Some people – me in full-on sassy mode, included — might argue that answering a question with a question is somewhat of a skill, an art all its own, deserving to be honed, mastered and praised.
I suspect the person on the receiving end of said saucy retort might beg to differ, in a justifiably frustrated and exasperated tone.
It’s definitely a matter of perspective.
Of course, that ping-pong of question layered upon question can also at its very core be a defense mechanism, biding time while one contemplates just what they want to say and how much they are willing to divulge. Even an attempt to outright dodge any potential for over-sharing. Or — feeling backed into a corner with no other clear escape route and when silence doesn’t seem a viable option — to avoid lying by omission.
A particularly important life lesson was solidly reinforced for me recently:
Don’t ask a question you’re not prepared to answer yourself
<insert awkward moment here>
Well, maybe it’s not so much a life lesson as simple, basic good manners? For those of us who strive to live by the adage treat people as you wish to be treated.
Pile on top of that… when one of your core values is honesty AND your default is to wear your heart on your sleeve, it’s an especially good piece of advice to keep top-of-mind.
Just like wordiness and getting caught up in vivid detail can seem an effective stalling tactic. Hoping… intending to lull the listener or reader into a state of boredom or near coma to discourage them delving further into the matter.
Have I lost you yet?
Okay. Enough pissing around already, Patty.
To bottom-line the set-up, then… I found myself square in the middle of this circumstance recently. I was curious what brought others to the group I had willingly – even eagerly – gathered with. It was… well, large enough, by my usually introverted, homebody standards. Technically, I think I only wondered to myself in my own head what brought every individual person there, but in the course of formal introductions being made around the circle, eventually, my turn came. I was really a simple, standard, innocent getting-to-know-you exercise.
But it brought up something I don’t generally like to talk about.
I really have zero clue how it escaped me beforehand that it was going to come up.
But as is my way, I took a deep breath and let the words escape on the exhale. Definitely far from eloquent. But honest.
Then even before the event was over — and especially once I was home and alone again — I felt that oppressive heat and weight of a full-blown vulnerability hangover descend over me.
Are you familiar with the feeling? Like you’d give anything to go back in time. That you wouldn’t have chosen to participate in the first place, had you realized. That you could have selected your words more carefully, to leave far less room for misunderstanding, misinterpretation and/or — worst of all — judgment. That if you just had a do-over, you would have zipped your lip tight before you opened your mouth and verbal diarrhea flowed out in that seemingly unstoppable torrent of gory detail and T… M… I.
AND especially when no alcohol was even involved, to provide any plausible explanation or rational excuse for such an uncontrolled and fullsome loosening of the tongue.
Why, oh why, did you not just plead the Fifth?
(Anyone else a fan of the American legal TV drama?)
<Insert theme to “Law & Order” here>
When you’re looking for an antidote to your vulnerability hangover, why not try…
As counter-intuitive as it may feel, don’t let shame win and send you in full-on retreat to hide under your covers. You weren’t wrong for choosing to open up. If you want a different outcome, you have to — you GET TO — do something you’ve never done before.
And talk about defense mechanisms… When are you judging yourself before anyone else can?
Don’t isolate yourself to spin endlessly with the gremlins in your head. Reach out. Call a friend. Reconnect with someone else who was there.
Of the 7.7 billion people on this planet as of November 2018 — Thank you, Google — someone else shares your story or, at least, can relate. Know that you are not alone. So many of us only think we are because it can feel like nobody’s talking.
You’re only as sick as your secrets
Shift your energy
Take a nap. Or a walk. Work out. Listen to music. Dance. Clean. Move. Play with your dog. Watch funny videos on YouTube. Hit the mall or otherwise change your surroundings. Check out somewhere new. Have sex.
Do anything that will get you out of your head.
Treat yourself with compassion, kindness and patience
You can never go wrong with choosing to treat yourself with copious doses, IMHO.
Remind yourself how far you’ve come
Of course, hindsight is 20/20. Remember that you’re not the same person as you were back then. Stop beating yourself up for not knowing then what you know now.
And you can’t unknow what you know now, and that’s a good thing.
“When you know better, do better.”
– Maya Angelou
If healthy, meaningful relationships, deeper connection and fulfillment are things you would say you want more of in your life, you’ve got to be willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable and messy and vulnerable, to allow others to see the REAL YOU.
And there is a happy, empowering, ultimately freeing, and yet maybe somewhat expected outcome from that:
“And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.”
– Marianne Williamson
That’s when that good stuff that really lights you up and feeds your soul actually happens.
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
So, please… give yourself permission to be THAT vulnerable, authentic woman.