We just want to be seen
“I think I’m going to share it,” I said to myself.
For those of you who don’t know this about me, part of the way I engage with and invite story is through working with people who want to realign their relationship with Stuff. I call the process Streamlining (you can read some words about the Whys that come up as part of listening to one’s Stuff stories here). In practising Streamlining on my paper pile this morning, I reconnected with a letter. I just love a hand-written letter (be it writing one or receiving one) but this process was a little more circular. Let’s go back a couple of years.
With regards to the relationship I have with my body I had already been on quite a significant and circuitous journey of reintroduction and reframe, and in the summer of 2020 (Sunday 28th June to be precise) I chose to write a letter to myself; my 10 year-old self, actually. In the few days leading up to that point I had written one letter to me 5 years in the future and one letter to ‘today’ me (the me of June 2020). In what was very much a time of societal uncertainty and displacement, I want to acknowledge I was in the very privileged position to be able, and to feel able to stretch into these areas of vulnerability and curiosity. For that to be true, I am incredibly grateful to my other-worldly co-existor and beam of light in human form, Angie Cole. She’s awesome in the way she invites me forward, in the questions she asks and in the way she shows up for herself setting an exquisite example of the both-and of courage and tenderness.
You are not Different; you are so flipping special
Now, it turns out that over the last couple of years, in one of my previous Streamlining practice moments, the ‘future me’ letter and the ‘today’ (but not today ‘today’) me letter were not items kept. The loop had felt energetically closed for the content of those letters (for the time being, anyway). I had connected with them and they felt ready to be reallocated (to the recycle bin). The ‘10 year-old me’ letter, however, had been kept. For what reason, I didn’t know at the time; I didn’t particularly need to. I simply trusted the intuitive tingle of ‘keep’.
Please remember that in years to come you don’t need to guard as much.
So, a letter I forgot I had written, and had already chosen to keep once, was rediscovered. A brand new letter, just for me, written by me. How intriguing! I reconnected with the letter not just by holding it (because that gesture counts as reconnection as far as I am concerned) but by reading it, absorbing the words and witnessing the energy of that moment in which I chose to write to my just-turned double digits self.
It was delightful to have again encountered this offer of witness that I shared with myself in 2020, and now 2022 Paul got to see 10 year-old Paul through the eyes of 2020 Paul…
(I’m not sure how much more meta I can get but stick with me)
I had some voices (all mine) that had varying tones and angles but were telling me reasons why I shouldn’t share this letter:
Fear — What will people say? You’re offering yourself up to possibly be ridiculed.
Shame — How typical! How gratuitous! You know people are struggling, don’t you? Yeah, you do. And still you are going to brag about all this ‘growth’.
Scarcity — You haven’t learned enough yet. I mean, you heard Shame. If Shame is still around then you aren’t evolved enough to be able to share things like this.
Urf! These voices are often quite loud depending on their perception of the situation’s stakes. That’s how they tend to win us over…by swamping us. They are persistent and loud. Loud enough to drown out the championing voices (because they also exist) and to squeeze out any sense of space for curiosity to be present. Listening for those voices of accord and affirmation is like a muscle we need to train. When we have learned through pretty much every piece of societal messaging that feeling safe is the endgame, and listening to Fear, Shame & Scarcity are the shortest journeys through which to attain said safety, then it makes absolute sense that it is more difficult (at first) to even listen for the championing voices, let alone listen to and then honour them in our choices.
The paths you have been shown are not the only ones available to you.
One of the clear dawnings that occurred for me was in how few examples I can cite of having myself reflected back at me; of having my qualities witnessed not in relation to having completed a task or having done something that is ‘of use’. There is such stigma around men paying witness to, and sharing affirmation/appreciation/consideration with, other men (and anyone identifying otherwise for that matter but that feels like the subject of a different post).
For context, I am a cis-gendered white man. I can only write from that experience and I acknowledge that we are all taught away from witnessing others and showing gratitude in the moment and towards using the shortcuts of labels to try and minimise the need for vulnerability.
