Awkward Conversations

I talk about having MRKH often, and so I’m no stranger to awkward conversations.  I mean seriously, I’m talking about myself…and missing body parts…and vaginas…that’s bound to make nearly anyone cringe a little bit.  Sometimes it even makes me cringe – but I’m determined to reduce the shame, to empower my MRKH sisters, and make it just a teensy bit less awkward if possible.

I’ve been thanked, and I think admired, by people for speaking so openly about MRKH and my experiences.  And you know what…that feels kind of awkward sometimes to me.  I’m not doing this for a form of self promotion.  I’m not doing this in hopes that an article is written about me, or an invitation comes from some talk show host to appear on a TV show to sensationalize MRKH.  I’m doing this for the love of my MRKH family, and to give hope and encouragement to young women who have just been told the name of their condition.  I want to both celebrate and empower us.  To show the beauty in the imperfections.  To encourage them in the face of what feels very much like tragedy.

Sometimes I forget that by quietly speaking out and speaking openly, that I might gather more attention than I was intending.  Allowing my quiet strength and confidence to show might create some intrigue into just who I am.  As you get to know me you notice other things too, that add to the intrigue.  My choice of eye wear – to me it’s functional, but is it also “sexy smart girl” fashion?  My choice to have visible tattoos – to me it’s self expression, remembrances, and healing, but is it also “rebel bad girl” statements?  My choice in business casual and comfortable clothing seems practical to me and fits with my everyday life – but does it lend itself to a “when she’s good she’s good, but when she’s bad she’s better” air of mystique?    I don’t really know the answer to these questions, but it does make me wonder a little bit about how I am perceived, and am I portraying my “true self”.

I love to watch people and their interactions.  While traveling for work the last few weeks I’ve had plenty of time for gawking and watching.  I’ve seen things I just can’t un-see, and I’ve seen things that have moved me to tears (hush, peanut gallery!!!).  I’ve had some interesting conversations, and observed some interesting interactions.  I had that weird moment on the plane that I wrote about, and I’ve had the opportunity to brighten someone’s day.

Indulge me while I tell another story that really raised some questions in my own mind about perceptions and potential misunderstandings, and am I really projecting my authentic self.  I was at a casual social event/mixer that was a blend of co-workers and spouses and friends.  Lots of conversations happening all around the room, talking about work projects, the weather, upcoming summer projects, and all manner of things.  There were adult beverages being consumed, music playing, and just generally a good time was being had.  In situations like this, I’m generally a bit of a wall flower.  I sit back and just watch people interact, engage in light conversations with people I know fairly well, and generally just try to enjoy the event for the politically correct amount of time before suggesting that it might be time to leave.  As I’m sitting there this particular evening, a gentleman who I’ve known for a while comes up along side of me and starts a conversation.  I know him on both a business and a casual friend basis, so conversation is easy and friendly banter.  But I can’t exactly hear everything he’s saying, but I’m nodding politely, smiling and shrugging as seems to fit the blah, blah, blah kind of conversation.  As the conversation continues, I’m catching more and more of the words and starting to catch the drift of what’s actually being said.  And I’m flustered.  Caught of guard.  Shocked even.  And then scrambling to find the correct responses.   You see, what started as friendly banter had turned to flirting, and then to pretty decisive hitting on me.

This certainly was not the first time I have been flirted with or hit on at some kind of event – but it was the first time in a very long time that it has happened when my husband has been in the same room, AND the “flirter” knows us both as a married couple.  It was shocking to me, and awkward, and honestly kind of funny too.  I was wracking my brain to figure out how to respond.  I excused myself and went to the bathroom.  As I locked myself into the stall, and sat down I said a little prayer to God asking for some guidance and strength, to give me the right words to say, to intervene in my brain, to help me get through the  interaction without making it any more awkward than necessary, and to help me to come to terms with the whole thing – sort out my true feelings, and to figure out what to say to my husband – if anything, and to not make this any more of the cluster-muck it was quickly becoming.

As I left the bathroom, I stopped and chatted with a couple different groups before returning to my previous spot where I had left my stuff.  He was still there, and I was determined to be polite but firm in turning down his advances.  He continued in the flirtatious banter, telling me he had been attracted to me for a while.  And while he knew I was married, he didn’t know if we maybe had an open relationship, or if he should be concerned that he was about to get decked for coming on to me.  I laughed awkwardly and told him honestly, look I’m flattered, but it’s not going to happen.

