I just started reading, “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead” by Brene Brown. Before I even started this book, I knew I would love it. Dr. Brown is a social worker, for one. Being a social worker myself, I’m always drawn to the work of other social workers, and I find, more often than not, there is an invisible thread connecting us. Secondly, I have always tried to be vulnerable, if this blog isn’t evidence of that enough. One of my favorite quotes of all time is:
“Our brokenness reveals something about who we are. Our sufferings and pains are not simply bothersome interruptions of our lives; rather, they touch us in our uniqueness and our most individuality. The way I am broken tells you something unique about me. The way you are broken tells me something unique about you.”
– Henri Nouwen
I don’t strive to be vulnerable because it’s easy or it’s the right thing to do. I simply have found, in my own life, that perfection doesn’t interest me. I’m drawn to people who have something to say, an experience to share, and shadow they are willing to explore. It’s so much more interesting. And how I can I expect to find and befriend those people in my own life, if I’m not willing to wear my own insecurities and vulnerabilities? It’s a balancing act, to be sure – the fine line between being vulnerable/human/real/authentic and divulging too much information, too fast. And even if you do it perfectly, which we’ve already discovered isn’t really an option, people are always going to use our vulnerably against us. I think that’s also just human instinct – when someone hands us a stick, we either use it to beat ourselves up, or to hit someone else. I’m just as guilty of that as anyone else, looking at other people’s failures as a way to feel better about myself and my own shortcomings. I’d like to think that these days I’m getting better at avoiding those temptations – that now I use the stick someone hands me as a walking stick to steady myself as I walk along side them. I’m decidedly not perfect, but that’s at least what I strive for these days.
I have journals upon journals from elementary school, junior high and high school. Those journals are some of my most cherished possessions. In college I discovered blogging and haven’t looked back since. I like the idea of the big, bad internet having a little piece of me floating around in it somewhere. That, and in case of a fire, I won’t lose everything I’ve ever written. I have an iPad but I’ve never taken to reading e-books. My home is crammed full of paper books and I still order new ones regularly. I love holding a book, tucking one into my purse, using highlighters, and being able to loan my beloved books to friends and family. Maybe someday I’ll switch over, who knows. The point to all of this is that reading and writing have always been such a huge part of my life. Except, now that I look back, while I was married. I rarely blogged, telling myself I was “too busy”. And that might have been part of the reason. I was very busy, trying to start my career, find my place in a new city, and figure out how to save my almost instantly-failing marriage. It was a lot to juggle. If I were to blog, I would have been blogging about superficial things, and I guess I just couldn’t bring myself to face that reality. Denial is a very specific art form; one that I got very good at.
Then, as I got less and less successful at the juggling and it became more clear that not only was my marriage not going to be saved, but that maybe I didn’t want to save it anyway, I struggled to put pen to paper again because of this deep shame I felt about both of those facts. As a trauma therapist I see the redemptive qualities every day in being able to name and voice and speak our fears and our shame. I’ve seen this time and time again in my own life, but it was still incredibly difficult to begin. Again, in her book Brene Brown writes about shame in a way that I can relate to:
“Shame derives its power from being unspeakable. That’s why it loves perfectionists – it’s so easy to keep up quiet. If we cultivate enough awareness about shame to name it and speak to it, we’ve basically cut it off at the knees. Shame hates having words wrapped around it. If we speak shame, it begins to wither. Just the way exposure to light was deadly to the gremlins, language and story bring light to shame and destroy it.”
This is most definitely something I experience in my life. Speaking – and writing – about my shame and my negative experiences certainly makes me a target in some circumstances. I’m handing out pretty big sticks. But in that same vein, writing about my pains releases them from my mind and my heart and somehow, makes them a little easier to bear. I guess as I’m handing out those shame sticks, I’m just trusting and asking those taking them to not use them against me. For the most part, I’ve been pretty lucky. I have a lot of people in my life who are using those sticks as walking sticks, and some who are putting their sticks together to build something even better. I will try to remember that those who use the sticks against me, are doing so that they can feel better about something in their own lives. It’s still painful, but I understand. I’ve been there, hitting others with sticks too.
More wonderfulness from Brene Brown:
“We either own our stories (even the messy ones), or we stand outside of them – denying our vulnerabilities, and imperfections, orphaning the parts of us that don’t fit in with who/what we think we’re supposed to be, and hustling for other people’s approval of our worthiness.”
“That’s the paradox: Vulnerability is the last thing I want you to see in me, but the first thing I look for in you.”