I Hope You Dance

When I had a phone call a few months ago with my friend Andy of Align Coaching to understand more about the coaching process he does, he explained that one of the exercises he guides people through was thinking about five lives you could have. He said, “for example, if you wanted to be a ballerina…”

My mouth dropped open.

My eyes widened.

“Did you know I used to dance?” I (almost) yelled back.

He laughed and said no.

When I was a kid, I’d always wanted to take ballet , but the opportunity and money wasn’t there. When I was in fourth grade, I got a Sweet Valley Twins book that I read over and over, because it had to do with ballet.

After I moved to Albuquerque and got married, for some reason, I started thinking about ballet again, and decided that I’d do it. When I was 23 I walked into a dance studio for my very first class and I fell in love.

It was difficult. I could barely do any of it at first and I felt awkward and uncoordinated. Others with more experience made it look so easy. I was sore the next day. But I showed up again the next week, and the week after that, and the week after that. Eventually I took two classes a week and over time, I learned and improved.

There were times I practically lived at the studio due to classes, rehearsals for recitals or The Nutcracker, and even just hanging out talking before or after those classes and rehearsals.

Ballet class and rehearsal has always been the one thing where I could go and focus on something without any other thoughts creeping into my head. Dance helped me stand taller and be more confident in myself and be more comfortable in my own body.

And I became good at it.

As someone who enjoyed playing sports when I was younger, but didn’t get much playing time on the basketball court or softball field, it felt great to find something that I loved doing and that I did well.

The studio was more than just a place to dance. The people in that studio were a family, with past family members pointe shoes and pictures hung up on the wall. There is a sense of love and belonging that is hard to find when you walk outside the doors. The people there have different backgrounds, different lives, different faiths, different political beliefs.

But in the studio we were all one.

Ballet was one of the most important things in my life, an that studio represents beauty, peace, love, and belonging; four things that are of such importance to me that they really are a part of who I am.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RV-Z1YwaOiw

 

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Stripping Wallpaper

I’ve always had strange dreams.

There was the one about the giant snake in the median of the road. There was another about a bear running full speed directly at me and then getting distracted by a honey-baked ham on a tree stump. Or the one where my 8 year old presented me with some leggings I wanted and claimed he’d taken the car to go to the store to buy them for me.

I don’t always remember my dreams when I wake up and I don’t always think about what they might mean, but sometimes I do.

I’ve been stripping wallpaper in one room in my house and it has been very difficult. I really want to get it done and the walls painted because the wallpaper is old and dark and I want the room to be bright and pleasant. The wallpaper is stuck on well and is not coming off easily at all.

I had a dream one night that all of a sudden, I was working on it and it started coming off very easily. When I woke up, I was kind of excited and hopeful that it was a SIGN that I’d get this project DONE (unfortunately, it was not).

But then I was curious.

What might the symbolism of stripping wallpaper be? I found a dream dictionary website and searched for wallpaper.

“To dream that you are peeling or stripping off wallpaper denotes that you are beginning to let your guard down. You are breaking down your barrier one layer at a time. It also indicates that you are revealing aspects of yourself that have been kept well hidden.”

I then yelled SHUT UP at my computer.

I know dream interpretation is not a science, and probably brings in our own biases in ways we both know and don’t know, but…seriously, this “definition” is exactly what I have been going through lately.

In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown talks about the armor that we use to protect ourselves, and I realized that what she was describing was something I had commented on more than a year ago in a conversation; I was feeling like I was often waiting for the other shoe to drop, that it was easier to just not feel happy about anything because then it meant I didn’t have to feel sad or disappointed when it all got ripped away from me. I could protect myself from the pain. And even as I typed it, I knew how messed up it sounded, but it was all I really felt I could do at the time.

When I was thinking about what she wrote, and realized that I’d been doing that and had even said so more than a year ago, my legs got a little weak and I had to sit down on the floor and wonder how Brené and her book knew me.