And I was flattered.  I mean really, who doesn’t want to hear that someone finds you attractive and desirable?  It’s the ego-boost that every woman needs from time to time.  But I also felt guilty for being flattered, and I started the non-stop, 10,000 thoughts per day, inner turmoil of what did my reaction to his compliment really mean?  And what if he didn’t take the hint and drop it?  And would I tell my husband of the interaction?  And would it be totally awkward the next time I saw him in public?  And what had I done, or said, or worn that might have given the impression that I would be available or interested in a fling?  Was I sending out mixed signals?  Was I letting my authentic self shine brightly?  Had I brought this on myself?  I was so conflicted…

The flirtations and suggestions continued, and I politely told him again that while I was flattered, it’s just not going to happen.  About that time I gathered my coat and purse and headed for the best defense I could offer – my husband.  We said our good-nights to everyone, the flirt included, and headed out.  I still wasn’t sure if I should tell my husband what had happened, not sure how he would respond to it all.  As we walked to our car I said another silent prayer to God for guidance and clarity about the whole situation.  When we were on the road, he asked me if I had a good time, and a nice visit with…..  I laughed awkwardly and said well, yeah I suppose – but he was totally hitting on me (and I held my breath waiting for his reaction) .  Hubby laughed and we talked it out on the way home.  He was not spitting mad and prepared to defend my honor with testosterone fueled fists, instead he found the whole thing kind of funny, but also a confirmation of some hints/feelings he had about this guy over the last few months.  I told hubby that I was afraid it would be awkward the next time we saw him, but he doesn’t think it will be.  I hope he is right.

In the mean time, I’ve had plenty of time to think through my feelings about the situation.  I’m flattered, and yet I feel guilty for being flattered (insert eye roll here!).  I think that sometimes I do inadvertently send out mixed messages.  I dress somewhat conservatively, am generally quite and reserved, I am intelligent and driven.  I also have tattoos, drink whiskey, and enjoy dancing to live music with my husband.  I know that my quiet strength and confidence, along with the glimpses of my inner rebel, has the potential create intrigue.  But acknowledging that, I did NOTHING to provoke this, it’s all on him.  I like and respect this man as a person, and I’m not really offended by his flirtation and hitting on me – surprised, but not offended. It has made me think about and reaffirm who I believe myself to be, and if I am truly sharing my authentic self with the world.

It’s approaching the time of year when I once again put myself out in the public eye and openly promote and talk about MRKH and my Courageous Project.  I hope that these recent experiences will better prepare me for raising my voice, speaking out, and celebrating and empowering women with MRKH.

 

Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created – Esther 4:14

Thoughts on Strength

 

Physical strength is the power of physics at work – the ability to exert or resist force.  That one is simple.  You have the strength to life an object, or to hold a door shut while someone pushes from the other side.  It’s arm wrestling at its finest!

Mental strength is a bit hard to quantify, but it is still the ability to exert or resist force isn’t it?  It’s pulling your tired self out of bed in the morning, resisting that strong pull of your pillow and warm blankets.  It’s the ability to keep silent when you REALLY want to comment on the color of that teenager’s hair.    It’s the ability to stand up in front of people and make a presentation.  And it’s also the ability to quietly say…I need help.

Strength is another of those buzzwords in my life, and yes, another of the words I included in my latest tattoo.  I think that I’ve evolved into a strong woman, and that many people see my strength but don’t stop and think about where it comes from.  Physical strength comes from gradually building up muscles to exert and resist force.  Mental strength is the result of that same gradual build up.  You rush past the easy stuff, you work a little harder at some things, and then there are times you have to dig really deep to get through it.  But you do get through it…stronger.  When I talked about Courage last month, I said that “Mental courage is the strength it takes to be brave, the faith it takes to believe, and the willingness to see it through.”  Huh…so mental courage and mental strength are pretty similar…what do you know?  But really, without that inner strength – it’s hard to muster up the courage.

