Day 18: Brain Dump, Vulnerability, and Writing

The truth is writing every day is a challenge (duh) and I knew I wasn’t going to succeed at doing it every day. Life kind of sucks that way, and I’m just realistic about the expectations I set for myself. There’s a small warning on this post because it’s mostly going to be a brain dump of a lot of things that I’ve been thinking about for the last few weeks. Some of it will be coherent, most of it probably won’t be. If you stick around to read, awesome! If you don’t, I totally understand.

I miss my cute cupcake theme on this site, but enjoy the fact that the page loads significantly faster now. It was annoying me that it was taking SO long to load. Pointless really, when what you want is for people to read your words. I need to figure out something art-y to add to the top.

I’ve been in a weird place, mentally speaking, for a few weeks. I don’t believe it’s for lack of spoons, but it might be. I’ve been a stress-ball of nuts for probably more like a few months, truth be told. I keep a lot inside. I have started to distance myself from a lot of people. Almost everyone. I’ve distanced myself from twitter and what I tweet about. I’ve barricaded myself behind a wall of avoidance. It’s generally safer there. You don’t get criticized there. You’re actions don’t get looked upon with a fine toothed comb. You’re not judged. No one is commenting on what you’re doing behind your back, or to your face. No one is judging your life choices. No one is pretending to like you. But that’s mostly because no one is even there.

Every few months I rewatch Brené Brown‘s TED Talks on youtube or the TED website. (watch the first one here and the second one here). I watch them to remind myself about the man (or woman) in the arena. She reminds me that vulnerability is where creativity and innovation is born. All innovation comes from people who have gone into the arena, in spite of the critics, and failed again and again.

“It is not the critic who counts. It is not the man who sits and points out how the doer of deeds could have done things better and how he falls and stumbles. The credit goes to the man in the arena whose face is marred with dust and blood and sweat. But when he’s in the arena, at best he wins, and at worst he loses, but when he fails, when he loses, he does so daring greatly.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

Most days what she says resonates on a very surface level. It’s like rereading a good book again and feeling yourself washed over with familiarity. She’s not telling me stuff I don’t already know, not just because I’ve watched the videos so often, but because I learn about it in school, at work, and in most of what I do.

There’s also a huge distinction between guilt and shame. Guilt is saying “I did something wrong” and shame is saying “I am something wrong.” We recognize these voices in the way we talk to ourselves in our heads. Most especially when we tell ourselves that we’re not skinny enough, not smart enough, not talented enough, not educated enough. We tell ourselves we’re not enough and that’s really the point, right? To stop doing that. The media tells this to us so regularly that most people don’t even realize they’re doing it. Or we make a joke about it, but deep down there’s a part of us that believes it and is expecting the rest of the world to believe it too. Mostly if we joke first, we beat everyone else to the punchline.

Life is sort of funny, the way things play out. Friendships are born and lost. Loves are kindled and fizzle. How are we putting ourselves out there? Who are we reaching out to?

It’s more than just the inevitable existential life crisis moments that we all have now and again. When we sit and wonder if going back to school at 32 is the best life choice. Or if now is the best time to drop the Good Paying Job to pursue something you love more passionately.

Vulnerability is accepting when we’re wrong too. I’m usually really good about this point. Realizing that it’s not always about me. Apologizing. Trying to find workable solutions. Accepting challenges and working through them. But I, like everyone else, often fail at this too. Sometimes inappropriate things come out of my mouth. Sometimes those things are hurtful, even when I don’t mean it. Sometimes my perception of interactions is clouded by being sick, being frustrated with work, being pissed off, being tired, not having enough coffee, or just not in the right headspace. Vulnerability is being able to look at those times and say “Oh shit, I fucked up. I’m sorry” to the person we hurt. And often this includes some rapport with the person.

My best friend often sees me at my worst. I know it’s because she knows it’s almost never about her or anything she did and I know she’s gonna love me anyway. We have years of friendship under our belt. She knows that sometimes my short responses back to her have nothing to do with the fact that she texted me at absolutely the WORST TIME EVER, but more about something entirely unrelated. She knows when to back off and let me have some space until I can a) apologize to her for snapping at her, and b) vent about whatever it was going on. Some people never find that friend or partner in life. Other people have multiple people they can go to and be stupid, silly, idiotic, dumb, moronic… vulnerable, and have them be loved anyway.

And I know it’s seductive to stand outside the arena, because I think I did it my whole life, and think to myself, I’m going to go in there and kick some ass when I’m bulletproof and when I’m perfect. And that is seductive. But the truth is that never happens.

– Brené Brown

Most of us know intimately the pain of being vulnerable and being made to feel like shit over us. The wall of avoidance I often hide behind is usually the reaction to this pain.

I often have to remind myself that I make mistakes too. I spend a lot of hours thinking about the mistakes that I make. At work, in my personal life, and every other area of my life too. I dwell a lot. I muse and wonder about many different things. What could I have said different? What could I have done different? Would a different outcome be more favorable in the long run? The dwelling can often make my wall of avoidance thicker. Because it’s hard to dust yourself off and go back into that arena after you’ve fucked up. Or made a mistake. Or hurt someone. Or been hurt.

There’s no real point to all of this, not really. I don’t really have a point. It’s just stuff I’ve done a lot of thinking about, for the people in my life that I’m closest to, and for myself. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, if this will make me feel any better, but at least I sat down and did the writing. I put the words out there instead of scaring myself out of them. I wish I were a better story-teller, like Brené Brown. But I’m never going to get better if I don’t do the writing.

This is what I have found: to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee — and that’s really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that’s excruciatingly difficult — to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?” just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.” And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.

– Brené Brown


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