Saturday, February 09, 2008

Embarrassment Is Optional...

Over the years, I have learned the "joy" of being the butt of other's jokes...yes, I did say JOY and BUTT in the same sentence. I have found being able to laugh WITH others when I do or say or act in ways that are funny (not always immediately understandable to ME, however!) is a wonderful bonding experience I can share with them...and let's face it...I DO and SAY and ACT in ways that can be quite Hi Larry Us without even INTENDING to entertain!

In my formative years (like probably as late as YESTERDAY!), I suffered from many self-doubts, self-consciousness, and self-loathing, as I struggled to grow and become who I am's been a long road to get to this place called "here"...this place of feeling comfort in my own skin, of knowing I make mistakes, but that I'm basically "good enough" and in many instances, MORE THAN ENOUGH for what I require of myself. I'm generally quite content with who I am and the basic direction of my current life path.

Years ago, I was given the opportunity to learn a very valuable lesson about myself (and life in general) which I have carried with me to this very day. The lesson surrounded core issues about self-worth and being comfortable in my own skin (literally!)...and it is a lesson I am going to share will all three of you who read this blog...who knew you'd be so lucky, right?!? My hope is in sharing this morsel of angelic wisdom, you TOO, might hear/read something worthy of carrying with you to remind yourself about choices and the wonder that shines within. This tidbit of information shall henceforth be called, "LIFE LESSON #1: Embarrassment Is Optional".

In the early 1990's, I had been working as a psychiatric nursing supervisor for several years. I primarily worked with children and adolescents by this era because I felt what I knew and what I could do would have the strongest, positive impact on this "sponge" crowd. Kids, no matter what their dysfunction, STILL have such a magnificent gift to "re-learn" basic life concepts and the payback one observes in teaching with them is almost an immediate gratification...and I was ALL ABOUT immediate gratification back then.

One of the disturbing concepts I began to notice in my work with children and teens was the fact so many of them were "touch deprived"...especially in a psychiatric setting where *boundaries*, appropriate, non-sexual touch, and NO PHYSICAL CONTACT were strongly stressed to avoid misinterpretation or even lawsuit. After all, many of these kids had come from broken homes or situations where adults DID take advantage of them abusively via "touch", so their psychological safety was the most important thing to stress...and many received no touch at all because of these theoretical psych taboos...touch is something ANY human being must have to thrive and to grow. Many of these kids would resort to typical acts of violence just to GAIN touch via restraints, knowing the adult staff in observance would lay hands on to avoid having them injure someone else or themselves.

When my "touch" light went on during this era of employment, I had been sitting "restraining" a 7 year old for over an hour (because mechanical restraints, i.e., belts/cuffs, were not used in this least THAT was a plus) who fell asleep finally in the comfort of my arms. This "touch light" was such a strong beacon, I could no longer ignore it, and decided to enroll in a local massage school to learn more about the "art" of touching others (little did I know, I would not only learn the art of massage/touch, I was destined to change careers many months later while still dabbling in nursing management "on the side"...LOL).

At the massage school I attended, I met ANOTHER seasoned nurse who worked in a local ER...her name was Mary Lee Musick. The name alone was such a melodic one and we rapidly formed a solid friendship. She, too, had enrolled in massage training because of similar philosophical reasons...the "art" of nursing did not offer us the "art of touch"...regardless of how we utilized our nursing skills.

Mary Lee was a very wise woman who lived on a farm, down an awful dirt road (her husband would have to come to the main highway on his tractor to get me if it rained because their road was too rugged to drive a car on), in a cabin she and husband John had built, with chickens, livestock, and an assortment of herbs and medicinal plants...for all practical purposes, Mary Lee would have been considered a "witch" by standard Christian definition! LOL To me, she was simply a very powerful healer, combining folklore and western and eastern medicines.

Mary Lee was also enrolled in another bodywork program called "Dubbing" while in massage school. If you are familiar with "Rolfing", Dub Leigh studied under Ida Rolf (deep tissue neuromuscular guru) and began his own training study, using similar techniques. Dub had spoken to our massage class on one occasion, most likely drumming up students for his side study. I initially perceived him to be an old, curmudgeon, short-tempered type of man and had already heard tales of his "training" sessions...they were brutally painful! I personally wanted NO PART in this type of experience.

Mary Lee seemed to see past the teacher and felt this was a training technique she wanted to add to her bag of tricks, so she signed up. Each training student had to provide their own model (VICTIM) for weekend classes that would last nearly 4 months...Mary Lee found a model (VICTIM) who attended the first 2 weekends, but then dropped guess is out of fear!

Because we had become good friends by now, Mary Lee felt it would be OK to ask ME to fill in for her model (VICTIM) so she could complete the remaining 3+ months of the course. I immediately said, "NO!", because I was not in a state of mind to tolerate this type of weekly, brutal (perceived) punishment. LOL I was also already aware that, part of the "model's" experience was standing in front of the entire class each weekend in their underwear and having the ENTIRE CLASS critique their physical structure...she might just as easily have asked me to stand nude for an artist's painting class! I had the same visceral response. It wasn't really the BODYWORK process that frightened was the naked underwear issue. I do, after all, still maintain I have a slightly higher than normal pain tolerance (as does EVERYONE I meet...sigh...). I don't maintain I have no issues with body image!

