i had a long conversation the other night with a co-worker about connecting. he and i have a lot in common, and only realized it a few weeks ago during a chance conversation that turned into a long talk. i feel like he’s the younger, more well-adjusted version of me. he gave me some feedback the other day about how i should be more open and vulnerable because it’s really nice. i agree.

i’ve felt quite closed down for a while now. there are breaks in this monotony when i open up and get excited and want to contribute and connect and be productive. but i’m also seeing that overall, i’ve just been closed down. it’s a form of self-protection. i know that at the moment it has something to do with grief. losing significant people in my life over the past few months has rocked me, and part of me is just closing ranks on that soft part of my heart for a while. it also has something to do with keeping busy. i could say that it was mainly because of grad school over the past couple years, then caretaking, but i now acknowledge it’s been going on much longer than that. i have compulsively stayed busy for years. then crash and get hermitty. that’s how i roll. my conversation with my co-worker, along with some other recent events have made me take a closer look at keeping busy. it’s purposeful. it takes the place of connection.

i wasn’t sure whether to post this in this blog or my other one. in talking to him the other night, the conclusion we came to was that it really comes down to the effects of being biracial. there are things i love about being mixed. and there are things about it that have had long lasting, deep, negative effects for me. it’s hard because i want to be past feeling like a victim of my childhood experiences; at the same time, you have to face pains to get through them.

the main negative effect being biracial has had on my life has been this feeling of otherness, being an outsider, not belonging. i have grown immensely and now i can put that away sometimes and just move on. but then i go through phases where it overtakes me again. the feeling of not belonging, learned through seeing i was different than the family that raised me, rejected and ridiculed by those who looked most like me… it had a profound effect that permeated my expectations for all of life going forward. and the way i react to it is to shut down, to close off, and to walk through life staring purposefully outward with a wall firmly in place. i’m polite, but distant. the way i’ve always thought of myself is slow to warm. i’m also an introvert. so i have and will continue to respect my own needs in the way that i interact with others. i certainly don’t mean to paint myself as a social scaredy cat, hiding at all times. i just mean that when i feel scared or vulnerable or left out, my automatic shield is disconnect. i’m very socially capable. at my best i’m very warm, a friendly introvert.

so the problem is believing i don’t belong. my solution has been a mask of unaffectedness, superiority or shame (depending on the day), with an overarching complete social disconnect and avoidance. i’m kind of sick of this solution. i was also thinking the other day that i’m sick of the excuse “i’m too busy” for why i can’t connect.

when i first met my co-worker, i assumed he was biracial but never asked. he’s also young, 24 (i’m 36), and i was in full protection mode and didn’t really feel like we would have much in common, so i didn’t engage with him when he would try. the other night we finally got to the intentional talking about our experiences growing up biracial. with the way he carries himself, the ease in which he connects with staff and kids of different backgrounds, i assumed he had both parents in his life. he surprised me by telling me he never knew his black father. he experienced the same schoolyard challenges and rejections that i did, but he overcame it. he had a moment of, if you don’t like me because i don’t fit into your box, that’s your problem, but i’m going to continue to live my life and connect with everyone i can. he actually said that his favorite thing is to connect with people. (!)

hmph. imagine that. i mean, i connect with whoever i want to as well, but i’ve really protected myself out of a lot of possible connections in life with my own insecurity. i’m just amazed at his ability to completely let it go. is it because he’s in a younger generation? because he’s a man? what makes the experience and effects so different? i told him my feelings, my secrets about my logic based on young rejection, got to feeling very vulnerable. but it was ok because he got it. but he was also validating that my vulnerability is ok, and that saying it out loud makes me strong.

this all links together as a poignant moment in my life perspective. i work as a therapist in mental health, and my dream is to create a healing cooperative with other health professionals. but within that, i really want to work with mixed-race people. each time i share about it, a couple more people come out of the woodwork and show me i’m not alone. i don’t want anyone else to be alone in it either.

i’m trying to be more positive in every aspect of my life. i posted a while back about goals and bringing that topic to the groups i facilitate. i also brought them the movie, the secret. i’d seen it before years ago and read the book. i loved it and believed in the law of attraction, the power of positive thinking. but i fell easily back into my old habits. seeing it again and showing it in groups in two different settings brought it back into focus. as with many things, i go into it full throttle and then lose steam. but i really want to make an effort to clean out my mind and heart of this negativity and these ill assumptions. over the past few weeks of being more intentional, i still cycle through waves of heavy negativity. and monitoring my thoughts, i’m becoming aware of how automatic and harshly negative my thoughts can be. it’s a little disheartening, but i’m committed to working on it.

i’m setting the intention to feel more positive about my belonging and connections, while reaching out to people with the same struggles as part of my life’s work. it’s all connected and i strongly believe in using my life experience as a guide to my purpose.