A few months after I moved into Santa Cruz proper, a couple stopped me on the street to ask me for directions. A week later, a father and daughter did the same. I liked it. It made me feel good, like somehow I was giving off the vibe that I lived there.
So last week you can imagine my surprise when an older couple in a little car stopped me after my run. (I was walking through old town because those cobblestones are brutal! People who run on those impress me.)
The man called out his window, “Bitte. (Insert loads of German that, in my limited understanding, meant they were looking for something.)”
I froze. I had no words. My throat felt like it had closed up. I shook my head and simply said, “No.” Gah! I couldn’t even said “no” correctly!
He smiled and said, “OK,” and drove on.
As they drove away I started to cry. Actually, sob is the right verb. In that moment I was so frustrated with myself and my inability to communicate, it was the only thing I seemed capable of doing.
I wept because I couldn’t speak when the women at the laundromat asked if I knew when the last load was allowed to be washed. I cried because even though I was completely capable of saying the words (in German), “I only speak a little German,” the words refused to come out when a cashier at the store told me I had to weigh my produce.
As I returned home after my public crying session, I came to realize that it wasn’t just because I was living in Germany, surrounded by folks who communicated differently. In fact, that was just the tipping point. The fact was that I had been struggling with my ability to communicate for some time.
I have this nasty habit of not telling people what I really want. Or what works best for me. Or what I’m thinking. I’ve been a people-pleaser for years, and even though I make it a point to read Codependent No More at least once a year, this is a habit that dies hard.
For some reason, it just seems easier for me to let everyone else do what they want and push my desires down, down, down. Mostly I think it’s because I want to avoid conflict, but I also think since I grew up doing this, it’s something I’ve been programmed to do.
So even though people pleasing has caused me harm (misunderstandings, divorce, eating at McDonalds), I still have a tendency to do it. And even though I know better, if I’m not hyper-vigilant, I slip into it.
I always thought because I was a writer that maybe I was just better at putting things into words as opposed to saying them. I thought that the people pleasing didn’t extend to my journals and blog posts, but that just isn’t true. I’ve written before that I sometimes feel like I edit myself.
The sore throat I’ve had for the last month or so is directly related to all of this, I know. As I’ve been working with my awesome life/business coach, I’ve come to understand that my fifth chakra could use some help. Basically it’s what governs our ability to speak our truths and communicate fluidly. Blocks to it can cause sore throats, thyroid problems, TMJ, etc.
If you want more info, I liked this site. I’m also reading Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss, which lays all of the chakras out in a very simple way and explains how our struggles within each of them can cause physical damage (like random body aches, allergies, cancer and a whole lot more) to our bodies. Interesting stuff.
The sadness I expressed on Marienstrasse was just a message telling me that it was time to speak up, time to say (and write) what I mean and also to create what I want to create. Since then, I’ve been practicing my standard phrase (Ich spreche nur ein bisschen Deutsch.) so I won’t freeze.
I’ve also been focusing on saying exactly what I mean and what I want (and don’t want). Another thing I’ve been trying to be mindful of is what I say about other people. I’m not a super-gossipy type, but sometimes I get a little carried away.
The other big thing I’m trying to be more mindful of is writing my truth on this blog. The fifth chakra affects creativity and part of clearing it out is writing what I want, regardless of how people might view it.
So keep me honest here! If you read something that doesn’t ring true, speak up, either in the comments or through an email. And if you’re digging what I’m writing, I would love to hear it, because speaking my truth can be frightening. Encouragement welcome.
The goal in all of this is to speak really great German (of course!) and also to feel safe expressing myself. It’s one thing to know you’re safe, but it’s quite another to feel it. And I think that by feeling that, over and over, I’ll be able to make a new habit.
And I’ll be able to give great directions to out-of-towners. Because I live here.