We stood looking out over the Yellowstone River and the grotesque and gorgeous carving it had done to the canyon below. He shared, “I’ve been quiet this afternoon because I feel like you’ve made some really critical comments. They hurt. I haven’t been critical of you.”
Then he got quiet.
I looked out over the river and then hung my head. I thought, Damn. It’s been five years and I’ve done so much work on myself, I’ve spent so much money… and I’m still messing up. Five years ago, I stood on similar cliffs looking at the Yellowstone River and feeling like a total failure.
Five years ago, I had been on a road trip with my newish partner as we moved across the country. I was in the first relationship of my adult life and even though I was known as a communicator, I was terrible. I didn’t know how to own my needs. I was terrified they wouldn’t be heard or met. It was a power struggle, except his kindness and compassion meant I was often the only one struggling.
I watched that relationship crumble. I started coach training. I took extra courses. I entered therapy to determine if the best course of action was to leave (it was). I got a coach and learned about my unhealthy patterns of behavior and who I was attracted to. When I started a new relationship, I was horrified to see old patterns emerging. I’ve spent over $20,000 on coaching programs and modalities and therapy. built communities committed to creating vulnerability and still I wake up to old patterns in some form still in play.
Standing on the literal ledge with my current partner as he expressed hurt, I almost let my mind trash talk myself about how I was a terrible partner and I didn’t know anything about relationships.
Then I took a breath, and I remembered that I have more tools now. I remembered that if I can register this as an opportunity to grow, and not as a shameful reflection of my failure, I’d be able to stay curious and ask questions. So I did.
I practiced the imago dialogue from Getting the Love You Want.
I reflected back what I’d heard him say and the feelings I heard. I validated and empathized. And I realized I’d been sharing criticism without sharing one iota of how gloriously happy and grateful I was to him.
Here’s the thing. We want change, especially internal change, to be fast. We want to hire a coach or a therapist and see improvements happen immediately. Our growth does not happen in 1 minute or 60 minutes or a day. As adrienne maree brown says, “move at the speed of trust”.
A dear friend in a DC coffee shop said, “Jess, it’s about 1% shifts.”
1% shifts add up to a 180 degree turn. I promise, if you head down the path of growth, if you decide to heed the call of your soul, 1% is enough. 1% is going to get you there, if that’s all you can do right now.
If it feels like no progress has been made in a while, keep showing up. Keep doing the work. Keep walking your path, and ask where can you notice 1% shifts.
To your journey,
If you’re in the Twin Cities, join me next week for a happy hour workshop at Huge Theater! I’ve linked up with John Gebratatose, a Twin Cities based comedian, for an exploration to harness our emotions + empathy in order to strengthen our communication skills and effect change in our lives and the world. $10, two hours, a radicular space to play + practice at “being human”, in all the messy, beautiful glory. JOIN US!
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