the more ashamed I felt. What the heck happened?
As you know, if you follow my blog, I believe that everything happens for a reason. The universe gives me exactly what I need in the moment I need it most. Although it was ill advised to tell a stranger my life story, his reaction to my story and the questions he asked were exactly what I needed to hear. I needed to be made aware of things in my life of which I was in denial. These things require my immediate attention, and that conversation clearly elucidated the way I felt about them. The anxiety and desperation I felt yesterday were a call to action. They are a sign that I need to examine these problems, delve deep and find a solution. That conversation and the humiliation I felt answering the questions that came up were exactly what I needed to move forward and improve my situation. If I hadn’t told my life story, and if I had just kept it professional, I would not have received this important message. So despite the humiliation I felt in the moment, I am so grateful for it.
On Sunday, still raw from the embarrassing and revealing conversation I had on Saturday, I talked to my mother via Skype. Although she’s my mother and the farthest from a perfect stranger, I feel guarded about my emotions around her because she can be really harsh at times. However, as I was talking with her, keeping everything close to the surface and not even hinting at the emotional turmoil I was feeling–very inauthentic, I know–a very quiet and gentle voice said “Tell her.” So, I began my asking her about her experience starting a not-for-profit grassroots preschool and after-school program. She told her story telling me that if I was interested in starting a not-for-profit that I should do something I am passionate about. This resonated with me because I hadn’t told her I was interested in starting a not-for-profit, I had merely said I was interested in not-for-profits and I wanted to know her story. Here again, was a person giving me a message I needed to hear, and this time I was open to receive it.
After my mother talked about her experience, I told her my idea. She listened in silence and then told me she thought I had an excellent idea. She offered some advice on how I can add to it, and then told me “You should go for it. Just get started even if it is a small step.” Hearing these encouraging words from my mother uplifted me and got me back on track. I am now working on a plan to implement the beginning stages of my project to help people struggling with trauma and psychological wounds.
Last weekend was a crash course in clarifying my needs and desires. I was snapped out of denial about the areas of my life that need tending to, and I was reminded of my desire to do something to help people. I have known for some time now that we are always learning from each other, and now that I have been reminded, I will do my best to keep that very important wisdom in mind in all areas of my life.