9. (S1E9) I Can Always Do Better, Nothing’s Good Enough with Pam Russell

My guest in this episode is Pam Russell. We’re talking about growing up in a family without any emotions, not feeling good enough under the pressure to be perfect, and what happens when you allow yourself to open up and be vulnerable in the company of other women.  

Pam is a writer, journalist, mother of two daughters and a connector of women. She and I met through her Facebook group, Hot Women of an Uncertain Age. Check out her blog Brash – an unapologetic midlife at https://www.brashmidlife.com/

Growing up, Pam inferred that not showing your emotions means you’re strong, and being a girl equaled being weak, and she never wanted to be seen as girly. It wasn’t until she started talking with a therapist a few years ago that she even realized she had emotions because she had never allowed herself to access them. 

This realization, along with some international travel, shifted her paradigm and caused her to question everything she’d been taught about the way we live our lives.  

Listen to the end to hear what she has to say about society’s expectations.  

Pam’s hype song is Like a Girl by Lizzo https://youtu.be/8Pr98f4vlIg

Come join us in the Fine is a 4-Letter Word Facebook group.

This episode is sponsored by Zen Rabbit. When you’re asking yourself “what’s next for me? Who am I now, in this next season of life? And where do I even start figuring out my purpose?” the F*ck Being Fine Experience is here for you. Go to https://zenrabbit.com/ to learn more or to schedule a complimentary call.


Fine is a Four Letter Word - Pam Russell Final - 042221

Lori Saitz: [00:00:00] Thank you for joining me today, Pam. I'm so excited to talk with you about your journey and your experience

Pam Russell: [00:00:06]. I'm excited to be here. Thanks for inviting me.

Lori Saitz: [00:00:09] Yeah. So give me a brief overview of your early life. What was expected of you when you were growing up and what beliefs were instilled in you or what beliefs did you pick up?

Pam Russell: [00:00:22] I think that growing up. You know, it was a traditional family. We lived in Indiana and then we moved to Florida when I was about 16. The values were, suck it up and get it done. Right. Okay. Worked on you. It's not, uh, It wasn't an emotional fan. Like we were not embracing our emotions. Basically. We weren't a family that sat and, um, discussed things.

Middle-class blue collar family, you know, loving family, for sure. But, um, it wasn't a family where, where someone put their arms around you and said, that's okay. You know, um, don't worry if you can't get this done right. We'll try it again. It was more like, you know, you can't get this done. Right. Go do something else.

You know? So that was kind of an emotionally quiet family, I guess. Yeah.

Lori Saitz: You didn't express a lot of emotions.

Pam Russell: You didn't express a lot of emotions. Right. We just worked that it wasn't that we, that we did not express emotions.

Lori Saitz: [00:01:22] And then how did you live the first one? 20-25 years of your adult life. Tell me a little bit of this story there.

Pam Russell: [00:01:29] as a woman of action, you know, like you just did stuff, you just did what you could in school. You, um, you did stuff around the house, you know, you did not, you know, I know younger, we certainly had our leisure time, but certainly as we got to be teenagers, you know, hanging out and just doing nothing, wasn't really exciting.

Acceptable did have a period where my dad was in Florida. My mom was in Indiana and that was a little more lax. We didn't have the, in some respects, but in other respects, she, um, because she was a single mom at that time, we did have more responsibility in some aspects around the house, but I wouldn't, I wouldn't say I was shy.

But I certainly didn't understand my own emotions and didn't understand myself and didn't realize how important, you know, sharing your feelings were with other people to make a connection. And so that's kind of what happened for my first. More than 25 years, first 40, almost 50 years of not knowing how important sharing and being vulnerable and reaching out and letting other people help you was that's.

I mean, that's kind of like the bottom line. You don't, it's a Midwestern thing again, right? It's a, it's a value thing. Uh, our new England thing, probably you don't, you do you're self-sufficient you don't need help. You do everything yourself. That was instilled in me pretty early

Lori Saitz: [00:02:55] when you were raising your own children, is that how you

Pam Russell: [00:02:57] raised them?

So, unfortunately, um, very much. I didn't understand it. You need to tell your kids it's okay. Not to be able to do things. It was more like, I didn't understand that. Like, Sometimes you just can't do things. You just can't, it's not a failure of anything. It's just who that person is at that time. And what circumstances are in front of them.

