Shy to a Fault

All my life, I have been shy to a fault.

People don’t realize it; when I share it in workshops or in places where I speak, people literally laugh and say they don’t believe me. I am so animated when I speak or present, it’s hard for people to believe that when I am done, I crawl into a shell.

I have always done it.

While there is nothing wrong with being shy, I write this to ask any of you who are shy not to let it compromise your life and your possibilities, as I have.

I have not made friends with people as a rule. I have not fostered and cultivated professional relationships. I have not mingled with people of my profession much, getting to know them, and allowing them to know me.

For the years I was a pastor, I basically went to church, did my “church work,” and go home. Oh…I did raise my children, and did quite well at that, I am pleased to say. But I did not build relationships. I did not diversify the palette of my life.

My therapist ( yes, I see one regularly) said that I made my world too small. Isn’t that a wonderful description of what being shy does?

Where in the world does the shyness come from? Is saying I am shy another way of saying I am insecure, or not confident?

I can remember once I went somewhere to preach. I got there early, with a friend, and was led into a roomful of women I didn’t know. I looked around, and the woman was whisking my friend to another area of the building. I wanted to die! There were all these women whom I did not know. They were well-dressed and articulate …and it felt like their heads were blowing up into huge balloons right in front of me; it felt like the balloons were coming toward me! I could not run out. I told myself that …and so I made myself walk to the balloons and, in talking, was able to stick a pin in them so that the big heads shrunk down to normal. I found that I could talk with these women; I found out that I had much to say and that they listened, but I will never forget the terror of those few moments.

Since then, I have been practicing not being shy. Some people from my former church would see me in a crowd, “working the  room,” and would encourage me. That meant a lot. Someone knew I knew this particular weakness of mine, and saw that I was trying to meet it … and, in effect, beat it.

But the bottom line is that I have hurt my life and my career by being so shy. I told/taught my children not to be like me, and thank God, they have listened. I have gone to the best schools, but didn’t connect with people. They, too, have gone to the best schools and have connected with people, have good friends all over the country, and are nurturing the relationships they have made even as they make new connections.

I told you I raised my children well.

I write this because this morning I wept for a few moments as I dealt with seeing myself “face to face.” Sometimes, I like what I see. This morning, I did not.

But the little weeping spell is over. I decided to write because someone else, a young person with lots of gifts and talent, is hiding under a bushel somewhere.

Please come out. The world needs you.

A candid observation …

Disrespect Shown President and his Wife is Regrettable

Is it just me or does it appear that this family, specifically this First Lady, has been “joked” about more than any other First Lady, and in the most degrading way?

The most recent affront to the First Lady of this country came just last week, when the Kansas House Speaker, Republican Mike O’Neal, emailed a cartoon which referred to Mrs. Obama as “Mrs. Yomama.” It compared the First Lady to the Grinch, a Dr. Seuss character, because in the photo, Mrs. Obama’s hair was windblown.

The text of the cartoon read, “I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing Mrs. YoMama a wonderful, long, Hawaii Christmas vacation – at our expense, of course.”

O’Neal later apologized, but it rang hollow. The disrespect shown to this President and his family, much with racist undertones, has been despicable.  This event came just a couple of weeks after a Wisconsin Republican, Jim Sensenbrenner, commented on the size of Mrs. Obama’s behind, saying that she was a hypocrite for waging a war against obesity.

What the comments show, some of which the originators say are supposed to be “jokes,” is the underlying racism which leads to this horribly disrespectful attitude toward our president and his family.  I am not sure how Mrs. Laura Bush or Mrs. Barbara Bush were joked about or commented upon when their husbands were in office. I don’t remember any jokes about them, but the larger fact is, there seemed to be  sacred, protective veil around them which kept them insulated against such indignity.  No matter their foils, imperfections or foibles, they were off limits.

Not so with Michelle Obama. From the beginning both she and the President have been the focus of some of the most demeaning, stereotypical images that seem to come from a racist American core that is full of virulence, hatred, fear, and resentment. These references and images also speak to an overlying arrogance that suggests that it is OK to disrespect this President and First Lady; after all, they are just (the “n”) word.

Is this blatant disrespect of President and Mrs. Obama as alive and as common as it is because they are African American? One cannot help but think so. Why didn’t anyone spew “jokes” about the physical characteristics of either of the Bush wives? Why didn’t we hear legislators joke about Nancy Reagan (although, to be fair, they did talk about Nancy Reagan’s presence in the White House; still, they were not disrespectful!), or about Betty Ford?