Slowly, I’ve been allowing myself to shed that armor and feel again. There are days when I have felt such joy and happiness that I look in the mirror and wonder where I’ve been, and it’s made me determined to have this me stick around and not disappear again.

It’s not easy.

After a lot of questions and thinking about it, and even initially deciding against it, I finally decided to go through my friend Andy’s coaching sessions. While I’m doing it at a snail’s pace, it’s been more valuable than I’d anticipated. I’ve learned what I most value, and I’ve learned how to see how those values, my strengths, other aspects of my personality, and what drives me has been present–or not–throughout the events and decisions of my life.

I’m peeling away the wallpaper to get at the heart of who I really am.

How Do You Like Your Eggs?

A while back, maybe a year and a half ago, I had a conversation with Beth McCord, an Enneagram Coach, because I wanted to know for sure that I was a 9. I was pretty sure, well, almost completely sure, but I was having a hard time taking that definitive step and saying yes, that’s my number, because I didn’t want to be wrong.

During our conversation, she used an example to describe an Enneagram 9 as Julia Roberts’ character in Runaway Bride who, every time the reporter asked an ex-fiance how she liked her eggs, it was exactly like his.

In the end, she tries all different kinds of eggs and settles on what type of eggs she likes best, not the type of eggs that she thinks she should like best because it’s what someone else likes.

I’ve spent a lot of time liking other people’s eggs.

In Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly, which I read more quickly than any other book in a long time, she writes about the difference between fitting in and belonging (see also her newest book, Braving the Wilderness):

“Fitting in and belonging are not the same thing. In fact, fitting in is one of the greatest barriers to belonging. Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be in order to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”

When you’ve moved around as much as I have, belonging is a lot harder to come by and fitting in is–in the short run–is a lot easier.

  • Go to a church where women aren’t allowed in leadership? Sure, I can find other ways to use my gifts.
  • Live in a town where there are unwritten rules and expectations that aren’t to be questioned? Sure, I’ll just keep my thoughts to myself.
  • Go to a Bible study that feels like it’s at the pre-kindergarten level? Sure, I’ll just read on my own. It’s all about meeting new people.

There are some advantages to adapting to other people; you can find common ground and you really will have something in common, and you don’t always have to get your own way in everything. The disadvantage is that it makes it difficult to differentiate yourself from others and to understand your own identity, and you can never really get too close to anyone to truly share what’s on your heart and mind, because the fear is that if they knew, they’d think less of you, you’d stop belonging, you’d be disconnected, you’d lose people, and you’d be lonely.

However, it’s more lonely to not be able to be yourself.

It’s also exhausting, because you have to spend a lot of energy wondering who and how you have to be based on other people’s expectations and standards instead of truly learning who you are.

This is a lot harder for women, I think, because we are often the primary caretakers of our homes and children, and so much of our energy is expended on other people, and various churches will see that as what we are primarily supposed to do. They even have moms groups for us where we can get out of the house and have adult conversation–about our kids. Have you ever found a church with a dads group that talks about changing diapers and sleepless kids? No? Think about that.

I have spent a lot of time in places where my identity is wrapped up in that of being a coach’s wife and a mom; there have been relatively few times in the last thirteen years where I haven’t met someone because of those two parts of my identity.

And so, I learned to adapt and take them on as my full identity, shoving the rest of me aside as necessary. Not all of the time, of course, but a good majority of it. It’s only been in the last two years that I’ve really started to feel more free to be who I am, and it’s often a daily struggle.

In a recent episode of the Typology podcast, author Marilyn Vancil spoke about being a Type 9 and the vague sense of self that comes along with that. She said:

“I didn’t even really know how I feel about anything. I don’t even know what I want. I don’t even know what I care about…I didn’t even know what my agenda was, let alone have it matter.”

It’s easier for us Type 9s to understand and know what we don’t like/want instead of what we do like and want, and so I’m now trying to figure that out for myself.

