The Sore List

What are you holding in, and how is it getting out?

Last week, I had a canker sore in my mouth, the first one I’ve had in several years. I started getting them when I was a child, and I would get them every now and then, usually when I was stressed. For those who are not familiar, canker sores are not contagious, but they are painful, open sores that find their way inside our mouths.  Looking at the patch of exposed flesh on the inside of my lip, I thought back to what my late grandma use to say about canker sore. Like many elders, my grandma claimed that the cause of a physical ailment was related to a sin or behavior, in this case, lying. She said that canker sores came from not telling the truth.

At the time, I just thought this was my grandma’s way of getting me to confess to something, and I didn’t buy the whole “lie bump” explanation. But when I think of all of the things I have been keeping in lately, I wonder whether their was some truth to this explanation. Maybe canker sores didn’t come from lying, rather, from things not being said.  From withholding all or part of our true feelings.

What do we do when we keep so many things in that they find painful, unattractive ways of coming out? Where are our role models for being authentic and sincere without being drama queens/kings? Part of the reason I have such a hard time letting things out with people is because of all the negative associations I have with doing this. I think back to people like Lena (not her real name) who I went to middle school with, who was known for her emotional meltdowns and her need to tell people who they were and what she thought of them. She called it “keeping it real” but everyone else found it exhausting. Or Cynthia (again, not her real name) the woman who was a part of my trip to Ghana that almost brought the trip to a screeching halt because she needed to let everyone on our trip know that she has a problem with almost all of us. To this day, I don’t know how I escaped her verbal wrath, and we still remain in touch, but this was also not a role model of how to peaceful let people know how we really feel about them.

It’s time for another experiment. I’m going to let it hang out. From this point on, I’m going to let someone on my “sore list” know how I feel.  The plan is to do this until I have addressed everyone on this list. I will use the following guidelines to make sure that these interactions are clear and diplomatic as possible. My goal is not to avoid hurting people’s feelings/egos though, because that’s not something I can control. What I can control is making sure that I am as clear and specific as possible.

Ground rules for the “sore list”

1.    Address people in private; if I can not get one-on-one time with someone, either in person or over the phone, I will wait until I can.
2.    Ask permission. Ask the person if they are in a good place to have an uncomfortable conversation. If they are not, ask them if there is a better time for them.
3.    Identify what my issue with them really is. I may feel annoyed with someone, but I will not confront them for annoying me. I  will confront them about the annoying or hurtful comment or behavior that cause the feelings. If I can’t identify a behavior or comment, then I won’t say anything, because it’s not about the other person.
4.    I will allow them to respond how they want to respond, no matter how uncomfortable it is to me.

After a peroxide rinse, the canker sore went away. I’m still committed to going through my “sore list’ though, because the next physical manifestation of what I’m holding in may not be so small.

What do you think?