one thing that has been most important to me the last few years - is learning how to better communicate. figuring out my strengths and weaknesses and figuring out how everyone else in my life communicates so i can come at them with openness and understanding, rather than judgement and defensive behavior.
dealing with "problems".
in the past - i was very defensive. i thought if someone disagreed with me it meant they didn't like me. and being liked was something that was always wayyyyy too important. again - i attribute that to being bullied in my formative years. but it's behavior that stuck around well into my adult years, and i was VERY ready to shed that skin and let all those destructive patterns go.
if someone came at me with a question or concern (didn't matter who it was or what it was about) it embarrassed me, and the way i dealt with that was by turning it around on them. instead of looking at what i was doing that was contributing to the misunderstanding - i freaked out, got defensive, and blamed them or someone else. more times than not - it turned into a volatile explosion of hurt feelings.
the way i deal with it now is radically different. i have worked SO hard on that issue - it's actually pretty hard to rattle me now. any questions or concerns about me, my work, or things that have nothing to do with me - are met with an open mind and zero ego. there is nothing in this world that is worth getting upset over, so i try to approach every situation like that. it's not MY problem - it's just words. and furthermore - there IS no such thing as a problem as long as i don't see things as problems - so whenever something is a "problem" for someone else - it's just a "thing" to me. something that needs taking care of in as few steps as possible. so i just get it done. i can't TELL you what that's done for my anxiety and happiness. knowing that there is no such thing as a problem has really set me free.
if someone is "bothering" me.
when i was in high school and college, i was VERY loud and obnoxious and over the top. for some reason, in the last few years, that has completely left my system. i have to be with a childhood friend to really get riled up at ALL, anymore. i get excited, yes... especially whenst music making... but i never really get loud and obnoxious. BUT - when OTHERS were loud and obnoxious - it really bothered me. it made my anxiety rise. so, what did i do? i freaked out on them.
what do i do NOW?!
nothing. absolutely freaking nothing. i just smile, and appreciate them for exactly who they are.
in the past, as i was noticing this change, i would turn into a teacher, shushing everybody and making sure nobody was looking at us. WHO CARES?! who CARES if people are looking? that isn't somebody i want to be. and it never felt good when i was making other people feel bad for just being joyous. i don't know when i started to phase that behavior out, but i noticed it when i was in new york with therese a few years ago. we were down on broadway, and she was in the middle of the street shouting and yelling and singing and dancing, and i was standing on the sidewalk filming her.... and it's the BEST video. i still remember feeling that old instinct to shush her, though. but i squashed it, and i'm SO glad i did, because it's a GREAT and happy memory, which i would have ruined by being controlling. she actually told me that i DID shush her a few times on that trip, but i don't remember that... probably because that behavior was SO ingrained - i didn't even realize when i was doing it, most of the time. but i DID catch myself that one time, and so i noticed me changing AS i was changing, and i was able to give myself props for letting bad behaviors go, which prompted me to do it more and more and more.
one of the things i love MOST about therese is that she is ALWAYS screaming and yelling and dancing and being ridiculous and laughing at the top of her lungs. why would i EVER want to stifle that? i wouldn't. just because i'm not like that anymore doesn't mean that i have to police everyone who is. who did i think i WAS? it's embarrassing that i used to try to make people feel bad for being excited, and i'm glad i've grown past that.
if someone is "better" than me.
i have this one horrible memory that haunts me every day, and i'm positive it was the impetus for me to change. one day, rosie and i were going to go to the mall. i got dressed very casually, but she was doing laundry, so she wore something kind of fancy cuz it's all she had left. she did her hair and her makeup, and she looked AMAZING. like, soooo so so so good, and pretty, and happy. but when she walked out in a dress and full makeup - and i was in jeans and a t-shirt with glasses and my hair in a bun - did i say "WOAHHHHH! you look amazing! I LOVE YOU!" ????? nope. i put her down. i said "what are you wearing? great. now IIIIII have to change. ugh. fine. whatever. give me a few minutes. UGH. thanks a lot." and i was upset all evening. WTF??????? who on earth REACTS like that? i was SO unhappy and insecure - that i ruined what could have been a really fun night, and i know i REALLY hurt her feelings... which breaks my heart to this day.
what would i do now? i'd still wear jeans and a t-shirt and glasses and a bun (hahaha), but when she came out all done up i would just gush. "YOU LOOK AMAZING! I LOVE YOU!" and off we'd go. i'd take a million pictures of my bestie looking her bestest, and she would feel amazing about herself, and i'd get to be seen with someone who felt amazing about themselves, and that energy would surround us and spill onto everyone who saw us and make THEM happier as well. and isn't that what we're SUPPOSED to do? ENCOURAGE our friends to be the best versions of themselves, and spread happiness to others around us? i got SO tired of my freaking attitude that i didn't even want to be around myself most of the time. it's EMBARRASSING to look back and take stock of how i treated the people i loved the most in my life. WHY DID I DO THAT? i can't take it back, which feels even WORSE. i can just be glad that i learned from it, and will never do it again. but i did hurt a lot of people when i myself was hurting... and that is something i just have to live with and learn from.
thanks goodness i have never been competitive with other performers, or with my music. i shudder to think at all the people i would have hurt on THAT insecure journey...
do you know the love languages? it is VERY helpful to know your love language... it will absolutely revolutionize all the important relationships in your life, if you're aware of them. if you're not familiar - let me just do a quick run down for you.
there are 5 main ways we communicate, and show love.