One thing I know for sure, though, is how I like my eggs:

  • Cook 1 hash brown patty in a frying pan and break it apart.
  • Add 1 egg and scramble it together.
  • Mix in approximately 1-3 teaspoons of salsa, depending on how much you like it and how spicy it is. I prefer Mrs. Renfro’s Ghost Pepper Salsa.
  • Top with a handful of shredded cheddar/taco/Mexican style cheese and mix in until melted.

The Woman in the Mirror

What thou there seest fair creature, is thyself…

The words are from John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, which I was a little obsessed with in college. Ok, a lot obsessed with.

One of the papers I enjoyed writing was one that used this line in Paradise Lost as an epigraph for a paper I wrote about Sylvia Plath’s poem, “Mirror.” As I reread it (yeah, I’m a packrat, and I have scanned copies of many of my papers and assignments), I was struck by how fascinated I was about the topic of women’s identity and how we seek to know who we are.

I wrote:

“The woman hopes that one day she will see a reflection that she is confident with, but because she is continually looking on the outside to discover her identity, she will never find a reflection that makes her happy. If she were to look inside herself and feel confident and comfortable with what she discovers there, she may perhaps feel more comfortable with her reflection.”

Being more confident in myself is a topic that has come up lately, many, many years after I explored it in a different way, and when I found this old paper, I was surprised by how relevant it was, because I really could see how it applies not just to myself, but to so many of us who are looking outward or at others’ expectations to determine who we are. And as an Enneagram 9, it’s a lot harder to realize who we are, because the 9 is apparently the only type that is most unlike itself.

After reading Daring Greatly, I was raving about it to my husband and he asked if it was life changing. Without hesitation I said yes, and this approximate conversation followed:

“I don’t understand what was so bad about you before.”

“I didn’t say anything was so bad.”

“So why do you want to change?”

“It’s not about wanting to change anything specific; it’s about wanting to be who I really am.”

One of the realizations I have had is that for the last thirteen years, I have primarily been known as “the coach’s wife” or the mom of my kids; that’s the usual way and context in which I am introduced to people. Most people I have met have been in either of those contexts; rarely have I met people due to anything about me personally. In those situations, I am only partly me. It is as if I am one person on the outside–the one seen in the mirror–that is presented to people, and another person on the inside.

“The mirror can only show the woman what she is like on the outside. It can say nothing of the woman’s inner beauty, her personality, and her soul.”

While this is true that the mirror can really only reflect the outside of a person, I think I’d semi-disagree with this now, because when I looked in the mirror recently, I saw someone different. It wasn’t anything obvious. My hair is still brown and needs a trim; my eyes are still green and can barely see two inches in front of me if I’m not wearing contacts or glasses, and despite reading countless articles about hair and makeup, I’ve never really determined if my face is oval or rectangular.

This difference, however, was not something on the outside; it was more of a knowing that I had changed or reemerged or awakened or whatever  and as I called it in this post, I was back. The same, but different, renewed; me, but more me.

In Falling Upward, Richard Rohr talks about the death of the false self and the birth of the soul. He writes,

“When you first discharge your loyal soldier, it will feel like a loss of faith or loss of self. But it is only the death of the false self, and is often the very birth of the soul. Instead of being ego-driven, you will begin to be soul drawn.”

There is so much wisdom in this book, and so much that makes me say, “yes, exactly!” It’s somewhat ironic that I bought it nine months ago, and I’m only reading it now, just in time for a rebirth. I’m not sure I understand it all yet, but I love the symbolism that goes along with the church calendar, that the majority of these changes in me are taking place during the season of resurrection, that the next time I preach at church will be on the day when the lectionary has Nicodemus’ story where he approaches Jesus in the dark and Jesus talks to him about being “born from above.”

In the church, we talk about new life and resurrection a lot.

It’s nice to be living it.

Juggling in Public

Winter was long and cold; spring was slow in arriving. But once it did, I had the urge to go for a walk and spend some time sitting by a nearby pond, enjoying the weather, while I thought and journaled.

While I was there, I saw a man in his maybe 60s show up with a bag of juggling equipment. For most of the time I was there, he practiced in the grass.

