Tag Archives: relationships

A bit of A and B (and you get some C)

I’d like to redirect my attention on here and take this post in a different direction. The last few posts have had a definite feel for the wheels and pedals as of late (which I love), but instead and for the next several posts I’m taking it back, back to the beginning.

The reasons I found myself coming back onto WordPress and setting up this blog were three-fold (because I like things that come in threes). And those were my cycling, my career and what I experience as my path. When I think about it, three makes total sense: two feels like too few, and four (or more) lacks that punch that items in triplicate can deliver.

It’s a classical rhetorical device as well, in both speech and writing, called the power of threes; I should know (and so does the rest of Google apparently) as I studied Rhetoric & the Communications at the University of Winnipeg in the earlier half of our first decade in the 21st century. But that’s not what I’m going to talk about right now.

Over the last two years, something has been quietly rumbling inside me, new possibilities (untapped, unexplored and quite frankly under-developed). Like a snoozing giant, I’m now slowly waking-up. It hasn’t come without its struggles, or its pain and there most definitely has been some sadness and a letting go of a lot of old ways of thinking. But what counts the most is the support I’ve found through the new friendships I’ve made on my path. I’m learning a lot about myself, picking up developing new tools and integrating them into my existing kit of inter-relatedness. And I’m noticing more and more that what I receive in honest truth, clear communication and feeling safe in sharing my vulnerabilities, the more I grow and become the man I imagine myself to be. And the more I trust those that are willing (or are already there) with me.

Take my friend Mark for instance. He’s a cool dude, he has (and still does) live a life that some of us could only dream of. He’s got a growing business, providing a new take on leadership training, that uses embodiment techniques in the workplace. I’ve met him a handful of times, and those times I’ve had, we have a lot of fun in the space. Just to be clear, I’ve not been on any of Mark’s courses so this isn’t a sales pitch of any kind.

It just so happened that this past weekend, Mark and I met up in Oxford (his first visit even inspired this post), however this time, we found ourselves diving into each others worlds  a bit more. And it felt really good, his level of insight and experience really served me. And what I noticed most was that I wasn’t really after anything in particular but his openness, candor and curiosity created a vibe of trust shared between the two of us. And over the last couple of months, I’ve been trying to figure out how my life could reflect one of two different extremes, but that was until the option of a third way came into view: Option C.

What would “option C” look like? Good question. If “option A” was my old way of playing small, never saying “No” to anyone for the sake of just bumping along, and placing the needs of others over my own, this all feels a bit like a life I don’t want to be living. So the opposite (the extreme opposite) of that is “option B”, insomuch that I say no all the time (whatever the reason), get my needs met and carry around inside me a sense of “f*** you all” mentality. That too is definitely not a way I want to be. So is there a way I can amalgamate these two feelings together? Sure there is a balance, another way to have my needs met, at the same time as meeting others needs and being able to say no some of the time. Option C lies somewhere in there. And Mark helped me open this up further.

I want to recalibrate my inner-guidance system. Become more aware of the self-imposed rules that are guiding me, which I then mentally beat myself up over when I don’t stick to them (like cutting out the junk food, or saying no to the booze, etc., etc.)

Mixed with humor, good food and quite a bit of walking around Oxford, I got to know more about Mark as much as I learned about myself, and it was beyond the social networks (where we tango online) and I’m really grateful for that.

Tagged , , , , ,

Turning up the volume (on introversion)

I got to spend an hour today pretending I was at a TED conference. In reality, it was the final few days of the Oxford Literary Festival, but more importantly I got to listen (and meet) perhaps one of my newest favourite TED speakers. Next to Brené Brown.

Susan Cain makes a connection that lets my heart sing and my soul shake. Together these two woman touch on topics that I’ve started to find unique and fascinating. Not only within myself, but society at large. They are topics that don’t get talked about all that much, if at all; and in a way touching on the parts of ourselves that we only whisper about and try our best to ignore, but these are conversations we need to have with ourselves and with each other.

Shame, vulnerability and introversion, I believe, when acknowledged can help us all lead more fully-involved, connected and authentic lives. So while the mute button still feels like it is on, the volume ought to be turned up a bit more; and for me personally that is about to end.

I consider myself a closet introvert – who wouldn’t? You’re kind of in the closet already…but if you’re like me, you may have felt a certain way (or taught yourself to get by, by not fully embracing your introvert) when in a room full of people. It’s taken me most of my life to understand that I like solitude. I like doing things by myself, in my own company. It doesn’t really matter what: going to the movies; listening to live music; attending public speaking engagements; or my biggest passion – cycling. But equally I like doing these same activities with friends as well.

So I wanted to write about this “condition” I have. In fact, I know I’m not alone because according to the talk Susan Cain made at this year’s TED conference, one-third to a half of today’s population share this with me.

Society has got us in a catch-22. It shows us that the loudest people in the room, are the one’s that typically get heard the most. But are they the ideas that need to be heard? Would we be in “this mess” (e.g., global financial crisis, unemployment, cuts to public services, etc.) if those leading from the front had been more introverted from the start?