That's so, yeah, that's definitely how my children until recently and still, you know, they still have that a lot of. So there's a lot of internal criticism that's created in your own voice, the voice of your parents that, that kind of gets handed down to you. Have you got to do things better? Like I've never felt like whatever I D I've done as good enough.

Uh, not intentionally, but I know in some respects I have passed that down to my daughters. Unfortunately, my husband's not like that. And so. You know, that's a little bit, they got a little bit of a reprieve from him, a little bit of balance, but yeah.

Lori Saitz: [00:03:57] I wonder how common that is, that it's not good enough that we could do better because I remember my mom telling a story.

I don't remember the actual incident, but I remember her telling the story of me coming home in first grade. So six years old. In tears because I got a 97 on a spelling test and not a hundred. And the rest, the other part of that story is she was horrified that that was a value that had already been instilled in me at six years old.

She's like, I don't know where this came from, but. So it's kind of like I wonder, is that something that we just are innately, born with? Some people are, and some people have it passed down from family.

Pam Russell: [00:04:43] I don't know. I don't think it's passed down. I mean, I think, I guess you could argue that it is, but I think it's more of a societal sell cues.

Uh, religious. Background. I mean, I, um, this was a story I've told somebody recently was that, you know, when I was probably seven, I went into the kitchen that was crying and my mom's like, what's wrong. And I'm like, I can't do it perfectly. I'm not perfect. And she goes, honey, only Jesus is perfect, you know?

And she knows. She's like, don't even, Jesus was perfect. And you know what I know. Call that internal dialogue saying, no, I'm going to be perfect. And like, where did that came from? I know that that came from, you know, my upbringing for sure. I mean, I know now, but I lived with that and I still live with that a little bit.

I think that in the group that you and I are in the hot women group. The, um, the questionnaire that was sent out, one of the question was what is, what is your proudest proudest moment or biggest yeah,

Lori Saitz: [00:05:41] biggest success. Yeah. Something like

Pam Russell: [00:05:43] that. Yeah. And like, he had a hard time because I'm like, I don't feel like any of it's good enough.

I don't feel like anything is, you know, something that I can be proud of. It was the proudest moment. Right. And a lot of moms would be like, oh, when my daughter did so-and-so or whatever. And I'm like, well, that's not my account. That's not my accomplishment. That's there. Right. I had a, um, I just finally I'm like, I just put something down.

I think, I can't remember like when our board reached like 300 in a month or something and, but like, yeah, that, that dialogue of, I can't, you know, I worked for a paper that won a Pulitzer the year that I worked for them, I have done a lot of things, but it's, it's like, I can always, I feel like I can always do better, like strongly with, I can always do better, but nothing's good enough.

Lori Saitz: [00:06:26] So I'm curious what order, what's

Pam Russell: [00:06:28] your birth order? I'm the youngest. My brother's three years older.

Lori Saitz: [00:06:31] Yeah. Interesting. Only because it seems like a lot of times that's a, an oldest child thing that I that's my case. I'm the oldest. So I just was wondering where if that had any, any effect, but I guess not.

So, so I know that you are going through a big life transition right now, before we get to that. How long were you in fine. Everything's fine here. Yeah.

Pam Russell: [00:06:57] I mean, that's, that's how I lived my adult life basically from, I got married at 24 and that entire time I would say that I lived in fine. Like, it's fine.

That's fine. It's fine. Because you don't, you know, either when you're in your twenties and you're trying to establish your career or when you're raising your children or, you know, going back to your career, um, you don't have, I don't think women are allowed to stop and think, whoa, wait a minute. This is not for me.

This is not working out. I am not fine because it's viewed as a weakness. Right. If you're emotional then. Oh, well it's a typical woman thing. Yeah. So that, that the whole time has been fine until over the last two to three years. Probably two years that I've broken out of fine. So, and I didn't, I didn't realize there was another way of being okay.

Lori Saitz: [00:07:51] All right. So which brings up the question I was going to ask you is. Did you talk to your friends about everything being fine, but not really feeling

Pam Russell: [00:08:00] fine? No, no. Oh no, that was not, uh, that was cause I didn't, I don't think I recognized it. I think that's the thing is you don't recognize it when you're in that.