I thought it was a little weird.

After a while, a group of four people who looked to be in maybe their early twenties walked by, but stopped to talk to him and ask him about what he was doing.

“What made you want to do this?” one of them asked.

Mid-life crisis,” he answered.

I was too far away to hear most of their conversation, but one of the young men asked him if he could try it, and the man let him, and gave him some tips on what to do. After a few minutes, the group went their own way and the man continued practicing his juggling on his own.

In Daring Greatly Brené Brown writes:

To put our art, our writing, our photography, our ideas out into the world with no assurance of acceptance of appreciation–that’s also vulnerability. To let ourselves sink into the joyful moments of our lives even though we know that they are fleeting, even though the world tells us not to be too happy lest we invite disaster–that’s an intense form of vulnerability.”

Practicing juggling in public seems vulnerable to me; anyone could walk by and see him doing something pretty unusual, but it didn’t bother him, and he even welcomed the interaction and questions of these people. They may never see each other again, but for a brief period of time, they shared something, because he was willing to (in my opinion) look a little silly, doing something important and meaningful to himself. For a few minutes, these random, unconnected people connected over something most unusual: public juggling practice.

We interact with a lot of people everyday, but we don’t often connect with them. Most of the time, we’re too afraid to be vulnerable, to juggle in public. There are a lot of reasons for this, and you all should just read the book, because it’s one of the best I’ve ever read. So many of us are missing connection with people, and don’t know how to change that, but it is possible.

We just need to be able to juggle in public more often.

Putting Together a Puzzle

Over Christmas break, we tried to put together a 2000 piece puzzle. That sounds nice, right? Time off from work and school, lots of relaxing, pretty falling snow, hot chocolate, Christmas music, etc.

It wasn’t like that at all.

It was an extremely difficult puzzle with colors so similar and so many pieces that looked the same that it seemed impossible to understand where they were supposed to go, even though we knew they all fit somewhere. After Christmas break was over and we didn’t have time to work on it, we eventually put it back in the box, never completing it.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen the picture I took of all the personality and spiritual gifts assessments I’ve taken over the years, spread out on the floor in my sunroom to see what pattern I could find, to see how it all fit together.

I’ve done them so many times because I’ve been to so many churches over the years, and each time you start over, you do what’s offered, and you find out where you fit in that place.

The problem with that is that while my gifts didn’t necessarily change (writing and teaching emerged the most frequently), there wasn’t always a specific or clear place for me to fit.

In a culture where many people go to church twice on Sunday and attend other church activities on Wednesday, and in a church of 500 people, in a place where the Bible is supposed to be incredibly important, it was disheartening to see that most people really didn’t care about learning more about it. I taught classes on Galatians, 1 Thessalonians, and Luke, and there were no more than five of us in the room for any of them. While I don’t think the amount of people that attend is what makes something successful or not, it continually surprised me that more people were not interested.

I also had a conversation at one point when I offered to write a series of articles for our bulletin, but was told that was really just for the pastors and other staff.

Another time, I attended a Bible study in which I brought up the questionable premise of the study’s author, because I thought it hinged on something that was not certain at all. The study’s leader said, “well, that’s too deep for me,” and we moved on.

Apparently a reason I never quite feel like I belong has to do with my INFJ personality.

Because Ni perceives the world so differently and profoundly, INFJs often experience a sense of loneliness and isolation, even when they are with other people.

The rarity of their personality type makes a lot of INFJs feel like they don’t fit in.

I think that, combined with all of the many times I have moved and had to adapt to new people and cultures, has made it more difficult to know myself than I realized.

We gave up on the puzzle for now, but I’m not giving up on the puzzle of my own life.

Not this time.

 

This week’s Recommended Reading:

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I’m Back

“I’m back!” I exclaimed, a bit too exuberantly for simply returning from the grocery store, which caused my husband to give me a strange look.

I explained that I had realized earlier that morning that a part of me had been missing, and I finally felt like I had returned.

