It’s Friday. I am so weary. SO tired. Actually, my brain is fried. I feel like the cerebral part of my Members has turned to mush. But then again—it’s Friday. So there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
Thank you, Jesus, for that. Gotta love the creation of the five-day work week.
I am in class all morning with my cohort- a mix of teachers from all over the country. We break for lunch on the last day of class ready for a diversion. I decide mine is going to be a short trip taken to a local restaurant with a couple of friends whom I have not had as much time for (as I would really have liked) over the past couple of months due to the crazy busy schedule I keep. Crazy schedules we all keep, for that matter. Time I have not had for the Others in my life due in part to the lack of number of hours in the day to ‘get it all done’. Something I am constantly dealing with in my desire to find work/life balance. At any rate, I am delighted to have the time to eat lunch with these lovely ladies and am so looking forward to catching up on missed time. To having actual real-life CONVERSATION.
Oh, the luxury.
We cram into an over-heated car and wait for the air-conditioning to kick in. And then we pull into the Wendy’s parking lot and make our way towards the lunch counter. We order lunch. I order a Summer-Fresh Strawberry Salad, a grilled chicken wrap and a strawberry milkshake. They have no milkshakes, so they replace the latter with a very miniscule chocolate milk. Not that it really matters. Later on- in the course of my eating, I discover something hard in my salad, of all things- like the bits of teeth that I have become accustomed to finding inside my mouth when breaking such while eating. This is a side note, but important to show that I am always under some stress while eating. And that fast food does not always mean good food. Funny about that.
But I digress.
We hoe into our lunches and start to converse right away about this, that and the other when the conversation takes on a more reflective nature. The question is posed: “How do people perceive me?” by one of my lunchmates. And so, thinking this might be a good thing to know about myself, I ask the same. “How do I come across to the people I interact with?” “What do people really think of me?”
I am really curious after all. How DO people perceive me? An honest question, to which I thought I was ready to hear an honest answer.
I have been writing this blog for a while now with the understanding that I am pursing a path that will lead to a more empathic, caring, loving Self- as a teacher, a mother and as a friend among the other hats I wear. I am also pursuing this path as the direct result of my choosing to do so. In other words, in choosing this path of ethics of care and pedagogies of love- in choosing love as the focus of my life and writing- I then would hope that I exemplify it more and more in my day-to day life.
Interesting theory which I am working out in practical ways.
So I have to say, I was expecting a response something like the following: “Oh Lori, you are so caring and kind and sweet and empathic…” All the things I write about, in other words. I was waiting for my ego to be fed a little bit.
What was actually said surprised me. I don’t know why it did, but possibly because I was so prepared for the former to be spoken that I hadn’t quite readied myself for what was actually to be divulged.
So, with this in mind, I sat posed to hear some really sweet things spoken.
Never have expectations when asking deeply personal reflective responses to questions you have posed. WORD TO THE WISE. At any rate, what was told to me- about how I was perceived and how I come across was this: I often make people feel uncomfortable due to my verbosity or ‘wordiness’- but even more so than that, I am intimidating at times to people, possibly due to my own reflective nature and the questions I pose to myself and others.
But here’s the sting.
It came out in conversation that I am not always caring in my interactions toward others.
Ouch. That did really hurt and I could feel tears immediately welling up in my eyes. Because despite my lack, at times, of being aware of my nature, I am very sensitive and tender. I can cry when the bee stings, the dog bites. And believe me- I can cry for much less than that.
But let me explain.
This week, I have had almost a tunnel vision at times in my focus on the academics and work at hand. So much so that there were times someone would pose a question to me- to which I completely tuned out that question or ignored such in my focus and intent on getting things done. In other words, I was not aware of how I was making people feel all the time. And I was making people feel like I didn’t care merely by my intent on barrelling through and getting the work done.
