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I Choose Peace

A client shared the following story during session last week and I want to share it with you. It’s about a friend of hers–let’s name him George.

George was recently divorced, living alone in an apartment in downtown Indianapolis. He awakened on Christmas morning feeling unloved and lonely.  True to tradition, however, he spent Christmas morning with his kids at his parents’ home engaging in the routines they had enjoyed for years.

Tradition abandoned him that afternoon when he customarily would have accompanied his family to his in-laws’ home. This year, his kids would leave to go with their mother while he traveled back to his apartment–alone.

Rejected, he made the decision to bundle up and face the frigid Indiana wind. He walked toward Massachusetts Avenue peering around each corner, normally alive with cars and people. Empty streets. Gray sky. He thought to himself, what a pathetic reject I am. Alone on Christmas Day while everyone else is with their family and friends. He walked, allowing himself to acknowledge the sadness. The eerie stillness of the usually bustling street was unnerving.

As he walked, snow began to fall and he was gently awakened by a sense of peace. A sudden awareness that the silence–the lack of cars and people–was actually a gift. He was able to smile, to pull his hood around him and experience the shelter against the gust. He saw the Christmas lights and neon signs in juxtaposition to the gray sky. I have a choice, he thought. I can wallow in my sadness and rejection, or I can claim this peace.

He walked another few blocks, energized, and toward a red neon sign, OPEN and walked into the neighborhood bar. He ordered an enormous plate of nachos and his favorite beer.

“So, what are you up to this afternoon?” the bartender asked as he set the feast on the bar in front of his lone patron.

“Well, after I enjoy these nachos and beer, I’m walking back to my apartment and I’m going to watch my favorite movies for the rest of the afternoon. Treat myself to a movie day. I’m going to  choose Peace.”

So many of my clients face special challenges during the Holiday Season. Recently, I’ve spent hours with clients processing the emotional onslaught brought on by loss and change. Or, for some, the added stress of extra time spent with family. Each of us faces his or her own set of challenges that the holidays magnify.

This year, I send for you a wish for the will to let go of perfection and any expectations thereof. The ability to accept others as they are. The gift of kindness to yourself. The gift of Inner Peace.

 May there be Peace on Earth.
“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” ~Dalai Lama

Hob-Nobbing

We got a late start for breakfast on Sunday morning, which landed us shoulder-to-shoulder with half of Nashville, Indiana in the tiny waiting area of Hobnob Corner. An eighty-something couple followed us as we squeezed through the door; the group behind them were left to wait on the sidewalk.

My wife is a serial eavesdropper. She says it’s research for writing; I say she may be overly interested in the business of others–nosy. Regardless, the way we were crammed together, I couldn’t help but hear the conversation between the eighty-somethings beside us.

Mr.       “You want to go someplace else?”

Mrs.      “I don’t think there is anyplace else.”

He shifted from one foot to the other. Tried to stand on his toes to scope out the room for tables with potential for opening. And then made a second pass . . .

Mr.       “You want to go someplace else?”

Mrs.     “It won’t be that long. Here she comes.”

The waitress secured a count for each group waiting, including the party of two, eighty-somethings and us. She made no comment or promise regarding wait time. He grumbled and returned to his shifting from foot to foot.

Third pass . . .

Mr.       “You want to go someplace else?”

Mrs.      “You can’t even wait five minutes!” She rolled her eyes in disgust and marched out the door.

I smiled at Debi and said “We just got our next blog.”

I would guess that the pattern in this conversation between the Mr. and Mrs. eighty-something was set long ago. Neither was direct or honest with their partner about their wishes. Obviously, he did not want to wait in line. He wanted to go someplace else, but never directly said so. He wheedled her into making the decision to leave.

She wanted to wait–eat pancakes at the Hobnob–understandable. But rather than saying “I want to wait. This is important to me,” she tried to redirect him, pacify him, even misguide him into believing that The Hobnob was the only place to serve breakfast in Nashville on Sunday. Simply not true and he knew it.

Maybe he was living up to a reputation of impatience or maybe he was in physical pain or couldn’t tolerate the sardine conditions. Who knows? Because he never told her. He just asked her the identical question three times until she gave up in frustration.

