The Value in a Good Vent


The Value in a Good Vent by Robynn

There are times when I feel I might explode! I’m furious. I’m so mad I might just this once really lose it. I had one of those times a month or so ago. I was so angry I was spitting nails.

Just as quickly as the storm clouds gathered, and piled up on top of each other in varying shades of black and gray and green, and the lightning flashed three times, a blaze of fury across the sky, and the thunder cracked her whip across the elements. Just as quickly as all that my rage was over. My storm passed. The sun came out. The clouds cleared. My emotional barometer found its normal center and I was fine.

What changed? You might ask. Absolutely nothing! I found relief through the simple power of the vent.

On that particular weekend my sister-in-law hosted another garage sale. It’s the second one of the season. There’s been a lot of family treasures (read: “junk”) to sort through and find homes for (read: “get rid of ” or “trash”). Death and moving have a way of forcing those issues. My sister-in-law has taken a major lead in organizing the stuff, cleaning it, dragging it into town, pricing it and laying it out to sell. It’s a huge amount of work and I’m very grateful. My mother in law and I drove over to look through the stuff before it sold. Mom wanted to see if there was anything she actually wanted. I wanted to claim the canning jars.

The day before the sale mom informed me that she was actually thinking of selling the jars. I was a little taken aback. She had promised me those jars for months. I’m the only one in the family who still cans. I make jam. I can peaches, apples and pears. I really had my eye on those jars.
That little moment sent my blood pressure rising. It really wasn’t a big deal but in the moment I felt like it was. It’s not that I don’t already have a lot of jars–just ask Sarah and Jill who helped me pack them for the move. But I had been promised those jars and I wanted them. There’s been a lot of letting go of these things lately, a thousand little sacrifices. The canning jars represented something bigger, clearly, given my over-reaction to the possibility of not getting them.

Everything changed in a short little moment in the kitchen. Lowell, calm and collected, heard my outrage. Like a sponge he soaked it in as fast as I could pour it out. My angst and anger splashed all over him. He listened with sympathy. He didn’t offer any advice. He entered into my emotion without dismissing me. He quietly asked if there was anything I wanted him to do in response. There wasn’t. I just needed to vent.

And then it was essentially over! Speaking it out loud I realized it wasn’t a big deal at all. I saw my response from a healthy distance. I could see a way through and passed the jars.

There is great power in a simple short vent. Like a pressure cooker releases steam and pressure, the vent relieves emotional stream and pressure before it can buildup. You only have to have your pressure cooker blow up one time to know it’s not ideal to have boiling hot kidney beans, tomato sauce and onions coming out of a small space at high speeds from the stove and all over your kitchen ceiling and then down the walls and on to the floor. It’s worth avoiding at all costs. Venting prevents explosions.

Lowell has recently been training to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children in the court system. At one of their last classes the instructor encouraged them to seek out their supervisor should they feel the need to vent. They might process generally and vaguely with their spouse but a nitty-gritty true vent should be reserved for the safe confidentiality preserving space a supervisor could provide. I was curious that they respected and saw the benefit and power of a vent.

If you feel it building inside you– if you feel cracks forming in your thinly veiled veneer–if you feel the pressure pounding inside your person–Seek out a safe person who will listen without judgment, someone who doesn’t fan the drama into higher flames, someone who doesn’t speak folly disguised as wisdom. If such a person doesn’t exist it doesn’t mean you don’t have venting options. Talk to your dog. Pour out your heart to your cat. Get a notebook, preferably spiral bound, that can take the beating, and write it down. Get it out. Set it down. Step back from it. Walk around it. See your angst from another angle.

There is great value in a veritable vent. Somehow, mysteriously, it changes the emotional barometer. Storms pass, winds change direction. Life calms. A level lived life resumes after the vent!

Do you find value in a good vent? Would love to hear from you in the comments! 

Picture Credit:

Guest Post – Finding Common Ground

Today I’m delighted to introduce you to Tayo Rockson through a guest post — Finding Common Ground. Tayo has a passion to see third culture kids use their diverse backgrounds to make a difference across many spheres of society and in early fall will be hosting a podcast featuring different third culture kids. He also generously read through my book and gave an endorsement! You can read more about Tayo at the end of the post. 


Every 4 years, a variation of a sporting event brings groups of people together, whether it is the World Cup, Olympics, or the Winter Olympics.

These events inspire:

  • cooperation where there might not have been one before

  • hugs with strangers

  • smiles and head nods of acknowledgement from opposing groups and

  • an open door policy from anyone with the game on the TV

If it takes just a simple sporting event to cause people to set aside their differences then maybe more effort should be spent on finding common ground instead of emphasizing differences. 

I have lived in 5 countries across 4 continents and each time I move I realize I have a choice: I can either emphasize our differences, or find common ground. Here are some of the ways I’ve learned to find common ground in the place where I currently live – New York City.

Say Hi With A Smile: This does wonders for people especially ones having bad days. It also makes you appear welcoming and approachable.