I I'm learning that I'm a person who doesn't and I think everybody's different. Right. But I think that I, um, I am a person. That doesn't recognize my own feelings. Like I had a hard time, I'd struggled with like, like other people can read me, but I don't read myself. So,

Lori Saitz: [00:08:25] yeah. Right. Which would go back to your childhood where you were basically not allowed to have feelings.

Pam Russell: [00:08:32] Right. So I didn't, I just didn't didn't acknowledge him. I didn't know that I had feelings that were, I dunno, valid, but like I just literally, I just stuffed everyday.

Lori Saitz: [00:08:40] Hmm. Wow. Okay. And then what happened?

Pam Russell: [00:08:44] My husband and I started just kind of exploring our marriage and we broke out of the box of what we were doing for better or worse.

And now we're in the process of separating. We've been separated since October, but it's been a 18 month journey or so, but the, you know, actually, conversely what happened was, um, that was important. But as important was the fact that I met up in, in January of 2020, a year ago, I had some travel planned.

And so I went to Los Angeles. And I went to Washington DC in the same trip. And when I was in Los Angeles, I talked to two women that I'd known for a long time and I was vulnerable with them. And I told them about some of the struggles and some of the things that I was going with going through. And it was like a magic box that opened up to me because being vulnerable with these women, they reciprocated.

And they were vulnerable and open with me. And same thing happened. So I met two women separately. No, it was actually three women. And then I went to Washington DC and same thing happened. And so that's when I came back and I started the hot women of an uncertain age for, cause I'm like, we're not talking.

You know, we're not talking about anything. And I think that, I don't think that women talk that much. I mean, I think we talk about stuff that's not important. I think we talked about kids. Kids are important, but that's not really who we are. We might talk about careers. A lot of women talk about clothes and TV shows and things like that.

That's fine. That's entertainment, but that's. Not really a connection. That's not a point of connection. And that's kind of where I failed because I never like to talk about, you know, TV shows or fashion or whatever. So that's not really who I am. I'm not a small talk person, but that failure, no, but that's not who I am.

And so, but that, that access accessing this. Deep well of, of women who had all these emotions and wanted to talk. Right. And then also conversely the year before that I'd been to India and that opened up my eyes to how everything is. Wow. And the year before that we went to Vietnam. So. International travel where you, we showed up in Vietnam and people were driving on the wrong side of the street.

People were just walking across the traffic and it was like through everything that ye that I knew up into question, it's like, oh my God, you know, the way that we live our lives. The rules that we follow are not set in stone. They're not, they're just a construct and why do we have to follow those rules?

So, yeah, so the, the trips to Vietnam, the trip to India, you know, kind of our marriage, marital difficulties, and then, you know, being vulnerable with other women and then being opened up to us. And then, and then starting the conversation on, on Facebook with the group of women has literally changed my life.

Um, and I, I would say of all of those, I think having more women, friends and talking and connecting with the women has been the biggest of those.

Lori Saitz: [00:11:55] Cool. So I want to go back to the women that you, you just met them in LA and then

Pam Russell: [00:12:01] no, they're old friends. They were old

Lori Saitz: [00:12:03] friends. Okay. All right. I wasn't clear on

Pam Russell: [00:12:06] that.

Now. They were, there were friends that some, you know, to varying levels, we had been friends for a long time, but we didn't have the friendship where. I could call up somebody and say, I'm struggling. Help me right now. I could with those women. Right. And they could to me. Yeah.

Lori Saitz: [00:12:25] Okay. And so we don't know how this story goes because you're still going through it and that's, that's a cool thing, right?

Some of my guests, some of my guests have stories where, I mean, nobody knows how the story ends because we're all still alive obviously. But, but sometimes they've gotten through that particular period of transition so they can talk to how it's turned out. We, you and I were in our journey are still in the midst of it.

So I don't know. I'll let you know.

Pam Russell: [00:12:59] Yeah, I think it's, it's definitely a positive though. It's um,

Lori Saitz: [00:13:04] Yeah. So you feel like you're making the right decision?

Pam Russell: [00:13:07] Absolutely. Yeah. Like the separation from my husband and then, you know, the self awareness and, um, I can't remember who I was talking to the other day, but I was telling them that, you know, sometimes I'm really happy and, um, I have a.

