If you ask me to stand down, please know that only makes me stand taller.
That’s something I’ve learned about myself over the past decade. I’ve learned that I have integrity. So much that I often get caught up in the weeds, even though I understand that my integrity is not sacrificed by the actions of others. I do not like injustice.
Early in 2008, I wrote a letter to The President of The United States about an insane amount of overdraft fees I endured because my bank account was 39 cents short when I went to the grocery store to buy goat’s milk for my baby who had been crying for unknown reasons for days. Side note: I was allergic to cow’s milk as an infant. I was tired and desperate. Goats!
A letter to the POTUS, a bit much? Maybe. I know this, but guess what…
Shortly after, I got a letter back from President Bush. I’m pretty sure that George W. did not sit down and type it out, but it felt good having acknowledgement that my voice was heard. In March of 2013, The Overdraft Protection Act was amended and it prohibited depository institutions from engaging in unfair practices regarding overdraft coverage. Clearly my letter in 2008 was not the sole purpose for this change in legislation, but DAMN. IT. FELT. GOOD. to even be a small part of positive change.
It sparked my mission. A purpose. I was no longer a lost teenager girl with a chip on my shoulder and backpack of unresolved abandonment issues. I was now the mother of two children, with a chip on my shoulder and a backpack of unresolved abandonment issues. The world wasn’t just my world to be pissed off about anymore, it was theirs, too. I had to continue to work on how to best use my voice. I got more involved. I wasn’t going to sit on the sidelines and bitch and complain. I was going to be involved…and bitch and complain, all in the name of positive change. PTO, produce coop, Jaycees, a member of this board and a member of that board….now 10 years later I’m still involved. I’m not a yes person. I’m better at compromise.
Over the years, as I learned, I’ve made lots of mistakes. I’ve spoke out of turn. Said hateful things that I didn’t mean, but I’ve also learned how to soften my voice. I don’t always have to be so harsh…although sometimes the boundaries can get fuzzy. Let’s say, I now feel confident being politely confrontational. I also feel really proud of myself when I look back over the last 10 years and think about the good things that I’ve stood up for. The moments when my voice shook, but I spoke anyway. The times my shaky voice resulted in a change for the better. The times I’ve had to learn to accept the blow and move forward. I’ve learned so much…because this voice of mine.
Let’s go back to the moments of shame, because I think we can often get stuck here. Like I said, there have been times and mostly likely will still be times that I’ve used my voice unfairly. Maybe, I didn’t do my full research before speaking. Maybe, my emotions just got the best of me. I’m vulnerable enough to admit it. I know how to apologize, when needed. I don’t confuse the shameful moments as regrets. Sometimes, I walk away with my tail between my legs, but I own it. It’s me.
Saying nothing, solves nothing. This is sometimes extremely overwhelming. It’s a feeling of walking alone into the forest, no pretty path to follow. People will often acknowledge my journey and commend me on my actions, but very few people are willing to walk into the forest with me, especially when the underbrush is heavy.
Fight or flight. While I’m involved in a lot, I’ve learned to pick my battles. Sometimes, I throw in the towel. Remove my expectations of others in an effort to find peace. Seven years ago, I removed the expectations from someone. This was hard. This is still really fucking hard. The peace is fleeting. Therapy helps. Was removing expectations actually the answer? I still don’t know. I feel I’m at the very least better at managing my expectations, but there is always room for improvement.
After a session with my Angel #3 the other day, I almost thought about excluding myself from all future forestry duties. Try something new. Remove ALL expectations, from EVERYONE. Walk down the pristine path enjoying the beautiful flowers. I’m a good person. I deserve peace. I deserve the pretty path, right? Sigh.
While the concept of having such a clear path in front of me is appealing, it just didn’t feel right. Not for me. For the next few days, I thought about how removing expectations actually eliminates accountability. I thought about how my youngest son (the one I bought the goat’s milk for) is so wonderfully able to notice the flowers when he’s inside the forest. I searched for answers and signs from The Universe on how to help me find the middle ground. Accountability. Integrity. Vulnerability. Authenticity. Walking down an easy, pretty path feels like I’m compromising everything that I stand for. I don’t want to be an impostor to a path I don’t belong on, but I’m also tired of trudging through the forest alone.
Then I got a phone call. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I was not put on this earth 40 years ago to pleasantly walk down someone else’s cleared path. Removing expectations might work well for others, but for me it feels like I’m jumping in a plane and watching the forest burn below me. I need to stay on the ground, but my steps need to be slower and more thoughtful. I’m a work in progress.
But one thing I will not do…
I will not stand down. I have work to do.