1. words of affirmation - easily telling people how much you love them and showering them with praise. (this is one of my love languages... i'm your cheerleader!)
2. acts of service - if you love to fix stuff for people, or do the dishes, the laundry, the shopping... etc. if you feel like this isn't a burden and you are always excited to help. (this is my dad and my uncle david and mom.)
3. gift giving - you are great at knowing what everyone in your life wants and you give it to them in beautifully wrapped packages. (this is most of my best friends love language, and my mom's and my aunt shirleys... NOT MINE! i am TERRIBLE at gift giving!)
4. quality time - if you prioritize MAKING TIME for people. (this has definitely always been my strongest love language). if you are busy all the time, but will MAKE the time to spend QUALITY time with your friends and family.
5. physical touch - do you always have to be touching the people you love? always hugging, always kissing, always holding hands, always touching their face and running your hands through their hair...
you can have more than one love language... most people do. for instance - my mom. her love languages are words of affirmation, acts of service, and gift giving. she is a teacher, so she LOVES to shower you with words of encouragement and make sure you know how supported and loved you are. she also loves to do little things for you - anything that will make your life easier - she's on it... and she'll pay for it. she will be doing something for herself (which is rare), and if i say "do we have any tylenol?" because i can't find mine - before i can even blink she is up, out the door, and returning with 3 different kinds of painkillers she thinks might work. she is the most selfless, giving, loving person i have ever met in my life. AND - she is AMAZING at gift giving. she remembers EVERY little thing you say you're interested in, gets them all for you, and wraps them in gorgeous wrapping paper with perfect bows. my mother is a wonder and a mystery and a unicorn of a human being.
MY FAAATHER - is a whole other story. if you are looking for words of affirmation from my father? you are going to have a long and sad life. BUT! GUESS WHAT? one of my father's love languages ISSSS words of affirmation! how does THAT work? well he doesn't tell ME he loves me and he's ridiculously proud of me, but he tells EVERYONE ELSE ON THE PLANET that i am the greatest thing to have ever walked the earth. same with my mother. same with my niece. he can't say enough about us - he just can't tell us to our faces. which is fine... and makes the once - a - year "i love you" mumbled under his breath that much more special. my father is also TERRIBLE at gift giving. he waits until the NIGHT OF THE OCCASION to say "so. what do you want?" and then a few days later will hand it to you in a ripped plastic bag. HORRIBLE!!!!!!!!!!! so funny. he also is terrible at making quality time. quality time for my father is NAP TIME. but guess what? my dad will fix ANYTHING you want him to. ANYTHING. EVER. he can't WAIT to help you with whatever you need. my parents share that common bond, and i think it's a BIG part of what makes their marriage so strong. he would never admit this - but his last love language is physical touch! he is always patting the heads of his students, and rubbing my back, and grabbing my mom unexpectedly for a hug and a kiss... he's a romantic... even if he can't TALK about it - it spills out in his actions :D
me? well, i'm easy. you can probably guess mine just by the way i write these blogs.
my main love language is words of affirmation. i can talk about how great you are TO YOUR FACE - until the cows come home. i've never had a problem telling people EXACTLY how i feel about them - good or bad. and i LOVE making sure you know how amazing you are.... i think it's the teacher in me, too. but acts of service? oh gosh. not even close. my brain is somewhere else. my brain is busy thinking about how amazing you are to run out and get the tylenol. (that's not to say i don't help out, obviously we all do things to help around the house... we have normal responsibilities. i'm not talking about those - i'm talking about constantly going above and beyond normal chores). and you better not be expecting an amazing gift from me! you will be SORELY disappointed. i am terrible at giving gifts. i WISH it was my love language, but it isn't. i'll be like "YOU LOVE DINOSAURS WITH MUSTACHES, RIGHT?! oh no wait that's me. okay i'll just take it." HORRIBLE. but guess what? i will drop my entire life to be there for you. if you need me - i will quit my job and hop on a plane to give you a hug and a kiss and tell you you're amazing. quality time is my other main love language. and physical touch - is just a bonus. if i like you - i'm touching you. i'm running my hands over your face and through your hair. it's gotten SO MUCH WORSE in the past 5 years. i don't think physical touch was ever one of my love LANGUAGES - but then my niece turned 5 and started coming to visit all the time, and always had to be touching me. AND NOW I CAN'T STOP. her little face was the death of me. her little chin is a perfect square - and if i'm not touching it - i'm not living my life to the fullest. IT IS ADDICTING. and her little freckles, and the little fold of her arm, and her eyebrows, and her little knees... i am just SO OBSESSED with every little detail about her - it actually ADDED a love language to my life!
all of this to say - the way i communicate is getting better and better every day. the inner peace that has come with hard work and age has done wonders for helping me understand others, and therefore - understanding myself better. not seeing any communication that may come your way as "a problem" is a huge game changer. i wish i could gift you that experience. if you are scared of confrontation, or deep conversation, or disagreements, or emotional outpourings - try to change how you think about it. they're not PROBLEMS. they are wonderful expressions that everyone has a right to have, even you. and if you can figure out how to view people's emotions as - not attacks on YOU (even if it feels that way in the moment) - but something you can HELP them with - it will greatly help you communicate, and help the relationships in your life, and inspire others to communicate more calmly and more effectively as well.
now go be awesome. I LOVE YOU!!!!!! let's meet for coffee later... but don't bring any presents. <3