Rip off the mask, tear down the walls. Show the world my beautiful, vulnerable self!

Posts tagged ‘walls’

A Matter of Perspective

We See Family From Our Own Perspective

I ran into a fellow member of the dance community at our local county fair one night. We were reminiscing about the “good old days”. He told me the thing he misses most is the feeling of family that existed in the early 2000’s when there were parties and gatherings outside of just the dance venue. I listened but didn’t have much to contribute because I wasn’t part of the “family” he remembered during that period of time.

The truth is, I feel more of that family connection now, and have for the last 3 or 4 years, maybe a couple more. Before that, I didn’t have more than a couple of phone numbers, or connections on social media. I didn’t see any of my dance “friends” outside of our regular Thursdays and Saturday nights. I could probably count the people I called “friend” as opposed to “acquaintance” on one hand and have fingers left over.

I used to envy those who clearly had a connection that went beyond dancing. I saw people making plans, or coming in after having dinner together; sharing lives, holidays, vacations, and bonds I didn’t understand. From my perspective at the time, no one wanted to have that kind of connection with me.

I’ve since learned, to quote an old and tired relationship-ending phrase out of context, it wasn’t them, it was me. Many of those people were probably reaching out to me, but my rough, defensive, knee-jerk responses told them I was neither approachable nor amenable to sharing more of my life with them. After awhile, they moved on, leaving me oblivious to their efforts to include me.

You Have to First Open the Door

It wasn’t until I lowered my walls and offered up a bit of myself that things began https://www.flickr.com/photos/64738468@N00/25973076/in/photolist-3i7TE-fyVNaB-9aLW9G-4JgeJF-EUixt-pdT2Ek-63AteW-8vwter-bxo88F-cdcTPS-bVQBQg-5aG3Rc-6ktqzm-bxouRx-9NP8jK-drK3ho-cdcUgU-cdcX7q-cdcVCE-cdZyKj-BJPNDq-bxovfz-6knRQ4-fLRddW-9aHGR4-dKZQqf-bxo2tZ-cPQ6Sh-34jbLJ-pJefAw-6kt26u-8w3FD3-fLRas7-4RuNgv-cfEDAb-6XGTXx-adqDCb-RgBASk-fpsHxH-7eqpS1-ahPuom-269ugzb-cW79tG-6pwS4o-YrjQ9b-bo6Gr6-fq9GQm-fp2skU-6guFM-br7V4kto change. I let people see that much of my unconscious defensiveness was my way of hiding the pain I’d been taught never to let anyone see. The false set of beliefs I’d been given from birth said no one wanted to know I struggled with anything unless they were going to use it to take advantage of me. In short, my early education was as riddled with holes as Swiss cheese.

I developed a version of “normal” which was about as far removed from reality as that of anyone who’s grown up in a dysfunctional family. Granted, we all have at least a bit of dysfunctionality in our lives, but I’m talking about extremes.

For example, I grew up believing that having a few drinks every evening, and drinking to excess at social gatherings was normal. I didn’t share the desire exhibited by my parents and their peers, so I thought there was something wrong with me. It wasn’t until decades later I learned I wasn’t the one who had a problem. It was one of many reasons I didn’t fit in with my own family, and I’d learned to accept it as part of my reality.

Making Connections is a Learned Talent

Created with CanvaNot making real, deep connections was another part of my reality I believed was normal. My parents certainly had people I’d call close friends, but in hindsight, I think that closeness was simply a product of similar outlooks, and a common belief in self-medicating to escape a harsh reality. I don’t think they shared their vulnerability with each other, and frankly, they’d have been horrified at the suggestion. They wouldn’t have been comfortable on the giving or receiving end of something so deeply personal and honest. In their minds any raw emotions they shared while under the influence could be explained away by the alcohol.

The point of this post wasn’t to wander down memory lane and wake up the ghosts. It was to recognize how differently two people can see the same time and place. Borderline is probably medium-sized when it comes to bars; not a tiny, dark, hole-in-the-wall, but not a giant venue where thousands can gather on a busy night either. To be honest, for those of us who frequented it regularly, it was just right. (OK, so maybe we’d have liked a bigger dance floor, but for socializing purposes, it was perfect).

How each person views an event or situation is largely dependent on their own history. How you’re raised is, of course, a huge factor. You’re also influenced by painful, if not traumatic events. How you navigated those events, and the person you became once you’d healed (assuming you did), or established coping mechanisms affects not only how you see things, but how you interact with others.

