I ran into a former member the other day. We hadn’t seen each other in what must be about 3 years I’m guessing. She had lost over 100 pounds during our time together. We talked about the country, yakked about stuff and I asked her how her health was. She said that she left my meetings because she didn’t feel safe as a “smart woman” in my meeting. She said that it was me as well as the group because she felt that when she or other women used sophisticated vocabulary they were teased or put down. I was dumbfounded by this feedback. I apologized, thanked her for the feedback and told her she had a right to feel safe.
Then I walked away. I didn’t say goodbye or good luck, I just walked away. You see I know one thing for sure. I want to respond in kindness to the other person. I do not want to match their anger, abuse, frustration with my own. But, I am not a doormat for their pain either. Even at the time, this member had many choices she chose not to make.
I’d like to tell you that I was always going to get everything right when I speak, but I don’t. And I won’t. I will make mistakes. This part of getting it wrong, causing someone else discomfort used to drive me crazy. I used to beat myself up, cry, go into a rage and then spend the next week being angry at the other person. The injustice I felt that someone else didn’t like me, didn’t give me a chance, or didn’t approve – made me nuts. And I couldn’t let myself off the hook for not predicting everyone’s interpretation and reactions at any given moment.
Even writing this, I see what a painful mess I created by my thoughts. It gives me a stomach ache to think about it this way, but I know so many of you can relate. Pema Chodron in her recent book Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better, says, “Underneath the whole thing always, whether we’re blaming others or we’re blaming ourselves is this dreadful feeling of, ‘I’m not okay.’ No words get anywhere close to how bad that actually feels.”
Yet what we do is run from the feeling instead of being in it. This running never allows us to feel the pain, to get to its other side. You see there is another side of pain. The other side. Not the first side, the hot, painful searing reality, but there is this other side of understanding as a mother holds her child. There is understanding of how another might feel or act. There is wisdom here. And while the pain might always be there a bit, forgiveness is on this other side. Peace is here as well. Letting go happens next. And deep connection to your heart feels like coming home to your true self.