hippopposites . a new favorite book around here
There are a lot of “take-aways” (a word I heard often this weekend) from the World Domination Summit I attended in Portland. I was so moved by the speakers and their messages and the people I met, reconnected with, and hugged for the first time in person that I plan to share some thoughts over several posts as I continue to unpack my experience and take in my notes. Oh and if you aren’t familiar with WDS, I love my (new) friend Rebecca’s definition: A community of adventurers who want to rock on and be of service.
Yes, there is so much to tell you. I want to share about charitywater.org and how following your passion might not always be the best first step and about what it felt like to be part of a group of 1000 people singing and dancing to Journey (thanks to Brene Brown) and have you heard…ah…we were each given $100. As in a $100 bill to take out into the world and invest in something good. For reals. Yep. More on that later this week (and you can just google it too).
And while I am still doing all this unpacking, I am really moved to share something else because this feels like a conversation that needs to be had…that I need to part of.
In fact, it is a conversation I’ve been wanting to have for a long time, and I feel a bit vulnerable in sharing it as in some ways it feels trite after the bigness and awesomeness that went on this weekend. But I think it is something that should be put out there, especially because it can be a huge hurdle to, well, just showing up and being yourself.
The conversation I want to begin is about how we so often assume opposites.
It became something I kept thinking about perhaps because it simply comes up when people gather, perhaps because it touches on vulnerability, which was an overarching theme of the weekend after Brene opened the summit and we found ourselves chatting a lot about introverts and extroverts and if we are willing to be vulnerable enough to put our beliefs into the world.
Let me give you an example of what I mean by opposite assumption. Smiling my very big “yes you can see all my teeth and my gums” smile used to be the way I dealt with being very nervous and overwhelmed. If inside I was feeling like I wanted to run away, outside I was standing alone smiling hoping someone would like me. During the first few weeks of my first year at boarding school, a friend of a friend of a friend told my roommate that an upperclassman girl wanted to “kick my ass” because I was “too damn happy.” In truth, I called my mom every night crying wanting to go home.
But here is a more recent less dramatic example. At one of the retreats during the past year, I was having a delightful “laugh out loud and then cry through tears” conversation with one of the participants. She suddenly said with exuberance, “You are a lot more fun than you seem online.”
It is important to note that I was not offended when this was said to me; in fact, I loved that she said it because it didn't trigger me but three years ago it would have. I nodded because I know that my online “be present, be here” persona doesn't always come across as fun. Mainly because when I come to the page, like today, I am trying to untangle from thoughts whirling in my mind. And these thoughts are often around “serious” themes.
I also wasn't at all offended when she said it because this is what I know: One of my superhero powers is taking things seriously.
The big smile I wore so often through my teens and twenties was in sharp contrast to the way many people would say, “Why do you take things so seriously?” or “You are so serious.” In fact, someone even elbowed me during an Indigo Girls concert during the line “I’m not making a joke, you know me. I take everything so seriously” from “Galileo.”
Whenever things like this were said, I would immediately assume that this meant I wasn’t any fun, that I had no sense of humor, that they thought I was unhappy, that they were trying to tell me people didn’t like me. But the truth is serious things happen to people, and from a young age, I think I really got this on a cellular level. And my seriousness was a trigger for others sometimes.
In the last two years, I finally began to own this as a superhero power because I recognized that part of my work in the world is to gather women together in person and online and create safe places for them to show up as themselves and share their stories. And if I didn’t have a feel for how serious this is, it would be almost impossible to create this safe space.
Now I can sometimes hear people audibly sigh with relief when they get this "serious" piece about me because they know they can just tell their story without worrying about censoring themselves.
But being serious doesn’t mean I’m not fun. My close friends know that I am actually quite funny and love to be a bit silly too. I think anyone who has attended my retreats will tell you we do a lot of laughing and I almost always dance while singing along with Tina Turner and Michael Franti. There is a reason why participants call my retreats “soul parties.”
Where is the take-away here? As I observed myself and others, I started to really think about my own assumptions in a new way. And I spent some time with how it feels to be on the receiving end of assumptions too.
I believe we navigate the world through judgment. Happened to me Monday when I was basically stuck in a parking spot and had to inch out of it painfully. I was judging the room I had based on those tiny mirrors I was looking at with my tired eyes. I do the same with people. I see how they move through a moment and decide how to react based on what I see with those same tired eyes and what my past experiences have taught me. I assume. A lot.
But after being confronted with the way I judge through assumption in person (and more often how I judge people through online observation alone where they are just showing one slice of themselves at a time and how I am judged in this same way), I want to push myself to stop assuming through the lens of opposites.
If I didn’t talk to you this weekend or text to invite you to lunch or introduce myself with a huge smile on my face or even introduce myself at all, it’s because I was sweating through my clothes (it was hot in Portland) while confronting a lot of my own assumptions about myself.
I want to spend more time thinking about and writing about opposites and how they are important and powerful, especially in creative work, but also how they can push us to make assumptions that might not be true and perhaps never are.
What do you think? I’d love to make this a conversation if you’d like to join me.