Every aspect of society that we know has been impacted by the “he (or she) who shouts loudest gets heard”, that’s nothing new. But Susan Cain is challenging that precept, with this manifesto, inviting us to join the Quiet Revolution. What are we not allowing to progress if our children, our colleagues, even our leaders in business and politics are told they must be extroverts? Have we disconnected ourselves from solitude, and if so can we re-embrace it?

In my experience “this shouting” lessens the contribution I feel I can make. There have been times in my life where I believed I had something to contribute (an idea, an insight, whatever), but I haven’t done so because someone else was speaking louder than me. My parents always told me that it was rude to interrupt, so while I felt what I had to say may have added value, I was never confident enough  to speak up and I let the moment pass. That’s not to say that I’m not a team player, I feel I am, but the continued need for collaboration and “group think” can get in the way of the time that might be better spent in independent thought. One’s desire to be alone, to have solitude, in a world full of extroverts needs to be recognized. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

A few takeaways Cain made today (amongst many) really resonated with me and my own work:

  1. A sense of community comes later, only after the passion/activity has been found.
  2. The response to stimulation, how it occurs for different people and why there is an extrovert ideal between cultures.
  3. You don’t suspect the introverts around you.

I’m really looking forward to diving into these more with my coach Jeffrey and to begin reading Cain’s book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”  in detail.

Finally and after getting my copy signed by Cain, I got to ask her further about the idea of dedicated practices, through an introvert’s lens and the possibility of richer integration. The insight she offered me, as I knelt down beside her was that it is one of managed practice, being sure not to take on too much at once. That really clicked with me, because in my own seeking I’ve tried a number of different techniques, but I can serve myself (and my community around me) better once I discover what practices work best for me.

It may only be one, and it may be a few, and I’m committed to finding that out…

Signed Title Page of Quiet

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Getting clear (or so it would seem)

This weekend was truly a glorious, sun-filled weekend here in the south of England. It took me outdoors on both days, first a 45-mile bike ride around Oxfordshire, and today a 10-mile tramp over the footpaths dotted about the Cotswolds. I had some homework given to me by Jeffrey after our call on Thursday, which the walk gave me ample time to listen to.

It included listening to a podcast of a show I’m already very familiar with, and it was good to check back in with The New Man Podcast again, hosted by Tripp Lanier. Episode 80 with Reuvain Bacal: How to handle a breakup or loss.

After listening, I immediately sat down to free-write how it felt for me, whatever came up and from my call with Jeffrey. There are memories of an old, very serious (to me) relationship that still live with me. And this is what came out:

I sit beneath a big tree, cross-legged, breathing in what I’m feeling as I hike around the Cotswolds near my home. Then it hits me. A dull, yet sharp twinge in my lower back –  I get it all the time when I’m sat on the ground, unaided, with nothing to prop me up. No support. Support is what I had in my OLD relationship with my first-serious girlfriend, a few years back. And it’s not there any more and I’ve based each subsequent relationship on that, which is not very healthy. How does that make me feel?

*         *          *

Sad. Scared. Lonely and wishing for her to be back in my life in some way both intimately and in friendship. But what for? What possible reason could I want, no, need her back in my life? Because with her I felt safe in being me and who I was (or who I was trying to be for her at the time).

I spot two large raptors, flying high overhead in the clear Sunday afternoon sky, riding the thermals, higher and higher together. At this moment that symbolises the togetherness I seek; I know companionship is what I want in my life. But is it killing me being alone at this time in my life? Being a single man? No. Not. At. All.

My ex (going on three years now) and those memories still linger because she accepted me for who I was when we first met. All 250-plus pounds of me, a relative stranger in this new UK-land and  culture that surrounded me. She made me feel seen, wanted and appreciated. Show me someone who doesn’t want that kind of connection, and I’ll show you someone screaming to be heard.

I’m not that way any more now: 30 pounds lighter, a broken smoking-habit that only numbed me to the riches of this world, and now cycling like a man possessed.  This is who I am! I set targets, cracked many goals, and I am loving the ride and being in touch with my emotions this way, and in some way I imagine I’d be alone even in her company as I feel now; it’s a way I could never be with her. Out of the fear that she would leave me. Well, she left me and no matter how much I want to show her how I’ve changed, I can’t.

I’m noticing that a part of me really wants to show her how far I’ve come, in a spiteful way, rubbing her nose into it just a little. That sounds horrible, and it isn’t who I am day-to-day, but that feeling is there and even when I had the chance once before, I couldn’t even hold it together long enough to say so. I was nowhere near as secure in myself (and growing) as I write this then when I last saw her. I collapsed into a leg-shaky, arm-twitchy fool of a man, unable to hold my own space because of the effect seeing her had on me. That’s why I feel I need a second chance, I think I deserve it…but the only way you can escape the past, is by jumping the fence and leaving it behind.

Tagged , , , , , , ,