I am currently working on a very meaningful project – coaching someone to help them uncover their story. I love this for so many reasons but mainly because I am helping them find their story to authentically and passionately share with others the importance of the work that they are doing. It is an exciting journey for them because they are being pushed to explore aspects of themselves in ways they may not have before and it is interesting for me because I am challenging myself to be present on their ride and partake in the same activities. Part of my role is to provide journal prompts each day to encourage them to write. The prompts are often benign and are intended to simply get them to explore some thoughts and put them down on paper. I’m not particularly interested in what they write. I simply want them to write. But, of course, the mere exploration of thought creates pathways to information and the act of scribing creates further connections and suddenly stories are unfolding right in front of you.
Yesterday, I offered up a prompt to write about someone that you miss, dead or alive. I put no parameters around this topic because I wanted them to explore on their own who they missed and why and, perhaps, what it meant to miss someone. Do you miss someone because they are no longer part of your life? Do you miss someone because they have passed on? Do you miss someone at that very moment even if you are going to see them the very next day? The exercise was intended to allow them to journey along all those lines. As I am trying to parallel the exercises and simultaneously write on the very same topics, I commissioned myself to tackle the same subject…and fell short. With each journal prompt, I also ask that we write about something that we are grateful for and/or something we are disappointed about from our day and, last night, I got really hung up on the first part. I focused on my lack of gratitude, which was, conversely, a source of disappointment for myself.
Ironically enough, I am not someone who enjoys journaling because, for me, it sometimes seems forced and I am often harshly critical of what I write. Because I typically write with the intention of having others read it, I am extremely focused on my choice of words, the deeper messages and having compelling content. And, of course, that is exactly what journaling is not and exactly why I should spend more time on that activity. Journaling is most powerful as a tool to allow for a free stream of thought to enable you to find those pathways to your inner voices. I recognize that it’s nuts that I resist it and, as a result, I am forcing myself to take advantage of this opportunity to embrace the art of journaling if only to have some connection and authenticity with this project. What comes from it will only be the icing on the cake.
Last night when I set out to write about someone I miss, I struggled. I could not really come up with anyone that I missed so much that I wanted to write about it. There are a lot of people that have been a part of my life that I do not have any connection with anymore because of life circumstances. I do miss some of them and, sometimes I feel badly about the role I played in our disconnection. I miss what they used to mean to me and I feel sad about the fact that, in many cases, I allowed the person to slip out of my life. There are also certainly people who are currently a part of my life who I do not see very often and I surely miss them. In truth, some of the people that I am closest to live at a great distance from me so I am constantly missing them but that has become a regular, ordinary characteristic of my life. I don’t like to write about it because it frustrates me and also makes me very sad. So, ultimately, I avoided the topic entirely and I ended up spending my time writing about my own disappointment in myself for not feeling more grateful and for letting myself continually get caught up in malaise rather than focusing on the positive aspects of my life. The subconscious thoughts about how missing people makes me feel bad surely inspired a whole lot of negativity towards myself and was a perfect platform to display my deep levels of disappointment in myself.
This morning, as often happens when I am returning from dropping my kids off at school, I took a few minutes for some self-reflection and started thinking about the exercise again (yes, this is how this stuff works. A simple little prompt can permeate your thinking and just sit with you for days. It’s pretty awesome). With a somewhat clear head, the loud and resounding noise was that the person I missed most right now was me.
I’ve gone away. I have allowed myself to get caught up with the messiness in my life. I focus on all the things wrong and nothing that is right. I have become blind to the beauty around me like the rich fall colors and the fragrant aromas of the season that so often make me feel whole and connected. I feel disappointment in myself in regards to many areas of my life. I am harshly judging myself and critical of my thinking and endeavors. I am, as the brilliant Brene Brown would say, caught up in a shame spiral. She says that “shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” That is a potent message and, when I reflect on my life right now, it truly represents how I feel and why I miss myself. I miss the person who rises above and feels tremendous gratitude for all the richness and texture that makes up my life. I miss the strength that I typically exhibit to work through the clutter and chaos and the pride I feel for having muddled through and come out the other end feeling confident and powerful. I miss waking up every day looking forward to the challenges before me and going to bed at night feeling tired but inspired and excited about what comes next.
I miss me.
The good news, I suppose, is that I can see myself in the distance and know that I am not far away. And, chances are, it will likely not be too long before I return. However, in the spirit of honoring this exercise, I will recognize that the person I miss is me and I will pine for myself and encourage myself to find my way back. I will, like any good friend, extend a hand to help myself back up the hill, shout out directions as I traverse the rocks and catch myself if I slip. And, until my return, I will keep on missing me and will remember another passage from Brene:
“Shame resilience [is] the ability to practice authenticity when we experience shame, to move through the experience without sacrificing our values, and to come out on the other side of the shame experience with more courage, compassion, and connection than we had going into it.”
She says, “shame derives its power from being unspeakable…language and story bring light to shame and destroy it.” So, I guess this little exercise, this benign journal prompt is exactly what I need to help myself as only I can.