Author Kathy Escobar, in her book Practicing: Change Yourself to Change the World, reiterates something I realized about myself just over twenty years ago as I began the long road to healing from a domestically violent marriage …
… many of us keep the inner workings of our personal life tucked away while outwardly projecting something different.Chapter 1
Back then, as a software engineer over 10 years into my career, I adopted a mantra for myself – WYSIWYG – “what you see is what you get.” It’s an old acronym from when windowing systems were first being developed and becoming mainstream as opposed to command line user systems. I determined to be on the outside who I thought I was on the inside. Especially, after years of faking being ok everywhere I went, I needed to do this to heal.
Reading Kathy’s words this morning, though, jarred me into a reflective state – am I now? 20+ years later? Am I still WYSIWYG?
Sadly, not as a much as I’d love to say I am.
Even after I escaped that relationship, I learned to be on my guard at all times – constantly having my hands up in a protective stance, for myself and my children. He drug us in and out of court, constantly caused problems with custody swaps, was turned in for abusing my daughters multiple times and always got off. Even after my youngest graduated high school, and I thought I could take a deep breath – issues with health insurance payments that the state of TX refused to correct came back to haunt me.
Living in your lizard brain in a defensive stance is not good, to say the least. Add to that – marrying my current husband led me into a double whammy as his ex also drug us in and out of court and custody issues at the same time.
For thirteen years, I did my best of living WYSIWYG but knowing at the same time at a very deep level, that walls had to stay up because ANYTHING said, done, witnessed, or even misperceived could bite me and my husband (and our kids) in court.
So, when I saw this line today, as my beloved church began studying this book for Lent, I had to stop and let it really sink in. Where am I doing well and where must I grow in my path of continual healing? Which switchbacks lie before me? What sunrises give me hope?
Switchbacks I see:
- leadership many times demands a calm demeanor – and many times I am loud, passionate, excited, and physically animated about issues
- healing conversations demand that I listen more than I talk – I am an off-the-chart extrovert and I think by talking out loud and I tend to dominate conversations without realizing or meaning to
- growth comes at different paces – I tend to be goal oriented (Enneagram 7/8) and can see visions and paths super fast, I get frustrated when others don’t and don’t understand what I see
- perceived threats to my well-being are usually not really threats – my walls and defenses go up lightning fast when I feel threatened, because of my past – many times I become paralyzed while waiting for more info to determine if a threat is legit -or- I lash out proactively to beat the threat’s damaging blows to me
Sunrises I see:
- with seminary training, CPE, and adaptive leadership work, I am improving on understanding the difference between hiding my true passionate nature and telling it to hold on for a bit or finding other outlets for it – for the sake of the conversation at that moment – so not hiding my self, but appropriately regulating myself
- thankfully, I took a grad level course on listening in seminary and have developed tools to help me honor my native thinking paths while also learning to truly listen to understand and connect (this one is HARD!)
- same for pacing – I tend to write or draw or doodle to remember visions and ideas and paths that come to me – and I am getting better at articulating them in ways that invite others to jump on board (it’s still hard when under a time crunch though)
- other than with immediate family, I rarely lash out anymore to any threats. I am reframing paralysis into a time of contemplation – a positive moment to let more be revealed (a blessed nugget of wisdom from my Al-Anon sponsor) – when the physical symptoms of being threatened begin to rise, I now have a toolkit to honor my body’s response to old trauma rather than deny it and punish it for doing what it is supposed to do
For me, this is exactly what Lent is all about – a fearless and moral inventory of myself. Today – I take inventory of where in my life I *am* transparently integrated and where I can be with some healing and work. I have some tough hiking to do.
And – compared to where I was in Jan 2000 when I broke free? Light years beyond. This, I celebrate with all my loud physically animated excited and passionate being.
Much love, y'all.