Hearing this feedback, I won’t lie- hurt me. I felt, as I have already suggested- stung. It is not easy hearing that you’ve been uncaring in your dealings with others- that you’ve been so focused on your own work that you’ve failed to take into account other’s work and questions. Other’s feelings and concerns. But hearing this feedback was also extremely beneficial. I needed to hear this. Because I am now more aware of myself as a friend and a colleague than I otherwise would have been had the question not been posed and answered.
I know more because I asked. Even if it hurt a bit in the hearing.
In doing a thesis on caring and love, I think the most revealing findings I will uncover are that we are not always what we perceive ourselves to be. The challenge is to improve and then rise above our failings and overcome. I would never assume that I have an interest in love and caring because I am an expert in such- I would want people to know that I have an interest in love and caring and all that encompasses because I want to BECOME this. And that act of becoming is a process. One can become something because they have a natural inclination toward being thus or one can become something because they have deliberately, intentionally chosen to be that. I am daily- moment by moment- choosing intentionally to BE what it is I write: a more caring, more understanding, more empathic, more loving person than I was yesterday. Each and every day I live my life as a human being.
It is the act of choosing to be caring that I would hope defines me.
After the conversation, I reflected on what had been said quite a bit and in doing so, I realized a few things about myself:
I am not doomed to be the focused, intense person I was born being- I can evolve into what I want to be by my awareness and consciousness to CHOOSE to be otherwise. I am also not left to feel inadequate by my obvious deficiencies in this aspect of my life because I see my life as a journey. I am moving forward. I would hope that I am more aware today than I was yesterday. And further, I see that my caring has come out even in my questioning: because I truly cared enough to ask the question: How DO people perceive me?
I hope they still might perceive me as one who wants to care. Who cares to care.
As one who cares.
Suzanne Schiavoni says
Yet again, this blog could have been about me… (except for the part about the teeth in the salad!). I’m finding that the older I get, it seems the less people want to be around me. I don’t get it… I really think that I am a great listener, encouraging, kind, and positive. I have had friends tell me that I have a great sense of humor. And yet, now that I’m 51 I feel like I am losing friends. I do know that when I am at school (I teach fourth grade) I am completely focused and often have to remind myself to not take my job so seriously. So, I guess what I am saying is that I completely understand your comments in the blog and really appreciate your thoughts!
Luella Bredin says
Lori, as you know, I have been a pastor’s wife for practically all our married life ( not now, though) and one thing I have discovered is, people view you, not on who you are-what you bring to life or the conversation, but, what you are doing for them. If you cease to add to their life, because, heaven forbid you might just possibly have one of your own that occasionally has to be attended to!-they get irritated or stop seeing you in a good light. For a time, while my husband was pastoring, as you know, too, your grand-mother lived with us. She was dealing with dementia and she required a lot of attention. A church lady said to me one Sunday morning, “When is she leaving? I hope she leaves soon so you can get back to giving us time.” so, there you go-true, we need to grow and change with God’s direction-but, that is the bottom line-listen to Him! People will change you to please themselves and look how many people we have in our lives!! We would be the absolute chameleon if we tried to accommodate everyone! What they fail to see is that you have an outward focus-you love to understand and care for people-but you can’t do that 100% of the time especially when you are in the midst of a very demanding program. Please God-follow His heart and learn to let the opinions of others be just that-their opinion! Love, Mom
Lori: I had to comment on this. My love for you centers around what others perceive as intimidating. Your reflective nature makes me want to be around you and it prevents our conversation from being mundane or gossipy. Its all in perspective I guess but words have such an appeal for me and I often hunger to be around you or people like you where my mind gets stimulated . but the part about choosing I struggle with. I don’t believe we truly choose anything and I really want to have an in-depth conversation with you about that . what I see in you is a remarkable ability to take people as they are and really no other gift matters quite that much .Once we begin to truly see one another kindness flows from within without us having to choose that path. Love you lots Jenny
Sorry about my grammatical errors I was in a bit of a rush,
never a good thing
Very powerful. I love this!