Do You Build Walls or Bridges?

I know I’m not alone in building enormous walls, and creating coping https://www.flickr.com/photos/17367470@N05/34548761725/in/photolist-UCXrcB-ecCNUL-4zfgf6-dAnmf-ngJT8C-azZxsp-nqHgd-b6nZQ8-eM19w4-2cSiqbp-ax5dgA-27J7Psa-6LxpFR-2bRXjnz-pEj693-j4VCQQ-fmd2HZ-svmgQ3-2es7nPR-7AUKsG-GnaSGd-9KvniY-pzqY5Q-VkF76-25utPi9-aLKEgF-qa3JFd-7pVuMa-cMP8xf-K8vLgj-nEqYEz-JW6mY-fB5met-nqHga-aRccva-JWkte-aFcmuG-JW6n9-7Z3cY8-aLKvYc-AM33ua-5Jgt83-9hYUkR-cu1wuJ-9mTEYo-aR8L6v-28j4DAt-PBhbUU-emC61v-9yg7h6mechanisms which shield me, not only from the cruelties of life, but also from the things which bring joy, delight, and pleasure. The trouble is, while living in that seemingly pain-free place, you miss out on how a gathering place can take on the feel of a loving, accepting, non-judgemental family; something many of us weren’t fortunate enough to know.

Granted, I’ve met a few people in the last few years whose early lives make mine look look like summer camp. I’ve also learned it’s not about comparisons, but how you come through your own personal storms. Some learn to live better than they were taught. Others spend their lives huddled in a turtle shell, poking their heads out a little at a time until a painful moment sends them scurrying back inside where it’s safe—albeit desperately lonely.

Reaching Out to Those Who Instinctively Hide

Part of my purpose in writing posts like this is to hopefully reach some of those who believe as I once did that hiding away is the only solution. That avoiding pain at all costs is their only choice. I learned the hard way that you can’t hide from pain. You might avoid a lot of what could be inflicted by others, but you wall yourself away with your own demons. Often, that’s far worse than anything the outside world might inflict.

There’s a level of joy and comfort in human interaction that can’t be felt inside your own walls; inside your turtle shell. Sure, if you’ve never experienced it, you might say you won’t miss it. But I’m here to tell you, you do.

You miss it every time you see other people connecting, and know you’re not part of that connection. Your heart breaks a little more as you watch your friendly acquaintances plan get-togethers without you. The more you’re left out of opportunities to connect and bond, the darker your world behind those walls becomes.

Sometimes the Reward is Worth the Initial Pain

I won’t lie and tell you it was easy to break down those walls, nor that I’m Photo: David Derong/Iowa State Dailyanywhere close to finishing the job. It was, however, the best gift I ever gave myself. Coming out from behind those walls and becoming a true part of my community has brought me immeasurable joy. Just having people like a security guard at the fair remember me for my friendliness, even 2 years and hundreds of thousands of people later makes the pain of demolishing those walls worth it.

In conclusion, you don’t know how many lives you touch when you’re closed off from the world, much less, when you allow yourself to become an active participant. You leave an impression regardless. It’s up to you whether it will be one people remember fondly, and that brings a smile to their face and warmth to their heart, or one they remember as cold and off-putting.

Between you and me, I love knowing an encounter with me was pleasant enough for someone to remember years later, and that the memory brings a smile to their face.

Grateful for Every Little Thing Every Single Day

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful I chose a little pain so I could experience a lot of pleasure.
  2. I’m grateful for the positive impressions I’ve left on people in recent years.
  3. I’m grateful for the sense of family I enjoy with my community.
  4. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share the good, the bad, and the ugly of my own life, in hopes someone will relate and see they have choices.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, friendship, joy, community, music, solitude, insight, inspiration, motivation, health, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Healing Our Anger: Hurting Others Isn’t the Solution

