not so isolated…

not so random…

#TBT Throw Back Thursday (March 2012)

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From another isolated incident newsletter archives

Another month! This month has been a very innovative month for me! I am realizing that I have a story about myself not being very tech savvy, and now I have an app (iPhone, Android, and Blackberry), soon a product on DVD, a consulting team, and other projects underway that completely utilize my tech knowledge and the know how of even more techie people. These aren’t isolated incidents — even though there are lots of them. I might need to change my self narrative. Having an app isn’t another isolated incident of technology — it is who I am.

Reflections from the Road: Vulnerability

This is particularly interesting for me as I think this is something I struggle with on many many levels. Vulnerability is as much about strength as it is weakness — humility and pride — empathy and bragging — hiding and sharing. All of these are true. Vulnerability is going where one is uncomfortable as often as possible for the mutual benefit of others.

streetVulnerability may be about bringing emotion to a particular context or relationship. I think about Hillary Clinton’s comment before the New Hampshire Primary several years ago where she showed some emotion and stated that running for president wasn’t just a goal — but something personal about her vision of the world. Newt Gingrich answered a question before 2012’s Iowa Caucus in response to his mother’s death that showed him as a Momma’s Boy with emotion and a moment of humility. Sometimes the emotion comes up in the listener — this makes me think about the side stories produced during the Olympics and professional sports shows that give the background to particular athletes. These side stories paint a broader, usually more complicated picture of the person participating in a sport that allow an observer to know a little more.

Sometimes vulnerability is about sharing struggles, challenges, weaknesses, regrets, mistakes, negative lived experiences and the like. There is a fine line here, at least in my upbringing, in that you don’t want to be the person who has always had it harder or worse than the person(s) you are in conversation with. You don’t want to risk being a whiner, grey clouds, whoa is me kind of person. You know the type — you hand them a bag of money and they complain about how heavy it is… this was the worst thing you could do in my family. Maybe the only thing worse would be to make others feel bad. Like sharing too much in a manner than makes others feel less than, unaccomplished, uncomfortable, awkward, invisible, under or devalued in exchange for your own boasting and ego inflation.

Vulnerability may also be about understating one’s experiences, accomplishments, etc., out of respect for others who have more to share. This could just be about being willing to learn from others. It could be an act of vulnerability to provide space for someone else to share their experiences that at times might look like permitting someone to brag or boast. It is all about perspective.

I remember when I was living in Oregon, I was trying to date online. In my profile, I stated that traveling was important to me and that I was looking for the same in the other person. I didn’t list off the countries or continents that I visited or lived in and looked forward to hearing my dates’ travel stories and sharing mine. When one of my online dates shared their world travels that began and ended with Idaho (no offense to Idaho), I didn’t know how to talk about Kenya, Mongolia, and living in Eastern Europe. So I didn’t say anything at all — I didn’t want to be rude. This isn’t being vulnerable or engaging in a conversation — this is shutting down and judging another based on my experience.

Empathy, even well-intentioned, can also be misplaced in vulnerable moments. Shortly after coming home from the Peace Corps in Bulgaria, right before leaving for graduate school, I was in my home town at the neighborhood Tom Thumb Grocery Store. My best friend in ninth and tenth grade was working the cash register as I was checking out and recognized me before I recognized her. I have worked as a cashier in a grocery store and it is a hard hard job that isn’t valued enough by others. Even with this knowledge, my former best friend was excited to tell me about her multiple divorces, kids, and how she was living at home and working on her associate degree. I found myself not knowing how to answer her when she asked, “So, what have you been up to?” I didn’t know how to respond, well, I graduated, fled the state of Texas to go to college, double major, teach, just got home from the Peace Corps in Bulgaria, and am just home for a few days before heading out to a summer job and then graduate school. So I said nothing. Actually, I think, I did even worse, and said, “Oh, well, you know the usual.” I am certain that I didn’t want to hurt her feelings or her ego — and what I did instead was close off any possibility of us having a real conversation. This is the very person who used to do my bangs because I didn’t know how to use a curling iron. We literally burnt a hole in my Beta version of Top Gun watching the volleyball scene too many times. We acted out the entire Dirty Dancing movie over and over again. We were tight. In my feeble attempt to not boast or brag, I judged her through my “better than you” lenses and closed our relationship off right there.

Vulnerability isn’t just about keeping connections or staying open to real conversations or even sharing too much about yourself. It isn’t about sharing emotions, crying, or awkward moments of discomfort. Vulnerability is about building a bridge to someone else and then bravely crossing it first to get to the other side. It isn’t about waiting for them to come to you. “Leap and the net will appear.” I have no idea where this sound bite came from, but it makes me think of Indiana Jones. In one of those movies, Indiana Jones takes a step in what looks like a giant canyon and there is a land bridge crossing to the other side. Vulnerability is risking losing it all to gain nothing. It is the pink under belly we hide from ourselves that others can see. It is in the space between the truth others know about you that you have yet to discover about yourself. Vulnerability is the difference between a welcome mat out of your comfort zone and being a part of a Welcome Wagon. It is me asking questions and listening to a native Oregonian about Idaho-based adventures. Being vulnerable is me asking about an old friend’s children and what makes her life so joyful that she beams.

Here is to building bridges, walking across them ourselves, helping others across, leaving trail markers behind you so others can follow, and just being present to taking it all in. Authenticity, Generosity, Curiosity, and Vulnerability — the building blocks to changing the world — I promise.

Social Excellence: We Dare You; How Handshakes Can Change the World

Phired Up’s new book, Social Excellence is a philosophy, a way to approach your days, a lifestyle. Characterized by handssocial excellencehakes, deep, meaningful conversations, and heart-to-heart connections, people who choose Social Excellence as their lifestyle understand that human connection is the key to changing the world. Learn more…

Social Justice Quotations That Keep Me Going:

“In order to prevent chronic discomfort, Whites may learn not to notice.”
Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D., “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” And Other Conversations About Race

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Copyright 2015, Jessica Pettitt. Jessica Pettitt is the “diversity educator” your family warned you about. Through teaching, writing, and facilitating tough conversations, she has figured out how to BE the change she wants to BE. Now it is your turn!
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