Mary Lee resorted to begging...something I have always fallen *sucker* to. She spent lots of time explaining all of the bodywork techniques and benefits (which were actually beginning to sound quite helpful and intriguing and something I might ALSO want to learn) to alleviate my fears. I listened intently, but STILL struggled with the idea of that NAKED/IN UNDERWEAR weekly body critique situation...I knew my physical body could withstand the deep tissue work, but I did NOT think my emotional one could withstand being BARED weekly to a group of strangers! This is what my decision had boiled down to: I wanted to do the bodywork part, but not the naked critiquing part. IF I didn't have to do the naked part, I might I asked her...and this (finally!) is where the lesson came.

ME: "Mary Lee. I've given this some serious thought and I think I really WOULD like to be your model for the class because I not only want to learn these techniques, but I also think it would be good for me physically to HAVE this type of work done to me. I just can't get past the naked in my underwear issue."

MARY LEE: "Uh huh." **said slowly and with a smile**

ME: "OK, I'll do it just as long as I don't have to stand up in front of the entire class in my underwear and be embarrassed."

MARY LEE: **pausing to think** "Thank you! I'm very relieved and so glad you're willing to do this! But, I have to be honest with WILL have to stand up in front of the entire class in your underwear each week...but, the embarrassment part IS OPTIONAL."

How often I fall prey to the belief my feelings are not within my control OR my responsibility...after all, they ARE just feelings. But I have learned most (if not all) of these feelings are the result of my THINKING mind. And if I make conscious choices to work with my "thoughts", I can gain some mastery over the extent of my "feelings".

To this very day, I am rarely if ever "embarrassed" by any situation...I sometimes still feel inadequate, guilty, sad, or even angry about certain issues in my life...but the embarrassment IS OPTIONAL. And I prefer to opt out of this nonproductive feeling...


Sara said...

that is fantastic advice - I need to work on the optional part - my brain has a tendency to run at 100mph thinking what others are thinking about me & then I get embarrassed

Michelle said...

Thanks Linda! The only person I'm embarrassed in front of, is myself. I'm a Gemini, so sometimes that and the full length mirror can pose a problem.
Expand your mind ~ visit my brain

Diane J Standiford said...

Too bad parents don't teach this to their children. People don't want to take responsibility for themselves, feelings, judgments, decisions, life is so much easier when that acceptance becomes second nature. We grow up with baggage, we didn't ask to be born--BUT HERE WE ARE! Taking responsibility is empowering. How wonderful that you met Mary Lee.
The TV show,"Super Nanny" just had a wonderful episode about the nanny showing a violent boy how to enjoy soft touching.



It can be very freeing to not try to second guess what others are thinking...most of the time, we're usually wrong anyway!




!!!LOL!!! Yes, I can say now I would NOT choose to stand in front of a class in my underwear...not because of embarrassment, but because I get too COLD without clothes on these days!




Darn...wish I would have caught that episode. Every now and then, there are great things happening on Prime Time if only people watch for the lesson and not the entertainment. I cry EVERY TIME that darned Extreme Makeover or whatever it is called (the one where they rebuild houses?) is warms my heart to see people helping other people...even if it IS primarily for entertainment.


Shauna said...

I began receiving massages from students at one of the two schools that teach it in my city. They needed clients with specific physical problems to practise on. The first couple of times I was very self conscious, but now I'm practically undressing in the waiting area with the other clients.

Miss Chris said...

So true! And if you don't act like your embarassed nobody around you even knows you are. That's what I live by. Even if I get embarassed...hide it and nobody will know!

Steve said...

LOL... as a guy who often finds himself face to ass with another grown man as he sits on my head in order to torque my arm in an unnatural direction, I find this advice very helpful! :)

Bubbie said...

I was told once that we wouldn't worry about what other people thought of us if we only realised how little they think of us.

Good post, great lesson.

mdmhvonpa said...

MS can be a teacher, sometimes, eh? Chevy Chase stole our bit!

Donna H said...

Just stumbled across your blog. What a great read! The lesson is a good one.
Hope you had some success with redecorating your space and as for the Internet MD, I didn't know there were others:) I too, a former ER nurse, now specialize in Internet medicine.
Wonderful blog!



I bet they LOVE you! Relieves their fears...




I've tried that same approach with my FAT, but it doesn't seem to work as well...LOL




I didn't know "guys" suffered embarrassment...but I guess public farting doesn't really count, does it?!?




Wow! That's a good one, too. Sort of along the lines when I deal with a really paranoid person who thinks every government agency under the sun is after them or following them...I carefully and cautiously ask, "And why are you so important that the CIA has an interest in you?" Sometimes makes them think, sometimes not...




And I didn't even know I HAD MS back then...just a bad case of PMS!!!




Welcome, fellow RN/Internet MD!!! We really should start a club...on the Internet, of course. LOL

Glad you stopped by...I'll be making my way over to YOUR blog this week to see what medical/life advice you have to share.