I am very much here for the conversation of how men can integrate Femininity & Masculinity in one body, separate from the sexualised/demonised/chastised ways it is portrayed or quite simply omitted as an option in the conditioning we all receive. The bursts of witness, affirmation, love and championship I read in the words you can read below were catalyst for saying, “I think I’m going to share it”. Choosing to share words that are not based in quantifying achievement, and therefore validation, using external means is the revolution. It’s the fire of ending and rebirth.
Here’s a note for the proofreaders and Grammar Police: I mix tenses up in here. I don’t care. It feels like I needed to talk to him and of him, ergo different tenses.
Dear 10 year-old Paul,
You brought so much joy, and possibly confusion, to so many people. No-one could contain you and your energy and your endless source of creativity and curious. But they tried so hard, and you learned, without their words specifically, that you scared them and that you weren’t like them. You did everything you could to fit in; to survive. And it didn’t ever feel natural, did it? It’s taken me until this moment to notice that crucial distinction…that it wasn’t that you couldn’t fit in, but that you weren’t meant to. It wasn’t that you were odd or too much or different in societally ‘normal’ ways, but that you are Different. You are not of the 10 year-old’s world. You crave connection but have no idea how to ask for it. You haven’t been given the tools for true connection, nor is there anyone else who called to your magic.
Maybe Wend-. Lucy(?) I think it was Lucy. Why can I now not recall her name? There was some magic in that. There was companionship from what I can remember. Do you remember? Perhaps you show your true self to a stranger. Perhaps she needed help and you sensed that. Why do you feel a hundred miles apart, Paul?
You grew large, it’s true. You are not Different; you are so flipping special. A rarity who was never celebrated, and I’m sorry for that. I know I had very little control over that because I was you. But, I see how special you were. You grew to that size to take the knocks, I’m sure, but you also grew big to contain your magic — a leader. A magnet. A protector. A beacon both figuratively and literally.
You ARE joyful, aren’t you? And you adapted, didn’t you? Joy is vulnerable. Heed these words. The vulnerability of joy is worth it. AND, you are able to receive and release any backlash (read ‘fear and discomfort’) from others. The paths you have been shown are not the only ones available to you. You can forge your own. You can show that to others if you want, and if you choose not to, then never let that be because of fear of their judgement. People need to be worthy of the beautiful unbridled capacity for trust that you possess. Considering everything you have received up to this point (and in moments to come, I’m afraid) that desire to trust is truly, truly magical.
I see you, surviving, trying to work stuff out that doesn’t feel natural. I want to celebrate how, in the big formative moments, you stand your ground in clear alignment with your intuition. You adapted to your environments — there is not a doubt about that — when confronted with conditioning and expectation, but you didn’t, and don’t change. I’m not sure that ‘chameleoning’ is the right way to describe how you adapted and will continue to adapt; because I think you enjoy it, don’t you. You get to experience different energies and group dynamics. You are scared of ‘being found out’ as special, and that’s ok. You are biding your time, unconsciously for when others can meet you on that plane. Please remember that in years to come you don’t need to guard as much. I see you, sweet, gentle Paul, who learned fear and caution early on. Creative, intuitive Paul, who learned survival and anticipation because Dad is erratic and unknown.
I have a theory about Dad, by the way. He was like you, and was never given access to a non-judgmental space; A space to stretch. He has so much potential and ache that he locked up and/or calcified that he’s a lion in a cage; a lion who created that cage because others trapped him and he made a smaller and smaller space in which he could still be a powerful animal but had to roam his territory in his mind and that drives him to apathy because there’s no room for him to stretch. Love him. Forgive him. Learn from him and challenge him.
I love you and as much as I want to scoop you up and let you roam free, know that that journey will give you so much of what you need.
When we have learned through pretty much every piece of societal messaging that feeling safe is the endgame, and listening to Fear, Shame & Scarcity are the shortest journeys through which to attain said safety, then it makes absolute sense that it is more difficult (at first) to even listen for the championing voices, let alone listen to and then honour them in our choices.
Much ginger love 🧡