Patch Thirty Eight – Vulnerability and Self Care

By Tom Evans

When I was a child, I lived with my mom and sister on Fleet Street in Winnipeg. I was three years old, maybe four.

Next door lived an older couple who, for some reason, I adored. It might have been because their last name sounded like ‘pet snake’, regardless, I would take my toys, run over to their house, and play.

It was from the Petsnick’s that I earned my first nickname…

Talking Tommy

My eyes blinked and here I am today, fast forwarding 40-some-odd years, where my conversations are counterbalanced by the frustration of finding the words to say for moments long passed. I’ve become overly comfortable being quiet, relatively reserved…I find peace there.

Though, lately I’ve been reflecting on that name. Back to a time where I approached life uninhibitedly and it seems ironic. A paradox as I take stock of the joys, sorrows, and in-betweens of life.

All the while slipping down a rabbit hole where questioning my relevance ignites a trepidation that consumes my motivation…and I find myself stuck in a holding pattern, where I’m discrediting my ups, magnifying my downs. Wrapping myself in a tattered quilt of doubt made up of patches whose very purpose is to distort my notions of belongingness, worth, identity.

My days aren’t that bad, but more frequently than I care to admit, I walk the halls of life feeling mentally detached, displaced within my work…my passion overshadowed by the fog of inhibition, I’m dancing on the juxtasposition of pretense and competence.

Going through the motions, I’m a captain of a rowboat, in the ocean, trusting a compass that endlessly spins.

My negative narratives swirl into questions resisting rational thoughts. The aftershocks tearing into self-image where I cannot help but ask…

How did I get here?
How do others have it all figured out?

I try to reconcile the disparity between truth and fiction while this lie of familiarity shouts names at me: “Outsider!” — “Pretender!” — “less than”

I am not alone…

Beyond speaking those words, I need to believe I’m not alone for these battles in the mind are invisible, but fierce, and we are fighting to lift ourselves up from them, breaking free to reclaim lost confidences and beliefs in our worth—in our purpose—in our dreams.

We are not alone…

Recentering my focus on the humanity around me reveals many open lives… open arms beside me, gifting me acceptance and trust.

I am now hearing a call to be more intentional with the intangibles… as I see glimpses of freedom. Hope increasing with each step inspiring me to:

Open my eyes
 Open my mind
  Open my life
   Open my arms…

…to embrace a sense of presence that expresses belief, joy, and support to others.

For me, it is a moment by moment choice to take care and show kindness to myself in hopes I’ll be better positioned to share kindness and care for the people around me.

I believe it is in this space of compassion where dissonance dissipates unveiling a shared call and response of belonging and acceptance — belief and confidence — hope and love — for me… and for you.

And so I close my story with a quote — a declaration for us all — paraphrased from the poet Shane Koyczan: “We will love ourselves despite the ease with which we might lean towards the opposite”

Thank you, and may you be well!

(…and if at the moment you feel you’re not well, please reach out, let’s talk...seriously)

Tom Evans is the manager for open learning and a senior instructional designer in The Ohio State University’s Office of Distance Education and eLearning.

Author’s note
This has been a poetic tale depicting various aspects of my depression, an abstract snapshot of some negative thoughts, fears, skepticisms of ability that I frequently wrestle with. I believe that exercising openness can be freeing for one’s spirit and possibly empowering for others. It is a gift we can give to the family, friends, colleagues and students around us.

Tom presented the above patch during a lightning round at the 2019 Open Education Conference on 10/31/2019.

Photo by Ostap Senyuk on Unsplash

One thought on “Patch Thirty Eight – Vulnerability and Self Care

  1. “I believe it is in this space of compassion where dissonance dissipates unveiling a shared call and response of belonging and acceptance — belief and confidence — hope and love — for me… and for you.”

    Me, too. A hope for us all.

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