Racism, the American kind, is all over the world, because Americans have spread it.  People in Europe have been “taught,” if you will, or “coached” in how to think about African Americans from white Americans themselves. It is galling to think that legislators are not stopping to think how their disrespect of the most powerful man in the world and his family is affecting the way people all over the world will think of them and refer to them as well.

To those who write and say such disparaging things, calling those statements “jokes,” understand something: there is nothing funny about what you are doing and saying. You are feeding the shame of America, which is its racism.

Our president and his family deserve the same respect that has been afforded all other presidents. Anything less than that is unacceptable, and legislators who engage in helping to spread or feed racist attitudes and feelings are agents of infection in a country where the infection has been rampant for far too long.

A candid observation…

© Candid Observations 2012

Jon, Kate and Divorce

Nobody should ever have to go through the pain of divorce.

It hurts like hell. It’s like one of your limbs is being pulled off, without anesthesia. The pain goes on and on, because, I guess, its root is so deep. Having loved, lived with and slept with someone alters one’s emotional balance with that person forever.

That being said, I ached as I watched Jon and Kate last night talk about their family and now, their imminent break up. While I didn’t like Kate much – she was a tad pushy for me – I ached because she is getting ready to do the single mother thing, and it is no fun. I found myself kind of resenting Jon because he said he was “excited” about this new phase of his life. I guess so; he will not have the every day contact with the 8 children, and will have more freedom to do what he wants.

But this divorce thing bothers me. It bothers me that it is so easy to get married and so much harder to get divorced, comparatively. People enter marriage with not the slightest idea of what the ‘worse’ is in the phrasie “for better or worse,” but clearly, they are not remotely interested in weathering the storms which always come in marriage.

Indeed, I have heard young people say, when I’ve asked them why they want to get married, that if things don’t work out, they’ll just “get divorced.” That seems to be a half witted attitude to take into a marriage, a stop gap, if you will, or an easy out. The definition of things not working out gets diluted when people see divorce as the answer when their infatuation, lust or both, wear off.

The truth of the matter is that marriage is work. Sometimes we have to work to like the spouses we say we love, and sometimes, that is not easy.  Of course, everyone who is married knows that. The problem is that too many of us opt out of the work and move on, leaving families in shambles and hearts tattered, while we flit off to the next experiment.

I think we have a problen, in that we lift up marriage as the ideal of all relationships, but we don’t really teach what marriage is. In fact, when young people “get married,” what they are excited about is “the wedding” and all the pomp and circumstance that goes with weddings. They don’t have a clue about “the marriage.” Marriage is seldom ideal, but it is especially not ideal when two people have slept together plenty, but have not taken the time to really get to know each other as individuals. A good bed partner is not necessarily a good spouse.

So, what to do? From where I sit, I can only try to really teach what marriage is, not the romantic stuff we want it to be but the brutally hard work it actually is. I can try to teach communication skills, and rules for handling conflict. I can try to get the would-be marrieds to know each other as deeply as possible, so they can identify their fundamental differences and learn how to navigate them. I can get them to learn each other’s expectations and to see if they’re able to meet those expectations, and I can get them to learn each others’ love languages…

And I can try to explain to them that divorce is the worst pain ever, for them and for any children they bring into the world.

I heard just recently that the divorce rate in America is at 50 percent. Fifty percent of all people who get married do not make it. That is a devastating statistic and a devastating reality, which means that there are a lot of angry, devastated people walking around looking to get into another marriage. How come that doesn’t sit well with me?

I am almost at the point where I want to say “no more marriage,” at least not until you’re old enough to be able to be selfless enough, patient enough, wise enough and secure enough to handle what marriage requires.  Hmmm. That would put the average age of marriage “up there,” making it harder for some people to have children. But I keep thinking that fewer children with parents in happy, well-adjusted marriages has to be better with more children in marriages where there is no love, or children who live through the pain of their parents’ divorce.

Kate and Jon’s children will internalize complex feelings from this break up, just like my children did. Kate will have to swallow tears and anger as she works not to let her children see her pain, not realizing that her pain will come out in other ways. It has to. Jon will fight feeling like nobody understands him and that he is missing a lot of his childrens’ growing up.

They will get through it, but their lives will be forever changed, all of them. Life ain’t been no crystal stair, as poet Langston Huges wrote, and this family will taste the bitterness of that thought. I know. I’ve been there.

And that’s just a candid observation.

And that’s just a candid observation.