Ask How Their Day Was: If you follow up that “hi” with a “how was your day?”, you might be on to some communication gold. The trick here though is not to say “how was your day” and walk away. Make sure you look him or her in the eye and have your shoulders squarely facing the person when asking the question. You will come across as someone who cares genuinely for them and easy to talk to.

Ask Where People Are From: Everyone has a story to tell and you can often hear that story by asking where they come from. Stories are important because they give you a glimpse of who people are. This a great way to understand someone and withhold judgement because you know why they think the way they do. Also, this is often reciprocated by them asking you same question. CONNECTION!

Be Complimentary: This has everything to do with being observant. Pay attention to the people around you and you will be able to notice different things that they do or wear. If you make it a mission of yours to just pay attention to people then you will notice the subtleties in their lives.

Learn Phrases, Sentences, And Mannerisms In Foreign Cultures: This is SO important for one to be accepted in foreign lands because it gives foreigners the impression that you are making an effort to communicate with them and not just be a tourist. You’ll often find locals more welcoming to you this way.

Turn Ignorance Into Education: When I first came to Virginia for college from Nigeria/Vietnam, my college mates asked me why I spoke such good English and if I lived in huts or walked among lions. Instead of getting angry, I simply told them that lions were not common in that part of Africa and that English is the official language in Nigeria. Education!

I’ll be the first to say that none of this is necessarily easy, but trust me — it’s worth it! 

tayoTayo Rockson grew up in four different continents so he considers himself a citizen of the world. He has lived in Sweden, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Vietnam and the United States and his goal is to ultimately leave the world a better place than it was before he came into it. Once he discovered that he was a Third Culture Kid (TCK), he vowed to use his global identity to make an impact in the world. He tells positive uplifting stories via different mediums and works with people of all sorts to help them become the best version of themselves. Feel free to connect with him on Twitter @TayoRockson or his website where he is actively making new friends every day.



Picture credit:

Unfinished Conversations

tea matters 3

We have family visiting this weekend. My younger brother and sister-in-law, my mom and dad, a niece and a baby I just met, another niece.

And with these people who I love comes the wonderful problem of unfinished conversations.

I think you know what I mean. You are with people you love and the words come fast and furious. Sitting around the table eating dinner you jump from one topic to another – first we are talking about family, then a friend, then a situation, then a feeling, then more feelings, then an event that sparked deep growth in our souls – but we are talking so fast and furious we want to get so much in that the conversations remain unfinished. So we see them the next morning and it starts up again over tea and coffee. “Finish telling me about this.” “I wanted to ask you about that.” “When we get a minute remind me to tell you about the other.” It continues through the day and all the activities of the day.

Lunch – another unfinished conversation. Afternoon tea with solid, chipped mugs or fragile, china cups – unfinished conversations. Night time talk over dessert and mint tea – unfinished conversations, more to talk about, more to say and discuss. 

Unfinished conversations – when you have so much to say, but so little time to say it.

Unfinished conversations – when your world includes many people in many places and you always feel like there isn’t enough time to talk about all the things there are to talk about.

Unfinished conversations – when the goodbyes come too soon and you board the plane, tears forming in your eyes thinking “I totally forgot to tell her about that!” When you live far away from the ones you love, and you know in your hearts, there will never be enough time for everything you want to say to each other.

But there is something far worse than unfinished conversations – and that is living close to someone your whole life, be it a family member or neighbor, and never having a substantive conversation. So I will take these unfinished conversations every time – because they tell a story of relationships, real-life lived hard and well, and joy in communicating with people you love.

I better go. An unfinished conversation has just finished taking her shower and I wouldn’t want an electronic device to interfere.

And to you? I wish you many unfinished conversations and the joy and difficulty that comes with them.

Enhanced by Zemanta

A Dream Becomes a Reality and I Become Afraid

I like to communicate. A lot.

I love speaking and leading workshops – in fact, it’s my favorite part of my job as a public health nurse. Hand me a topic and a microphone and I’ll have at it with pleasure. (In a way this blog feels a bit like a microphone but I digress)

I do all my speaking in a non-religious context. While I’ve gone across the country to speak on culturally responsive health care or patient navigation and community health workers, I am never asked to speak about faith. Ever.

Truth be told – this is hard for me. I long to communicate my faith across boundaries and barriers and I’ve long prayed for opportunities. But they have not come and I have slowly realized that it’s okay. Very few people who are regularly asked to speak in faith circles have the speaking opportunities that I have in my professional role, the opportunities to connect with people from a broad spectrum of beliefs and world views, and I need to continue to embrace these opportunities doing them as well as I know how.

But in the spring, the seed of an opportunity came and, with my husband’s encouragement, I decided to move out in faith and see what happened.

Let me explain. For about four years now I’ve been involved in the Alpha program at a church in a nearby town. Robynn has written before about Alpha, but to recap – Alpha is a program to introduce people to Christianity. It is based on a lot of listening and an environment that values questions, even and especially the hard ones. A church in Goa, India asked the church here to send a team to teach them how to do the Alpha program. A ‘train the trainer’ if you will. The trip would involve going to India and introducing the Alpha program through live demonstration talks and discussion.