I’ve had lots of experiences that have built up my mental strength characteristics.  MRKH for sure, but before that too.  I was bullied as a kid – probably most of us have been in some form or another.  I was teased for being poor, for puberty acne, for being a farm kid, for my haircut, and for being friends with the less popular kids.  But through the teasing and bullying, I learned compassion and empathy, and I stuck up for others, and sometimes even myself. I had to learn to be strong even when I didn’t feel like it.  When our dog died, and I still had to go to school.  When my grandfather died, and I still had to go to school. When a girl in our school was a victim of a murder, and I came home from school and NO ONE WAS HOME. When my brother got drunk at a rock concert, and he still had to go to school the next day.  When my other brother crashed head first into a mail box post while sledding, ending up in the hospital with a fractured skull, yep, I still had to go to school.   And when I knew I was different, because I never got my period…but waited another 3 years before finding out it was MRKH, and yep – I still went to school the next day!  🙂

I do see myself as a strong woman now, but  in choosing the words for my tattoo, I chose ones that would remind me of my journey and be a continual source of encouragement.  And it’s a vehicle for me to talk about my MRKH journey with others when they see my tattoo.  They can see and understand the words, but they may not recognize the BYMRKH flower logo.  I take any and all opportunities to show off my ink, and of course to talk about MRKH.

Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.  ~ Harriet Tubman

Philippians 4:13  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Psalm 118:14  The LORD is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.

Woe is me

I think it happens to us all.  Things don’t go like we think they should…and we get caught up in the spiraling self pity bubble.

It can be triggered by almost anything, and once it starts, it can escalate so quickly into a full blown pity party before you even notice.  Self doubt, feeling sorry for yourself, everyone is against you, nothing goes right, traffic sucks, you get a flat tire, you trip over something, your alarm doesn’t go off, insomnia strikes, you spill your coffee, someone ate the last cookie…doesn’t matter what starts it…pretty soon you are that bratty little 4 year old who is throwing a tantrum just because you can.

Man, have I been there.  And even while I know the tantrum is an overreaction – I’m so invested by this point that I won’t stop just on principle.  I’m stubborn that way – ask my husband!

This week has kind of been this way.  It’s the perfect storm, all the planets align, if it could go wrong, it probably will…and go!

  • busy schedule at work – check!
  • fighting a cold off – check!
  • mortgage payment due – check!
  • snow and ice – check!
  • tired – check!
  • dog collar breaks – check!
  • tire goes flat – check!
  • hormones kick in for extra drama – check!
  • -4 degrees in the morning – check!
  • drop your phone on carpet and crack the screen – check!

One or two of those things, and you can probably deal, right?  But get hit with a bunch of them…or all of them…in the span of a couple of days and a full blown pity party strikes.

I start to question everything, I start justifying old habits and behaviors, I lash out at people, I burst into tears, I curse the unfairness of it all.  I stomp around and slam doors.  I say things I know I shouldn’t.  All because I feel sorry for myself.  Because obviously, it’s all my fault.  It’s all the result of my poor choices, and I’m getting exactly what I deserve for doing what I did.  I should have done this…I could have done that…I shouldn’t have done it, but I did it anyway.  My emotional side is vindicated…proven correct…totally justified in my reactions and the resulting consequences.  I got what I deserved.

Sigh…but my brain and my heart  know better.  Sure, these things happened…but it’s not worth the response I’ve given it.  It’s just stuff that happened – I didn’t do anything to cause it all to happen – and I need to not make it into more than it is – my reaction needs to be less than or equal to the action.  I need to exercise self control, and make rational choices.  Pretty much – I need to get over myself.

But it’s hard…it’s much easier to feel sorry for yourself, and pout like a 4 year old who was told (again) he couldn’t have a cookie.  I mean, we all want that cookie, even if we know it fell into the dirt – because it’s a COOKIE with magical powers to make the world a better place! It’s not rational to expect the cookie to have magical powers, and it’s not rational to eat a cookie that has fallen in the dirt, and it’s hard to pull yourself out of the self-pity bubble.

As I’ve been wallowing around trying to find my way back to sanity, I know that it’s not nearly as bad as all that.  I know I didn’t cause all this “stuff” to happen.  I’m not being punished for some deed.  It’s just life, and how I respond to adversity builds character and strength.  I can be a bratty 4 year old and feel sorry for myself and hope that someone will come along and show me some compassion, wipe my tears, dust off my knees, and hand me a new cookie – or I can be an adult and pick up the cookie, toss it in the trash, and grab myself a new one.

I still don’t have the answer to “why me???” in my pity party – but I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.  I am learning to trust God’s plan for me, even when I don’t understand it.  I’m trying to have an open mind to the life lesson that every challenge presents – trust, patience, resilience, paying attention to what really matters, being kind, being thankful for blessings in disguise, and finding joy in the midst of turmoil.

Now, if you’ll excuse me…I’m going to go find myself another cookie!