An Uncomfortable Walk Down Memory Lane

https://www.flickr.com/photos/hunky_punk/11123678116/in/photolist-hWXKXJ-bHomCi-brw9M6-75egof-72NYQx-4JuLr7-33JWWw-jk6B3G-pnN4h8-k1nyJg-GJoSmS-5rHHCd-7cZW4U-7xzS38-CwzBDm-eXj12u-ReySpF-XRcj38-YgMmPR-aWahxP-aGx4za-24eBDCd-bCWhDp-7xzRWp-pnxQ7d-7aXGh3-75MxFi-27yzyxF-9kk3k4-6zKq5L-rUoGZt-gJVVbN-cYedPm-4gUL7N-2aQHb4T-6DucqY-bb8PRX-WsMWaM-67dgcB-2dRzmBW-69e2pi-zmc5jK-hBXNWR-ovjuK-dXGFsj-8yM2W5-ay5R5w-hjWQqE-gf7icd-fy2vCPI happened to be in the neighborhood, so I took a walk past the house I lived in from the time I was 12 until I was 18, and left to spend most of the year in the college dorms (I actually moved into an apartment when I was 20, but I didn’t consider the house my home after leaving for college, even though most of my stuff was there for a couple more years).

I stood in front of the house, noting how big all the landscaping had gotten. Yucca (one of my mom’s favorites), now towering over the 6-foot walls, and the small patch of grass still ruthlessly manicured around the planter. Through the huge iron gate one of the later owners installed across the archway in the front wall, I allowed memories to flow while noticing changes. The most obvious was a second story added over the master bedroom. The original floor plan had a kind of half second story with a balcony overlooking the family room. In our version, it had 3 bedrooms and a bathroom with on oddly slanted roof which wasn’t good for much, but was a good place for our cats’ sandbox.

Walls and Gates: A Sign of Our Tumultuous Times

That gate made it clear it was no longer my parents’ house, but it also made me sad. The need for such a structure is truly a sign of the times. Friends who live near there report an increasing rash of robberies. People are coming from outside the area to burglarize the homes of people they assume are wealthy.

In truth, some people live in homes that were purchased for 30 or 40 thousand in the late 60’s and early 70’s, but are now valued (at least according to Zillow) from the 900 thousands to over a million. Small wonder those living in apartments and worse consider the residents rich and worth driving for miles to steal from.

It made me sad to realize how many people have become so angry they’re willing to drive for miles and risk arrest to take what they believe they’re entitled to, but can’t see ever having the means to acquire. And it’s not just theft. It’s the words spoken, injuries inflicted, and even murders. For what? The American Dream which has been folded, spindled, and mutilated until only the rare few get to experience it?

What’s Happened to the American Dream?

Or is it simply that we’ve lost sight of what the American Dream really is? It’s not stuff. It’s not where you live. It’s the freedoms we still have and the choices some of us still see we have, while far too many others don’t.

Maybe I’m naive, but I think when people believe they have no way to improve their lives no matter how hard they try, they’re going to get discouraged. When they see their children going without, or even getting shot at in the streets outside their homes, they get angry.

That anger infests their lives, and combines with desperation to create a “nothing-to-lose” attitude. They take risks because they see no other way out of the hell-hole they live in.

Fueled by Anger, Frustration, and Discouragement

https://www.flickr.com/photos/armenws/5837909811/in/photolist-9TSPcr-C3VGX-24FwY6-26x1rb6-5itLut-dhFGeP-pFWFZK-abNp5y-adf5z-hL7FHE-dhFHhY-dhFvph-dauvud-dhFwgW-dhFqWQ-dhFtAn-abeFZP-dhFDeu-dhFuoZ-dhFqbq-adhZR-abKzAD-adf81-abKx9R-bpTzDn-QVxKyY-abKyYK-9gERc8-anUgst-abeFCX-bzS7hf-abeGb2-2cYSbck-8GpCMm-abNm6Y-21Uy4Gb-4NKgmb-abNkTs-begshM-hRcioi-daKq9G-aUymi2-ZRYKoW-9tsYBM-abeFsx-bNLL6K-F2o45H-6MFFvx-9SsLVR-ZAWXwiThings I took for granted; a nice home, regular meals, new clothes, books, a car to use when I learned to drive; compared to those who are struggling from paycheck to paycheck just to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. I was and still am wealthy beyond anything they know. Kids watch their parents work long hours, never getting ahead. They see the defeat in their eyes. In their position, I suspect I’d get angry too, and feel like I had nothing to lose by taking what I want from those to whom it seems to come easily.

People are acting out their own pain with every act they perform. When it affects someone else personally, their own pain is triggered. It might not be poverty and defeat, but it is their own pain, and can be set off by just about anything because it starts in our minds.

When you add all the hate being spewed on the nightly news, social media, and even social circles, the stew of humanity grows more and more toxic.

When Did We Stop Trying to Get Along?

