As I sat waiting for my prescription to be filled at Walgreens, I really couldn’t believe it.  How did I get here?  Did I really let it get this far? 

That’s right, shingles.  From stress.

For those of you who know me, you might be thinking to yourself:

But Jami, you are always so happy.
But Jami, you’re always smiling.
But Jami, your kids are so beautiful.
But Jami, your kids are so happy.
But Jami, your work looks awesome. 
But Jami, you love your job.
But Jami, you’re always so positive.

All of these things are true.

However, I’m realizing that the only side of me I let anyone ever see is the happy, smiley, joyful, upbeat, positive side. 

A couple years ago, I had just finished up a two-day work event and arrived early to pick up my kids from school.  I was exhausted and quietly sitting on the couch waiting for them.  Another mom walked up to say hello and when I didn’t respond with enthusiasm, or “full-on Jami” as I describe it, her response was, “What’s wrong?”.  When I told her that I was just tired from work, she responded, “I don’t like this Jami” and even waved her hand in a circle in front of my face to show me exactly what she meant by that. 

In the moment, I was too tired to really care what she thought, but after reflecting on it:  I was mad.  This happened about three or four years ago, so it’s clearly stuck with me. I don’t need anyone’s permission to show this side of me and if you really were my friend, you wouldn’t care that I was sitting quietly on the couch.  

“If you avoid conflict to keep the peace, you start a war in yourself” is one of my favorites quotes, it has new meaning for me now. 

It turns out that when I avoid conflict to keep the peace – when I show up only as “full-on Jami” even when I’m not feeling it – I start a war in myself.  For me that war looks like…shingles.  It’s like the parts of myself that I don’t let people see are finding their way out into the world in the form of ugly, itchy, painful bumps.  Maybe the universe is telling me that it would be better to let the ugly, itchy, painful parts of myself be seen so that they don’t have to erupt on my hip.

Clearly, the Universe is calling me to explore the other sides of me...

  • What’s it like to speak up and not just default to what others think, say, or do to avoid conflict?
  • Can I change my deeply held story that engaging in hard conversations doesn’t make me unkind, needy or selfish?
  • Is it possible to continue to see the good in the world and not feel like I’m ignoring the obvious hurt and pain in our world today?
  • How can I choose to be in places and with people who like all of me, not just the happy, smiley, joyful Jami?

Getting shingles was a wakeup call for me.  My entire life I’ve been told that I’m fun and nice.  That has served me well and will continue to serve me well in many ways.  My lifelong work will be knowing those moments when it’s not serving me well and stepping into or leading conversations even when they’re hard.  If I don’t do this work, the Universe will just keep sending me signs and I’ve had enough of ugly, itchy, painful bumps!

If you’re interested in exploring some of the “stories” you’re carrying with you that may be holding you back (or giving you shingles!), download Finding Time To Lead and check out the EXPLORE chapter. 

Reflection Questions:

  • What is the side you let people see?
  • What are your other lesser known “sides?”