My heart still pounds | Part 3 of 3

by Elouise

What happened next
When I finished reading my statement, I felt exposed, apprehensive, and relieved that I’d finally put my thoughts together and said them out loud.

The usual procedure after hearing from a colleague was to open the floor for comments, questions and dialogue.  There were comments and questions.  I don’t remember dialogue.  I do remember being caught off guard by the responses of some of my colleagues, and the silence of others.

I tried to respond to several comments and questions.  My responses seemed to raise more questions.    It seemed no one had understood me.  Some were unhappy with what I’d said; others were silent.  I felt besieged, misunderstood and alone.

In the end, I lost it and left the room abruptly.  One of my senior colleagues came out right away, asked if I was OK and sat with me while I decided what to do next.  I decided not to return to the meeting.  I went to my office and closed the door.

Later that day a junior colleague knocked and asked how I felt.  I don’t remember what I told him.  He gave me his take on what had happened.  He also apologized and admitted he didn’t know what to do.  He talked about how difficult it is for women and persons of color (as he was) to voice our thoughts and feelings in settings such as this.  I was grateful he followed up.

I decided I needed to keep going and stay connected to my colleagues.  I didn’t understand the dynamics in the room that day, and I never followed up with anyone about them.  I just kept going.

What I learned from this experience

  • When I speak, the outcomes are not in my hands.  The intensity of my statement reflected accurately the intensity of my desire to be heard and accepted as a member of the faculty.  The fact that I felt good about getting my thoughts together didn’t and still doesn’t guarantee how others will respond.  Everyone won’t understand, agree or applaud.
  • I can do what I’d rather not do.  This was my first attempt to put together a statement about my spirituality.  First attempts are important and necessary.  I’m grateful everything isn’t a first attempt!  Nonetheless, I wanted to get my thoughts together and I did; I did not want to do this without knowing what would happen next.
  • I’m more human than I thought I was.  Vulnerable, capable of being misunderstood, afraid of being wrong and caught out, in need of others willing to bear with me as I find my voice and my way of communicating.  This means I cannot make statements like this without at least one known ally or witness in the room who will help me process outcomes.
  • I have difficulty processing feedback.  This skill doesn’t come naturally to me.  When feedback seems negative, I have the option of getting interested in what the other person is saying instead of taking it as a personal attack on me.  In fact, moments like this can become grace-filled if I’m willing to relax inside, take an inquiring approach, get genuinely interested, and then consider later what, if anything, to do with it.
  • There are reasons I resist negative feedback.  Many more than I knew back then.  The feeling of being judged or misunderstood is often more related to my childhood than to what’s happening right now.   The more I keep this in mind, the easier it is to accept and even ask for feedback.  The person talking to me is not one of my parents, and I am not his or her child.  I’m a mature, responsible adult woman.  God’s beloved daughter child.
  • I cannot and will not abandon the 42-year old I was in 1985.  She needs and deserves my gratitude, admiration and loyalty.  I would not be who I am today without her courage and persistence.

Thankfully, this first statement about my spirituality was not my last.  Nonetheless, it accurately reflects the spirit I want to nurture in relation to God, myself, and this world God loves so much.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 January 2015