“How long?,” he asked. “Since Waldorf?”

I wasn’t sure at first how long it had been, and over the years, while I hadn’t completely disappeared, as I considered it I decided he was probably right. When I had to move in early 2012, I had to give up the job I had most loved in my entire life, and I floundered a lot since then. 

There’s been a lot lately that I’ve read, re-read, written, thought about, listened to, and talked about that has helped ME to reemerge, and I’ll be referencing and reflecting on a lot of those in upcoming posts.

If anyone needs guidance, help figuring out their identity and life’s purpose, I highly encourage you to contact Align Coaching. Andy’s been a friend since I had that job I loved, and has been so helpful in our conversations over the years.

There’s a lot more progress to make, and there are a lot more thoughts that will make their way to this blog. I haven’t even really had the desire to blog in a long time, but I do now.

I’m back.

 

Split Personalities

I didn’t get today’s planned posts written, much less posted, so here’s something off the top of my head.

About a year ago, I created a secondary Facebook account so I could join a blogging challenge group because I didn’t want to do it under the account I’d already had, for various reasons.  At this time I also created a fan page for myself but never published it.

Today, that changed.  I am in the process of switching friendships to my first account and letting everyone know about the now-published fan page.  Lately, I’ve been realizing that I’ve enjoyed interacting with many of the people I have met through writing, blogs, and Twitter.  But I felt as though I was living in two different worlds.  One world was with people I know in “real life” and the other was with people I’ve met online.  Yet, some of my online friends are better friends than some of the people I know in real life.  I didn’t always share the same things on both accounts and so both sets of people probably weren’t really getting to know the real me.  It was getting complicated.

To me, this felt insincere and inauthentic (especially since most of the people I was interacting with were using their real accounts), and because in Christianity we talk a lot about authenticity and building relationships, I wanted to change how I was using Facebook.  I didn’t want to have separate identities anymore and instead allow myself to build friendships with people based on who I really am.  While I still am not the type to share everything with everyone, this is a step in the right direction.

So, if you’d like to “like” my brand-new Facebook page, please do so here:

Kelly J Youngblood, Writer

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Worth Reading Wednesday: Introverts

To go along with my review of Susan Cain’s Quiet, I want to feature some other sources for introverts.  The first is Introverts in the Church, by Adam S. McHugh.  I have to admit, I haven’t read this book, yet, but it is on its way to me.  I have read a lot on his blog, Introverted Church, and just last night he announced on Twitter that he’d be blogging again!  The blog consists of many of his own posts, but also many guest posts by other introverts describing their experiences in church.  One of  my favorites was Aubry Smith’s guest post describing an “Introvert Fantasy Camp“.

Edited to add another great article:  The Quiet Pastor:  Affirming Different Personalities in Ministry

Are you introverted?  What resources have you found that have encouraged you to accept your introversion and use it positively in your daily life?

Do you think Jesus was an introvert or an extrovert?

Worth Reading Wednesday: Vocation

For today’s edition of “Worth Reading Wednesday”, I want to highlight a few posts on vocation by Caris Adel. Vocation is a topic I love, and I really liked the posts that she wrote.  This is a month-long, Monday, Wednesday, Friday series on her blog, so go there and check out the others! (I only highlighted three of them here).

Identity and Vocation, Defined
“What is identity?  What’s vocation?  Why are they important?  When you do figure out a definition, how does it affect your life? “

How Does Vocation Impact Our Places of Work?
If you have Christian music playing, and have verses scattered all over, but your main attraction is something that keeps people enslaved and oppressed, then what’s the point?  What are those verses up there for anyway? Shouldn’t Christians be informed and leading the way on Isaiah 58 issues? 

Being an Image of God

Which makes me think, what qualities does God have?
Love.  Peace.  Justice.  Mercy.  Grace.  Joy.  Patience.  Etc.
I envision this idea of bearing an image something like being a mirror.  Whenever we exhibit traits like these, we reflect God.