30 Days of Brené Brown — Day 5: #relationships #energy #strength #community #blame


Welcome to Day 5. Here’s today’s quote:

I define ‘connection’ as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
― Brené Brown

I’m changing things up now to allow for the quote to show up in the clip if you’re getting this on email. This is Day 5 of my “30 Days of Brené Brown” series in which I take the top 30 quotes as ranked by Goodreads. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston, author of several books on emotional health and authenticity and all-around boss when it comes to shame and vulnerability research. But more importantly, she is my “if you could have dinner / evening out with anyone you don’t know who would it be…” -person. Go here to learn more about her. In each post I will try to limit myself to 1,200 words.

This quote is rudimentary to me, but that might be because I’ve been Working on creating connections with people and looking at any patterns of whom I’ve let into my life, and why, and how it all turns out (which depends on the people) and what I learn (lots) and how I behave (which is not always good) and what I can do to make it better (go with my intuition).

A friend was visiting her parents, who live in the metro area, from across the glaxy for the holiday. This friend is interested in connections, the way Brené states it and she works hard to be present.

She told me about a social experience she’d just had a couple days prior and she wanted to fix it. I told her, “just ask for a do-over; y’know, a Mulligan like in golf.” She looked at me quizzically, as if she didn’t believe it were possible.

I canted my head in return and told her there are numerous opportunities for do overs. We just have to be willing, aware and sensitive to be ready to see and feel if/when we’re out of sync with the greater energy flowing around us:  ashen faces, slacked jaws, grasped chests, for example, and THEN be willing to shed our egos and ask for the opportunity, tactfully, to start over again.

I offered examples:

Here’s tactfully?: “Um, I blew it. When you ordered ‘macaroni and cheese,’ I went in my head to my grandmother’s recipe and thought about whether you’d like it and how it would taste at our first married Thanksgiving and if your mother would approve. Would I overdo it on the nutmeg? It is because I have three eyes and on my planet that’s OK? I determined your mom would not like me  at all and gave the mac and cheese to the dog, who was ailing to begin with (but she hated him) and then he died when he ate it … and everyone blamed me and … uh… can you just forget I said any of this?”

Here’s tactlessly: “YOU! You never liked anything I did! I can’t help it if your dog ate my mac and cheese and died! Don’t blame me! It was your mother! You are always pitting me against her! I can’t be Doris Day on Xenatha from the Klaygon galaxy’s hormones all the time like she can! I don’t ever … Good GRAVY! What?! What…? What does it take to get a second date with you??!?”

Or, you could just say, “Hi, My name is Bipsy. I’m a Rixathan-32 princess and I love walks in the mountains. I have a pet julyinga. Can I have a do over? I’m a little nervous tonight; it’s my first time on earth.”

It all depends on how willing we are to seeing that other person and getting out of our own way.

My friend made the error, before speaking with me of course, of asking someone else’s opinion. This someone else is going through an extremely rough patch herself, so all she processes is through that filter at the moment. The advice from the friend was,

“You idiot. Now you’ll never see him again.”

There were no connections going on there, in any of it. None of what Brené would call the energy that exists between people when they feel seen and heard. Perhaps my friend didn’t take her friend’s situation into account when she asked her opinion… who knows?

I’ve had that happen in my own life, that feeling of invisibility, we all have.

Recently, with my mom’s death, loved ones have had trouble getting out of their own way (trying to fix my pain) to just coexist with me. I’m not looking for anyone to take away my pain, and I’m not looking for anyone to touch me and tell me it’s OK — what I’m looking for (and I feel like I have to wear a sandwich board that announces it because people are –understandably– in their own heads) is: someone to say, “sit here with me and just be. cry if you want. laugh if you want. talk to yourself, but know i’m listening.”

I guess that’s God because I don’t know of anyone, who can totally detach and unplug 100% of themselves enough to hear and not fight the urge to fix my ‘stuff’ without making a subconscious comparison to their own … or maybe there is, but I’m just not programmed for it. (Living with narcissists will do that to you.) I’ve had a couple people offer though.

So it takes a big part of me — a lot of trust in me — to even allow that facet of connection with others.


look in the mirror’s mirror’s mirror.

Yikes. Look who’s the jerk now. Moi. I hate it when I come to the conclusion of my own flaws (fear of judgement) are the reason I’m the way I am when I write about it publicly. But this is what happens when we allow ourselves some openness and vulnerability.

The other instance with my friend was the same night of the “do over” discussion. From the moment her plane landed here, she’d had a situation which required some of her attention at her home, some 100 light years away, so she did what she could via cross-time/space continuum communicator.

When she was visiting with me, we took off and left our phones out of pocket. She felt she’d tied everything off at her home (the far away one). Despite this, her parents were seeking her, rabidly: four phone calls and three voice mails (in one hour) on MY phone looking for her; her mother even said, “We don’t know your address, Molly,” which sent chills down my spine that these aliens would come to my house from their planet to undress their daughter (just wait… you’ll hear about it).

When we returned, she played the first voicemail. The very first words out of the speaker, maybe it was on speaker; who know, it was loud, from a 65-year-old Fractorn queen to her 42-year-old princess were, “We are very disappointed in you, Hilda*….” she turned off the phone then and I picked up my lower jaw and that of my husband’s off the floor.

All three of her eyes welled up, and almost as quickly, she gained her resolve and said, “No. This is them, not me.” Her voice was trembling and her chins set: there would be no attention paid to the people who were so very disappointed in her … in clearly so many more ways than they were able to articulate in that singular phone message.

Her parents, or her mother at least, was so attached to her and projected any self-loathing on to her daughter based on her own lifelong discomfort and the situation (which was important, but not worthy of her mother’s emotional investment) with the people 100 light years away.

Hearing that message cut right through me. There was no connection from that mother toward her daughter. Not one ounce of compassion, allowance, detachment, independence or of truly seeing her. I looked at my friend and said nothing, I just let her be. Our eyes met (well, my two eyes did the best they could with her three eyes); we held them there a bit. I think we connected. It might not have been what she needed, but I was plugged in.

Did she gain anything from that moment from me? Doesn’t matter. Did I help? Doesn’t matter. I know I didn’t hurt it any. What mattered in that moment is that She mattered. That was ‘relationship.’

What also mattered is that I did my best, as we both did, to hear her mother without judgement, but Wooooh bouy that was hard. We’d just returned from some moments of revelry, a flight around Vega, nice chats and friendship. Without saying a word though, we were both determined to not let that voicemail message and its invective shatter the interstellar peace and connection we’d made. Instead, we knew the source of the message and its intention were not mutual. I think because we were both in a place where we were feeling whole, that we were able to extend that non-judgment to her mother.

That’s the trick: we need to be in that place before we dare take on anyone else. We need to be whole ourselves, be ready to be vulnerable and be ready to be real to truly accept someone else’s shit as theirs, not ours. I don’t believe   that Wholeness is a lifetime’s work away, it’s just a few minutes of doing our best In The Moment to connect and not judge or compare.

Thank you.

*not her real name; her foes on Rixathan-32 would never let her hear the end of it if they knew this story was about her.

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