Much wider depth and breadth of emotions that I used to. So like, I was fairly flat, at least I felt flat internally. Although again, I think that manifested as like, it was anger. Other people saw that as anger. Now I have like, like this morning I was really happy and I'm just so excited and it's such a great day and tomorrow may not be that great.

And it's okay. You know, it's more of a roller coaster. I don't know if that's perimenopause or if it's. Just whatever it is, but I like it. I like being able to have different emotions and sit with them and process them. Yeah. Well,

Lori Saitz: [00:14:01] you know, that's really being human. It's it's about feeling the emotions and we've labeled the motions as negative and positive, but they're really just all emotions.

Like some of them may feel better than others, but it's all part of the human experience. And, and I, I don't recommend stuffing any of them down, even when they don't feel, let's say they don't feel good to experience them. And move through them is so important. Sounds like you're learning how to do that, which has been,

Pam Russell: [00:14:37] yeah.

Yeah. I mean, I think that's, it's really, I went to a therapist kind of at the beginning of all this, actually, before I went to India, I started seeing a therapist and her first question was like, how are you feeling? And I'm like, I really don't know, you know, that was when I started, started unpacking my feelings and realizing that I had them.

I'm like, oh, and it took it. It was, you know, it's a scary thing to sit with sadness or anger or grief. And yeah, I still got a lot to work through. My mother died in July of 2005, a month later. Katrina hit. My camp, my daughter had cancer when she was four in 2008 in the midst of that, we moved to Washington DC and we moved back and during all of that, um, I'm just like, okay, I'm, I'm fine.

I've got my job. I've got my kids. We're packing. We're unpacking. We're moving where we just do anything. We're just doing it. Yeah. Yeah. Wow. Stopped to be like, oh, I'm kind of sad about this.

Lori Saitz: [00:15:32] Right. Allow yourself to again, feel the emotions and process the situation.

Pam Russell: [00:15:37] It's interesting because I think that at least the way I was raised, it's kind of thought of as a strength, not to show your emotion and it's a, it's a masculine trait, but like I was also like, don't be like a girl, you know, kind of don't don't feel your emotion.

Cause that's so girly and I never wanted to be

Lori Saitz: [00:15:57] girly. Being a girl was like a bad thing. Right. Okay. That's a lot to unpack.

Pam Russell: [00:16:07] Like my parents never said that, but it was just kind of like, not, it wasn't like, it was just that girls are weaker and that's kind of what girls are weaker. I don't want to be weak.


Lori Saitz: [00:16:19] Gotcha. I have one more question for you and it's. Somewhat related. It may seem unrelated to this conversation that we've been having, but in baseball, there's this thing known as your walkup song, and I'm not a big baseball fan, but I like this concept. It's the song that as you, that you, as the player.

Uh, it gets you pumped up and it inspires the crowd and it gives them some insights into your personality. What is your walk-ups?

Pam Russell: [00:16:49] So this'll be surprised after, based on what I, what I just said, but it would probably be, Liz's like a girl because it's about being a girl and also being strong. And I think us as women need to embrace our.

Femininity and strengths that are now that I am aware of them, uh, superior to masculine strength. Very

Lori Saitz: [00:17:10] cool. And so then do you listen to that song? So this is the purpose of my asking the song is, do you listen to it when you need to get pumped up and feel infused with good

Pam Russell: [00:17:18] energy? Yeah. I listened to, I listened to a lot of Lizzo when I need that.

Lori Saitz: [00:17:22] Yeah. Okay. Very cool. And we're going to put a link in the show notes. To that song so everybody can listen to it and get pumped up. And then at some point we'll make a playlist of all the songs that all of the guests have mentioned. Awesome. That's cool. Well, Pam, thank you so much. Is there a last lesson or message that you want to

Pam Russell: [00:17:43] share with the audience?

It's kind of passe to say this or cliche, but be authentic, be who they are and don't be afraid to do the things that you want to do. Don't let society's expectations. Stop you from doing the things that you feel compelled to do except for criminal activity criminal

Lori Saitz: [00:18:03] activity

Pam Russell: [00:18:03] excluded. Yes, exactly.

Lori Saitz: [00:18:07] Awesome. Thank you so much for joining me today on fine is a four letter

Pam Russell: [00:18:11] word. Good to be here. Thanks Lori.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *