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I will probably fumble through this. Then again, that’s partly the point. We’re allowed to fumble.
I started writing this post the day after the latest stories broke about men accused of inappropriate conduct. This time, it was Matt Lauer of The Today Show and Garrison Keillor of NPR fame and longtime former host of A Prairie Home Companion.
And a comment on a friend’s Facebook post about the Keillor news, though a common reaction, leaped out at me.
“Is it wrong,” the woman wrote, “that I’m not completely surprised?”
I wanted to reply that I was somewhat surprised. And to offer up a reason why. But then the sizzle of electricity that accompanies Massive Revelation started surging through me, not unlike the way Liz Gilbert describes inspiration and intuition in her book Big Magic, and I realized this was much more than a comment on a Facebook thread.
This was kind of everything.
Finding What You’re Looking For
There’s a quote typically attributed to Lincoln that goes: “I’d rather trust and be disappointed than distrust and be miserable all the time.“
Whether Lincoln said it or not, it’s a great sentiment.
So is this: you find what you’re looking for.
You probably get where this is headed, which makes this a good time to pause and make something clear. The national discussion of sexual harassment and misconduct is an important one and any person guilty of it should be publicly outed, fired and made to answer. As should anyone who knew about it and turned a blind eye.
This is about something else.
I’m concerned about our “I knew it” reaction. I’m concerned that that becomes our default. That we reach a place where we don’t expect good of people but instead expect ill. That we walk around in a perpetual state of distrust. Or that women, particularly, fall into categorizing all men as pigs and predators.I'm concerned about our 'I knew it' reaction. I'm concerned that that becomes our default. That we reach a place where we don't expect good of people but instead expect ill.Click To Tweet
This is different than the numbing effect of repetitive bad news (mass shootings, anyone?). It is an active expectation.
And if you call this naiveté, I will politely tell you that you are very, very wrong.
I’m a woman and a former newspaper reporter. I have my own #metoo story and can’t think of a single woman who doesn’t. The stories range from lewd comments to intimidation to grabs to student-teacher scenarios, abuse and rape.
And reporters — don’t get me started. Ahh, the reporter, with the cynicism and the cool “nothing penetrates this shield” persona. We’ve heard it all, trust is a professional liability, and frankly, we’re not falling for anyone’s bullshit. You can’t play me. You can’t surprise me.
So yeah, I get it. I was, of course, not completely surprised by any of the accusations, either.
But I want to believe I was at least a little taken aback.
Keeping My Focus Where I Want It
If I was at least a little surprised, that means I expected good of people and was disappointed. It means my focus is where I want it.
Maybe you believe in the Law of Attraction. Maybe you don’t. But I find it hard to deny the existence of some energy surging through the universe that returns to us what we send out. A vibrational frequency that pairs me with people and situations of the same vibe.
Mother Teresa said she wouldn’t attend an anti-war rally. But if there was a rally for peace, she was in.
Do you get the distinction?Mother Teresa said she wouldn't attend an anti-war rally. But if there was a rally for peace, she was in. Do you get the distinction?Click To Tweet
The subconscious can’t take a thought and negate it — meaning, it can’t picture a war and then erase it. So the focus, the vibe being sent out, is still about war, albeit inadvertently. And war is attracted back.
Therefore, a focus on peace is not a blissful ignorance of the existence of war, but rather a shift in focus and energy.
Of course I know what Hollywood is about. And the culture of national television. And politics. Of course I understand that Keillor’s folksy act is on-stage entertainment and not his real life.
I don’t want that to bleed into the everyday. I don’t want to assume all men are pigs, or that everyone in show biz is a scumbag. If I do that, I will find what I am looking for.
If I focus on and expect bad behavior, the universe will deliver.
Vulnerability and Daring Greatly
I just finished Brene Brown’s well-researched book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead.
And bam: the “I’m not surprised” comment flies out as an example.
If we stand back, arms crossed, declaring ourselves unsurprised by egregious behavior and misconduct … well, we can’t be hurt by it, can we? We can’t be sucker punched. This is strength, right?
We knew it all along.
Brown is a researcher, a PhD and gave one of the most-viewed TED talks ever with her 2010 TEDx talk The Power of Vulnerability. Her content is bolstered by mounds of academic research.
I can’t do her book justice here. But the idea of being vulnerable, in a manner that is far different than being weak or passive or plain ole mamby-pamby, was eye-opening to me. When we suit up in our emotional armor, we not only miss out on a ton, but we are less successful overall.
In a 2012 interview on Forbes, Brown said: “Vulnerability is basically uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”
Hey, entrepreneurs – sound familiar?
The more comfortable we get being uncomfortable, the more we can open ourselves to vulnerability, the better we can handle pretty much everything. We can roll with bad times better, we can more fully enjoy the good times. Life gets richer.
I know. I’m still absorbing the concept, too. Vulnerability? Who needs that crap?
Me, apparently. And you, too.
So let’s allow ourselves to be surprised a little more. Let’s expect good and find it.
Will I be surprised at the next misconduct story? Maybe not all that much. But hopefully … at least a little.
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