20130829-074331.jpgSo I applied and was accepted to be a part of this team. The visa is stamped into my passport, tickets are purchased and I’m going. Tomorrow.

I didn’t know when I applied what I would end up doing, I didn’t know if I would end up working on the sidelines or speaking. It turns out that I will be speaking along with a few others. The leader has asked me to do two talks – One is “How can we be sure of our faith?” and the other is a practical talk on presenting the Alpha program.

But here’s the deal: Now that this dream of communicating faith,communicating what I believe to be the most important thing in the world, is a reality – I have lost my words. I sit down to prepare my talks and fear creeps up like a figurative hives rash and suddenly I’m itching and red and so uncomfortable. My breath starts coming faster and I realize I am panicking. What is this about?! I can do an interesting talk about a vacuum cleaner if you ask me, make people want to buy that sleek, expensive Dyson. In fact, they’ll be lining up for back orders.

But this, this most precious, beautiful story of a faith and how to be sure of it and how it matters….tongue tied, fingers paralyzed, mind spinning.

I always thought I’d be ready for a dream becoming a reality. But here I am, confessing before all that along with the dream becoming a reality is a fear. A fear of inadequacy, a fear that I will not communicate clearly, a fear that I will not do this amazing topic justice. A fear that deep down I am an impostor, uniquely unqualified.

In the middle of this I looked back on a blog post I wrote a year ago. It’s called “And Failure Comes on Like a Virus” and I said this:

…truth is that I join the “march of the unqualified”, that group of people I read about who were inadequate, who failed. The King who stayed home from battle and slept with another man’s wife; the prophet who ran from the call of God and ended up in the belly of a whale; the man raised in the Pharaoh’s household who said ‘I can’t do it! I can’t speak! Let my brother speak for me’; the woman who said ‘Let’s trick your dad into thinking you are your brother so that you can get the birthright’.*

All these, uniquely unqualified, somehow survived the virus of failure, and were met by God, were used by God.”

The panic slowly dissolves in what is overwhelming Grace. This fear? It’s grace in disguise – the best thing that could have happened to me. It places me solidly at the mercy of God. It brings me to my knees (literally) and I beg God to give me words, words that bring glory to God.

I have no idea how this will go, but I know a couple of things:

  1. God is so much bigger than my words
  2. I am so much smaller than his Work.
  3. Over all of this – the visas, the plane ride, the funding, the preparation – is a blanket of Grace that reminds me God is in the business of using the unqualified.

And there you have it.

Readers – I’m not sure how much I’ll be writing from Goa – I hope to do a few updates so stay tuned and thank you for tuning in to my fears and his Grace.

A Life Overseas – Words Matter & Muffin Monday


Readers – today I am at A Life Overseas talking about words. And how they matter. Would love it if you would join me.

Here is an excerpt from the piece:

In health care we have a story we call “The 71-Million Dollar Word Story”.

It involves a young man from Cuba, the absence of a skilled interpreter, and a misdiagnosis.

The man was 18 years old and had just graduated from high school. He was riding around with his friend when he complained of a bad headache. He thought it was because of the strong smell of gas in his friend’s car but by the time he got home the pain was so severe that he was crying. He went into a coma soon afterward and he was transferred to a local hospital in a comatose state. The family was sick with worry as they waited in the emergency room for this man to be assessed. The word ‘intoxicado’ was used and, in the absence of a professional interpreter, it was assumed that the young man was ‘intoxicated’, had taken a drug overdose and was suffering the effects. The family had no idea this was the way the words were interpreted. Had they known they could have attested that the young man never used drugs or alcohol, that health was extremely important to this young athlete. Rather, ‘Intoxicado’ was a word used in Cuba to mean a general state of being unwell because of something you ate or drank. It was the only word they could think of to express the sudden onset of his symptoms.

The misinterpretation of this word caused a misdiagnosis resulting in an 18-year-old becoming a quadriplegic, for in reality he had suffered a brain bleed and lay for two days in a hospital bed without proper treatment. Had the hospital staff made the correct diagnosis the man would have left the hospital in a few days, on his way to college and a normal life.

This tragic event resulted in a lawsuit and if this man lives to be 74, he will receive a total payment of……Read the rest of the piece here!


Thyme Chevre Blackberry Muffins

And don’t forget the new addition – Muffin Monday. Today’s muffins are Thyme Chèvre Blackberry Muffins and they look amazing! Head over to Stacy’s blog to get the recipe here or just click on the picture!

When a Piece of Bread is not a Piece of Bread –

In 2008 HSBC Bank unrolled a brilliant advertising campaign. Called “Different Values”, the campaign showed three pictures side by side.

Sometimes it was three identical pictures with a different word across each picture:


Other times it was three different pictures with the same word across each picture: