On Getting Bare in Conversations

April 6, 2012

Resist and avoid is a common response to hard topics.

When we are faced with difficult conversations (or conflicts), often our habitual response is to avoid. To move away from the conversation – maybe because of social rules (sex is not a topic of polite conversation), perhaps because we experience shame (I’m not good with money!), or fear (what if__________??).

Or, there is so just much old belief and emotion tied up in the topic, that it can seem impossible to approach.

This week my family has been getting bare.

And I really, really, really didn’t want to. At all.

Wednesday night, my husband came home from work and dropped the bomb… a year-long deployment to Afghanistan.  I was stunned.  We have been through this four times in the last 6 months where the Air Force has said Erick will deploy, and then, it gets called off.  That could certainly happen again, but likely not. He is “hot” for a year-long visit to the Middle East.

Even if it’s not this one, it’s coming and fast.  In eight weeks, he will be gone, if this one happens.

My first reaction? Resist + Avoid.

Nonononononononononono!!!!!!  I don’t even want to entertain this until we’re “sure”. I’m pissed that he brought it up at dinner, in front of Clara (who is studiously looking at her lap, unsure of what just happened).  I want to hone in on that – to distract from the truth: my husband is leaving for a year, going to a dangerous place.

It would be easier to start an argument about his choice of timing (and really? that is SO what I wanted to do) – but instead, I look him in the eyes and reconnect with our shared values, our shared intentions – and how much I love him. I take a deep breath and let my shoulders drop.

We have lots to talk about.

Even in my shakiness, I know it’s important for us to start the conversation… when will we update our wills to reflect our wishes, should something happen to both Erick and I – who will care for Clara? The details about power of attorney, our investing strategy, life insurance policies, and where Clara and I will live while he is gone… all the various details that need to be tended during the days between now and the time he leaves.

Inside I remind myself to stay bare, to stay open – I watch for a defended stance and if I feel it, I drop it.  When Erick veers off into something that isn’t relevant that triggers me, I bring him back here – to this conversation. I remind myself, and him – that we are in this together.

I feel the tears sting my eyes.

This is so NOT the conversation I want to have, but I can feel that when I shrink away, it fuels his fear.  I reach out and tell him how scared I am for him – he tells me he is scared, too.

Then, there is my sweet girl.

She is wide-eyed and unsure of what to do with herself when she hears that Erick will be gone for a whole year. She asks him who will play cards with her? Who will take me bike riding? Who will tuck me in when Mommy has a client?

I can tell Erick doesn’t want to be answering these questions, but he does.  And he looks her in they eye while he does.

After she is somewhat satisfied with his answers, she draws him a picture while Erick and I continue to talk.

As I tuck Clara in, the conversation she really wants to have is revealed.

What if Daddy dies?

Now I really don’t want to have this conversation with my 7 year old.  I don’t want her even THINKING about this (nor do I really want to think about it). As my stomach clenches, I breathe into and around my resistance to the question before I answer.

I know she is worried – I feel this in my little girl.  And I answer as best I can. I tell her that there are no guarantees and that anything could happen, anytime, but mostly, things turn out okay and if something does happen we will face it together, at that time.  I tell her that IF Daddy died, we would be okay. That it would be SO sad. That it would change our lives. But I believe he will be okay.

“But you don’t know that for sure.”

My heart aches for her. No, sweetie I don’t.

And it’s okay to be scared and to be sad that your Dad is leaving and to be mad that he’s not here. And we are going to make it through this, together – and with a lot of love and support from all the people who are in our corner.

Reminding myself, as much as I am reminding her.

A courageous, open-heart – undefended.

Nothing to hide. Holding your ground. Claiming your sovereignty.

Whether we are being asked to come face to face with death, money, taxes, religious differences, business ethics, or the state of the economy – I believe in the absolute power of taking an undefended position when confronting difficult conversations. A position that is grounded in loving truth. A position that is committed to working the common ground.

Getting – and staying bare – in our conversations is the key to connecting to others and creating what we truly desire.

What conversation do you need to have?

Get bare and see what happens.



Share the Love...
    Starla J. King April 6, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Bare is beautiful… so freakin’ beautiful. THANK YOU for this post. xo
    Starla J. King´s last blog post ..Real Beauty

    nona April 6, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    Thank you Starla – xoxo

    Julia Barnickle April 6, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Nona – this is such a powerful, and deeply moving post. Thank you for having the courage to get bare in your conversation. And best wishes for your husband’s tour.
    Julia Barnickle´s last blog post ..Are you a “go-getter” or a “caller”?

    nona April 6, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Thank you for reading and commenting, Julia – and I appreciate the wishes for our family. xoxo

    Darliss April 6, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    What great courage it takes to be ‘bare.’ Thank you for showing us what that looks like.

    Sending love to surround you, my friend. Lots of love.
    Darliss´s last blog post ..Have you asked?

    nona April 6, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    Thank you Darliss – it is truly a courageous and powerful stance to be ‘bare’.

    Anna April 6, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Thank YOU for staying with the process in your own life and then being brave/bold enough to share it with us, too.

    Holding you and your family in my heart!

    nona April 6, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    Thank you dear Anna – xoxo

    Jennifer Voss April 6, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    I love you, my friend, and am not sure what to say other than “Thank you for being you and you know I’m always here in your corner.” Love and hugs to you, Erick and Clara.
    Jennifer Voss´s last blog post ..Put It Down.

    nona April 6, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    I love knowing you are in my corner! Thank you. xoxo

    Helen April 6, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Nona, this is such an open-hearted and deeply powerful and touching post. Bare and beautiful. I’m sending huge love and hugs to you, Erick and Clara. Please know that I am always here if you need anything. Hxo
    Helen´s last blog post ..Lessons From A Chip Bag

    nona April 6, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    Thank you Helen – being bare feels so much better on so many levels than not. I believe it will see us through. xoxo

    Laurie Foley April 6, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    omg, Nona. I love this post. I love you, Clara and Erick. There is total power in bare.
    Laurie Foley´s last blog post ..How To Stop Polishing Poop

    nona April 6, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Absolute power in bare – truth! Thank you Laurie! xoxo

    Lisa Mitchell April 6, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Nona, thanks for your incredible, brave, honesty and inspiration. It certainly gives me PAUSE (in capitals) for my own response to my threadbare relationship right now. Here’s hoping I can muster half your courage, strength and light.

    nona April 6, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    Lisa, I hope you will sign up for the call I’m offering next week to talk about having the difficult conversations. Sending love and light… xoxo

    Lauren April 6, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Dear Nona,

    Thank you so much for this post – even writing it and being bare with all of us is an extended act of courage, in addition to the daily acts of courage that lie ahead for you. Your example gives me much to ponder for my own life and the MUCH less agonizing challenges that I face.


    nona April 6, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    Lauren, I hope you find the inspiration to get – and stay bare – to meet your challenges face on. xoxo

    KCLAnderson (Karen) April 6, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Thank you for this post…I’ve been feeling rather bare myself lately, dealing with some family issues that, while much different than yours, have a similar tone. WIll keep you in my thoughts…and may the next year go by as quickly as it needs to, but not too quickly, if that makes any sense.
    KCLAnderson (Karen)´s last blog post ..FYI…

    Michelle April 7, 2012 at 10:28 am

    It is one thing to talk about a concept we teach. It is another all together to model it and live it. You have done that so honestly in this post. You have been as bare and brave with us as you were with your family. I thank you sharing your life with me. Sending much love to you and your family.

    Marcy Mc Intyre April 7, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    Thank you so much for this post and your ability to be “bare”, but mostly your pure honesty. I so needed to read this today. As I face a divorce, and raising my 12 and 8 year old daughters as a single mother… I know that I can do this just as you will. I always go back to this feeling that I have, “everything will be okay”.

    Elise Touchette April 9, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Wow, thank you for getting bare with all of us. I really appreciate how you showed us where the conversation could have gone and how you stayed bare in spite of tempting distractions.

    This brought up a memory of a conversation I had with my husband during a time when it felt like our relationship was in crisis. I somehow managed to get and stay bare throughout our conversation (after an initial period of me being cloaked in fear, anger and defensiveness). Before my coach training I really think our marriage either would not have survived or we would have spent a long time recovering because I would have pounced on the “wrong” things in order to avoid talking about what we really needed to talk about.

    I don’t bring this up to say “gee thanks for bringing up such a shitty memory” or to celebrate myself for being bare. I bring it up because I felt a powerful connection with your writing that helped me realize and appreciate what it means to be bare. Your piece served as a reminder of the good that comes from it.

    In other words, thank you.

    Much love,


    Karuna from The Gathering April 10, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Wow! What you and your family are going through right now is so intense! The fact that you talk about it publicly shows your courage! I wish you and your family a harmonious transition and safety for your husband!!! Blessings be with with you all!
    Karuna from The Gathering´s last blog post ..Loving yourself is an important aspect of spiritual growth. You deserve it!

    Lisa Claudia Briggs April 11, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Nona.. this was moving and beautiful. Nothing harder than staying truly present, in our bodies, with all of the feelings. It is amazing what our hearts and minds can bear, especially with this kind of commitment to emotional honesty and going “bare”.
    Love to you

    Sue Burness April 11, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Speechless (well, practically:)). This is about courage, honesty and loving your partner enough to meet his eyes. Just beautiful.

    Rhonda House April 11, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Thank you for sharing this intimate and challenging conversation, “bare” is what we strive for in our home and sometimes we miss the mark, this is a wonderful reminder of why we keep moving back to it.
    Thank you and your family for your service, know that you are not forgotten and ask for what you need if we have it it is yours.

    Ashley Folsom April 13, 2012 at 1:51 am

    Oh Nona, I have so been there. And you were there for me when I was.

    I shared this with the wives of Seth’s battalion in hopes that, as our guys return, their spouses will stay open, present and bare in the conversations that will be different from yours, but equally challenging. Marines will not want to discuss things their families desperately want to understand. There will be criticisms on both side during re-entry into parenthood. And comparison of who had it worse will rear its ugly head.

    Goings and comings, ebbs and flows. Military life colors all of this much more brilliantly, and yet, it is so applicable to every human being.

    As I count down in single digits to my husband’s return, I thank you for reminding me of my own strength through this last deployment. And for reminding me that as he comes home I still need to stay bare. xoxox

    bettina April 18, 2012 at 5:50 am

    you are so inspiring, so, so inspiring. this is just what I needed to “hear”, as I am in fear about surgery on tuesday. Nothing, nothing like having my husband gone for a year, and really not just gone but in danger. The preparation of your wills in the event sums up the whole shitty situation for you. I sometimes think having a child in the picture can clarify what is really going on, because they will say what you have not articulated. What if he dies? What if I die? why has the surgeons office not responded to me for 1.5 months and given that, how can I put my life in their hands? The temptation, when the nurse does finally call (as I think she must) is to go ballistic. But the bare conversation is how scared I am, and how uncared for I feel in light of their continued lack of communication, and my fear of what that means for how I will be treated in the operating room. Not anger, fear. But anger is SOoooo much easier. So thanks for this. You inspire me.

    Little B

    Amanda Fall April 22, 2012 at 6:28 pm


    I followed Liz Lamoreux’s link over here–and am so glad I did. Your post is so gut-deep honest, so steeped in love, so REAL. What a gift you’re giving us here.

    The reality of your husband’s situation has not changed. The fear is absolutely legitimate. But by honoring each other in this way, you’ve stripped off all barriers and left only your genuine love. What a strong, brave way to live.

    I think the hardest part of this kind of bare conversation is that sometimes the other person isn’t ready or willing to do the same. Sometimes we are bare and the other person–well, they choose not to be. And so that relationship must find a new way–or fall away. I’ve gone through this myself and it’s heartbreaking–but so much better than hiding behind false defenses.

    Thank you so much for this.
    Amanda Fall´s last blog post ..Sprout #6 now available (the kindness issue)

    nona April 22, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Amanda, thank you. And yes, you are right – if the other isn’t ready or willing, there must be a willingness to let the relationship take it’s natural course – wherever that may be. That is part of being bare. And that is probably the hardest part of all. I’m so glad you came by to comment. I am going to check out Sprout Mag now!! XOXO

    sperlygirl April 23, 2012 at 12:31 am

    what a beautiful account so honestly felt and shared. sending you all much strength and support for the transitions ahead.
    sperlygirl´s last blog post ..blustery…

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