The message we send

Shortly into my first season as a head softball coach at a small DIII school in Boston, one of the players walked off the field with me after practice.

“You know,” she said, heaving a bag of catcher’s gear onto her shoulders, “you’re not nearly as intimidating as I thought you were.”

I laughed.

“You thought I was scary?”

“Yeah! You have an intense resting bitch face.”

And so I was introduced to the term resting bitch face....

This wasn’t the first time I’d heard that I was perceived as “intimidating” but it startled me nonetheless.

“But as it turns out,” she went on, looking at me, “you’re just a big teddy bear. So that’s what I tell all of the freshmen when they say they’re terrified of you.”

She just kept walking and I paused a bit, thinking about her words. Was I really that intimidating? Were there students on campus who were afraid of me? This last bit bothered me the most. It bothers me now to think that I may have kept any student from playing softball because I came off as mean.

I think about the number of students I coached, or maybe whom I didn't coach because of the energy I inadvertently put out to them when my mind was preoccupied

Her comment came to mind recently, as I was listening to a book on happiness. Recently, as I’ve found myself trying to implement different strategies to help reduce stress in my life, work to make my leisure time feel both refreshing and renewing, and struggle to complete my gratitude journal everyday, I think more about intention.

My boss Doug often laughs at me, because he says my face betrays everything I’m thinking. And it’s true - I have a pretty bad poker face. But sometimes the intensity of my thoughts send out intentions that I don’t, well…intend to send.

 Not a resting bitch face….

Not a resting bitch face….

What I mean, is that I can get so intensely inwardly focused on something that I become unapproachable - and I know that was the vibe I often gave off as a coach.

And sometimes I regret those vibes.

I grew up not far from the world of Mr. Rogers. Literally. In fact, the recent tragic shooting in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh literally happened in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood. Like most folks my age, I adored Mr. Rogers as a kid. And when I’ve revisited his story and various documentaries about him as an adult, I’ve thought yes, this is the kind of person that I want to be.

In doing research for a book that I’m writing, I visited the website of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania, and I was easily reminded as to why I almost became a nun in 1999. Their social justice work, their community involvement, and their commitment to using kindness to bring peace to this world are all still values I find appealing.

And not the kind of values that my resting bitch face promotes.

I have my struggles, many of which I’ve documented here and on my blog. I battle anxiety, I battle depression even more, and I am often paralyzed by the fear that I'm not doing enough - even though I don't even know what enough means.

I'm easily preoccupied with my intention to get everything done on my ever growing list of things I want to do.

But that preoccupation often becomes my intention and I lose sight of the big picture.

Recently, I've begun to ask people what the highlight of their day was, or what they're looking forward to. And many folks are startled by the question. It's ranged from the sarcastic to stunned silence to a flat out answer of "nothing."

So what if we focus on our true intentions?

To be present with people we love.

To do work that provides us with meaning and plays to our strengths.

To leave every person with whom we interact feeling a little better than she did before she saw us.

To bring our best intentions to the forefront of our daily exchanges.

Wishing you peace.