I talked to an acquaintance this weekend who sought to avoid a mutual acquaintance because of the political views she aired on Facebook. (they ultimately had a very civil conversation, by the way). Is this what we’ve come down to? Hating each other for the views we share?

I got called out recently because I said I was unfollowing people already who were posting political bashes. Someone accused me of dumping friends for small slights. I tried to explain I simply chose to stop seeing their posts on my news feed, but had no intention of removing them from my friends list. My words fell on deaf ears. The man chose to read what he wanted to see. He wanted to be angry with me no matter what. I’m not sure why I tried to reason with him, knowing he’d stopped listening after letting his feelings be known.

Putting Up Walls to Keep Us Safe

In the 1960’s I walked 2 miles across the San Fernando Valley to school alone every morning. It never even occurred to my mom I could be in danger—back then I wasn’t. No one ever approached me on the long walk down city streets. I felt perfectly safe, and actually enjoyed the time alone to think my thoughts and dream my dreams.

In the last 30 years or more, no parent in their right mind would allow their child to walk that far alone. We know it’s not safe; that too many outcasts, weirdos, and just plain angry people prey on other peoples’ children.

The ugly wrought iron gate on my parents’ old house is a sign of the times. People who “have” put up walls, barriers, and fences to keep out those who “have not”, but are willing to risk prison to have some of it. We’re too busy being angry about this cause or that to try to understand why others are angry too.

We’re too angry and misguided by the constant barrage of propaganda to care enough to sit down with each other and try to understand—more, to try to get to the truth buried in the bullshit.

Finding Reasons to Be Grateful In Spite of it All

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for reminders to be more open-minded and compassionate.
  2. I’m grateful for the ability to see how much I have instead of how much I don’t.
  3. I’m grateful for a house with no big, ugly gate.
  4. I’m grateful for the walls I’ve taken down over the last decade or so.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, compassion, fact-checking, opportunities, inspiration, friendship, connection, dancing, joy, peace, health, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

Need Help Pursuing Your Own Dream?

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About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws , of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

My Computer, My Mask

Breaking the Mask

https://www.flickr.com/photos/katsexagesima01/3612047773/in/photolist-6vbFXK-7mfHK5-82q4rd-7Ku82r-7xTufQ-7xTvNm-noV2nx-8v7yLg-7xTtxw-b5JoM-awiDbx-74ofjQ-4xTEyL-aFUvSc-2nJqV-pnUS3J-UZSY-KSCvY-q54hFw-74jkL8-57r2Za-rXWSV-RAqoKt-wCAn3-74jkCt-459Ltf-8VkKtr-jrTTpy-7Mx4vz-9gJ6Hm-q2BAZF-A1eTBs-4sLmnj-7hJteh-nDn5BQ-98W5r7-4oJBHP-FUYqD-66WsR1-aaLTe-9gF1wt-7AibaD-cof4ks-bKGrY-7pamwZ-9yY17Q-2QEkGc-qtnpn9-qUrb5H-5EB1gvI write a lot about authenticity. I even get up on Facebook Live and talk about it and myself quite openly. But after attending a conference where people got up in front of a live audience and talked about their lives and their struggles, I learned a really difficult lesson about authenticity and openness. Writing in a blog or even doing a live broadcast is just another kind of mask.

Even when I get responses from people, the dialogue is after the fact when I’m safely behind the wall. They can’t touch me or see me falter. They (or perhaps I should say you) don’t see my insecurities and vulnerabilities laid out on the table. Any tears I shed or frustrations I express are hidden from your eyes. In other words, I’m still safe.

A Prison of My Own Making

In some ways, I still believe I need that protection, that safety net, the barrier between me and thou. But in others, it has become my prison, my place of disconnection, my lonely isolation. It is real, but only to a point. When I close my door behind me, there’s no one to hold me when I hurt, celebrate with me when I triumph, or just sit quietly sharing the moment. I am, for all intents and purposes, alone.

Even in a crowd, my invisible barriers soar to the skies. with only a few do I show what’s behind the curtain.

When the Time Comes to Step Outside

Yet lately, it’s becoming harder and harder to keep that curtain in place, to hide the tears, the pain, the sorrow, and the fragility. My emotions are closer to the surface, reflected on my face, in my posture, and in the tears that spill despite my best efforts to contain them.

It seems I’m being kicked out from behind my walls, at least in certain cases and places. Yet I scamper back behind them to write stories like this one, or to talk to my own face while recording a video. The more I fight it, the harder it becomes to feel safe and protected. The more I try to stay behind my walls, the more uncomfortable I become. I’m feeling edgy and discontented. I want more, but it scares the shit out of me. I take baby steps outside which turn into giant steps whether I like it or not.

I’d say mysterious forces are at work to push me into another dimension of my life, but I know better. They’re the same forces which ended jobs, relationships, and other situations for me at just the right time. They are my own internal butt kickers who know when I’ve sat in one place for too long and need to move before I grow roots and try to stay where I no longer belong.

A Move is a Move, No Matter How Small

It isn’t necessarily about moving physically (I’ve lived in the same house for over 30 years). It’s about evolving, growing, expanding who I am into who I’m meant to be. Sometimes, the steps are small and manageable like the initial steps we take while learning to walk. Other times, like now, they’re huge, frightening, and meant to turn my safe, cozy world on its ear. Times like now when I’ve become blase about the little 2- and 3-point earthquakes that rattle my world and the Universe decides it’s time for an 8.7 bone rattler.

I don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring, and I’ll be honest with you. I’m terrified on several levels. But at the same time, I’m excited about what the latest upheaval will bring with it. I’ve lived through my share of them, and in all honesty, it always turns out better than I expected or imagined. This time will be no different, and will probably be even more amazing because my fear levels are off the Richter scale right now.

Easy Steps are Stepping Stones, Not a Place to Rest

I’ve discovered that opening up to people via Facebook Live is just a walk in the park for me. It was the natural progression from what my friend Lucia calls “raw Sheri” in my writing. I even broke down in front of a stranger yesterday and don’t feel completely humiliated and ashamed today. Granted, I declined when she asked if she could hug me. I wasn’t ready to go into full melt-down in front of her and a room full of strangers. But perhaps that time will come.

In the movie, The Grinch, there’s a scene where tears are falling and he says “I’m leaking.” I feel like I’m leaking too, but the salty tears are the outward manifestation of the leak, not the leak itself. I’m leaking humanity; something I’ve kept bottled up most of my life. Sure, I’ve been letting it out a little at a time for the last couple of decades, but my cracks are widening and I can no longer seal them back up as I used to. I no longer want to be on the outside looking in.

Am I ready to come out from behind the last of my walls, take off the last of my masks? Changing the name of this blog is probably my answer. I changed the name because it felt right. But I think it was that inner voice telling me it’s time to walk the talk instead of just paying it lip service.

Embracing What’s Uncomfortable

I sit here now, typing these words, feeling anxious, afraid, and close to tears (which seems to be my natural state of late). Dylan seems to sense it as he rarely leaves my side when I’m home lately. His comforting presence slows my rapidly beating heart and gives me a place to go when the fear overwhelms.

Still, I look forward to long talks and sharing my red Adirondack chairs. This is not a time for isolation. My new word is “community”. My goal is to recognize the one I already have and to build and expand on it. I’m ready to open myself up to new experiences and people, and new ways to strengthen my wilting finances. My new motto (or one of them) is “Why think outside the box? There is no box!”

“Don’t Just Do Something. Sit There.”

I heard something from one of the speakers yesterday which made me stop and think. He said “Don’t just do something. Sit there.” How often have we been told the opposite? Sometimes we really need to get off the hamster wheel and spend time simply being. We need to take time to pause and reflect; to allow all of the experiences and thoughts we’ve been having to swirl around and put themselves together in ways they won’t find if we’re busy pushing the pieces around.

What I’ve been doing lately isn’t working, or at least it isn’t working well. I’ve been pushing the pieces around, but the resulting patterns are simply variations on what I’ve always known. It’s time for me to allow new patterns to emerge, and to not toss them away simply because they’re unfamiliar.

I’m taking time this weekend to simply sit there and allow the ideas to form without my interference. Who knows where I’ll be next week, but life is an adventure, if we’re willing to accept the challenge.

Sitting Quietly in Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for discomfort.
  2. I am grateful for fear.
  3. I am grateful for the bloodletting that comes with lowering walls and removing masks.
  4. I am grateful for the community I’ve failed, to this point to recognize and appreciate.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; challenges, lessons, friendships, dreams, goals, spirit, love, tears, honest emotions, peace, health, harmony, prosperity, and philanthropy.

Love and Light

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. She believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for article writing and ghost writing to help your website and the business it supports grow and thrive. She specializes in finding and expressing your authentic self. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information.

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