I hope they found a decent breakfast and were able to enjoy it–we certainly enjoyed ours. But the sad thing is, he probably paid for winning that stand-off. She was obviously disappointed and angry. She may have told him off on the way down the street or more likely, she waited until their adult kids were around and announced, “Your dad is such a grumpy old man that he wouldn’t even wait in line for five minutes for breakfast at The Hobnob on Sunday.”

The conversation is classic. Two people who clearly have a desire but are unwilling to clearly communicate it. They behave in a passive-aggressive way rather than being open with one another.  Closeness is sacrificed as the couple accumulates grudges that keep them at a “safe” distance. Intimacy suffers. I see it every day in my office and I couldn’t resist sharing this simple, yet clear example.

The wait, by the way, was about twenty minutes and with all the people watching and eavesdropping opportunities, it felt like five. For me, the wait time was irrelevant. I wouldn’t think of asking, “Do you want to go someplace else?” I know better.

Sweaty Palms

If you’ve read the opening page sidebar on this blog, you know our writing process. Dr. Rick generates topics and roughs an outline and I (Debi) write a draft. The teamwork cycle commences:  researching, editing, rewriting. This week, I’m charging forward on my own.

Researching last week’s topic–social anxiety–I discovered that the fear of public speaking, “glossophobia” is a specific type of social anxiety. This surprised me because I’d never made the connection, and interested me because the notion of making a formal, public speech makes me physically ill. Not thinking of myself as a socially anxious person, I learned that most people who experience fear of public speaking do not experience other forms of social anxiety.

I was a classroom teacher for fifteen years. Early in my career, I replaced anxiety of speaking in the classroom with a love of sharing with my students. Parent/teacher night was a different story. I made note cards, wrote an outline on the board, and printed hand-outs in hopes the parents would look at the materials instead of me. I once turned down a rare opportunity to travel to a conference, represent my school, learn cutting-edge classroom strategies, and meet energetic teachers from around the country because, following the meeting, I was expected to make a presentation in front of my peers.  The fear of speaking in front of the entire staff rendered a potentially career-building experience unacceptable.

All forms of social anxiety, including the fear of public speaking, stem from the fear of being judged. This makes perfect sense in my situation. I can’t say that teachers necessarily make the most encouraging or accepting audience and I was unwilling to risk being made fun of for saying something dumb–to the point of losing a valuable opportunity. I realize I’m not alone. Fear of public speaking is identified as the number one fear in North America. Significant, considering the number two fear is death. Remember the famous Jerry Seinfeld quotation?

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” ~Jerry Seinfeld

The good news is research implies that with practice and preparation, anyone can improve, and resources are plentiful. “Fear of Public Speaking” produced 1,317 results in Amazon Books. Ted Talks offers 8 archived speeches, “Before Speaking in public.” Toastmasters has been recommended to me many times, but to date, I’ve never ventured to a meeting. A mere search of local toastmasters clubs netted three that meet weekly within a five-mile radius of my home . . . and sweaty palms.

I asked Dr. Rick if he knew the fear of public speaking was a form of social anxiety. Silly question. Of course he knew. I asked him if he became nervous before speaking in public. In the past, he has taught classes, led seminars and groups, and has reigned as the designated eulogist/public prayer for his family. Recently, he stepped back into the role of co-facilitator of a workshop, “Leading Change” for Leadership Johnson County. “It had been a long time. I was anxious. I had to diligently work at practicing my techniques for public speaking with confidence. I had a rough start, but I am enjoying it.”

We assume those who successfully speak in public don’t experience anxiousness, but they do. Perhaps Mark Twain said it best: “There are two types of speakers. Those who get nervous and those who are liars.” ― Mark Twain

Maybe someday, sweaty palms and all, I’ll make it to a Toastmasters meeting. We’ll see.

I have included three links below from my research. Each incorporates simplified “steps to success” for public speaking.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/communication-success/201311/5-tips-reduce-the-fear-public-speaking

http://time.com/89814/how-to-overcome-fear-of-public-speaking-and-give-a-great-presentation/

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/phobias/expert-answers/fear-of-public-speaking/FAQ-20058416

October 18th, 2015|Uncategorized|