Welcome to Day 23 of “30 Days of Brené Brown.”
Here is today’s quote:
Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.
― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
This can’t be clearer or more true.
This vulnerability stuff is part of an exchange, simple as that.
Since I’ve come down from my tower, let down *some* of my armor and opened myself up to others, my life has changed for the better. I feel lighter. All that chain mail really got to my back.
Absolutely there have been bumps, friction, pain and misunderstandings. We can’t have a two-way dialogue with one person. We can’t have a relationship with only one partner.
I have learned since opening up, that the world I inhabit: one of relevance, kindness, awareness, patience, respect and candor will definitely let me in, so long as I adhere to those codes. It’s a simple law: you step outside the code, you experience harsher realities. You step back inside the code, you experience temperance again. It’s an exchange: you get what you give.
That sounds so trendy, “you get what you give” and so smug. That’s not at all the intention. It’s just a heavy comment delivered a cavalierly, but that’s the beauty of it. We can hear it and think it bounces off us… but it doesn’t. It sounds too close to “You Don’t Always Get What You Want” and then it starts to stick. Then, if we’re paying any attention to that, we start to think about what that line means and then if we’re at all mindful of or participating with that internal discussion going on, we start to see that yes, we do get what we need even though we might hate the heck out of it.
That “hating,” that “yuck” to me is the pay dirt, the moment of allowance when we can look back on the perceived crap of our lives or the things we got that we didn’t want, and see a pattern. We see disappointment, we see hurt, or loss, or think about the moment the “thing” happened or rather, was presented to us, and if we can… if we can just go there for a moment, if we can see it for more than a sucker punch (which leaves us feeling like a victim, which never works) we will see that it opens a door to our greater life, the one we are supposed to live which is all about being real.
This being real might look like we need to complain. No. To me, that’s not really all of it. It’s part of it, because when we are real, we express our imperfect vulnerability: our true reaction to happened.
It’s like the post I wrote last Saturday, about nostalgia and how I found my mother’s notebook and the comment in her handwriting, block letters in fact, about me being “a bad kid.” (Please click here for that post as context helps.)
I was looking for something totally different. I was looking for comments about me in a loving way; about something that showed I was more than a one-dimensional figure (which is how I felt a lot of the time) in her life; that I was more than a foe of her lifestyle and a dependent “ingrate” (which is something I was termed as well) who stood in the way between her and her peace.
What I got was something TOTALLY different. I know Mom would do her best to explain the notes. I know I would’t accept it. Because she is most definitely NOT here, I have to do that for myself. I have to grow up. I have to allow her to be real if I am going to allow myself to be real. Even if her “real” does not align with my “real.” Who am I to say what is right or wrong? Y’dig? (I think I finally do.)
How I reacted, because I’ve been a) in mourning for her and the death of a fantasy I’d held on to for years b) on this vulnerability and reality wagon for about nine years (yikes!) now was real. I could’ve shut down: I could’ve gotten cold, said “eff her” (which I did later on once I felt too vulnerable, I will admit that) and I could’ve just gone on by bootstrapping and taking off, but I didn’t. I looked at it, my head canted like a dog’s in fact, and I couldn’t really believe what I saw, yet I KNEW it was real and it was fair. I had to allow her to feel whatever she felt, if I am to allow myself to feel whatever I felt. There is no ONE WAY ONLY zone in relationship and vulnerability.
If I didn’t allow myself to feel that hurt and sadness, I would’ve stayed angry and righteous and totally disconnected from any manner of healing and I would’ve kept her as a one-dimensional figure in my life. I also don’t know if I’dve believed anything I read that was terribly loving either; when she wrote those things, she showed them to me… l laugh now in remembrance of it; she wanted to see that she was actively thinking I was not a bad kid.
It’s all shades of our childlike parameters of “good and bad.” Degrees would’ve been nice to introduce to it all, but I know as often as I thought she was a Bad Mother, I know that was totally unfair too. I mean: here I am! I made it. She had something to do with that, and I remember as I became a mother myself, she saw me as more than a pain-in-the-ass gestapo. But that was because I had to let her go. Ya can’t mother your mother and your children.
So we need to allow this vulnerability.
How? Try this:
Next time you’re offended or hurt, mention it. Take a deep breath, feel your feelings, think about the experience and the context and say out loud to the person or interaction (it could be solitary: I’ve bumped my head with no one around and I even cut my scalp from the injury and I said out loud, “SHIT! That hurt. That really hurt!” and the tears came and I started to feel better — just from that release!), “My feelings are hurt. I know we’re all busy and running around, but I just want to say that I wish that happened differently.” Done. Then the accountability exchange can begin, which fosters connection.
To Brown’s earlier quote though, about caution when disclosing this stuff with certain people, be prepared to duck from the flying debris. Sometimes people just can’t be bothered to let you in. That’s on them. Lesson learned.
Possible result: You’re going to be mocked for expressing your emotions or taking a chance on the whisper of someone else’s humanity? “Go for it, Universe! Show me how stupid I am for thinking Bipsy had a heartbeat.” That’s what I say. It’s crass, but I think it gets the message through.
Caveat: I’ve done all this and still gotten booted. It’s ok though because what ends up happening is that the support I receive from someone else eclipses any regret I had about sharing how I felt in the first place. Some people aren’t ready. That’s not your problem.
It’s OK to tip-toe or teaspoon through this stuff; listen to your intuition.
Allowing vulnerability does open the door to GREATER love, creativity*, courage, empathy and all the other noble gifts Brown mentions. Expressing our vulnerability requires that we come from ourselves first instead of using “You” language.
A conversation that starts with “You dick” seldom goes well.
We’re spiritual human beings, we are made of stars. We are not freakin’ robots which feel nothing and have no expectations and live on zeros and ones. We have physical limits, pain, joy, fears, courage… we just need to feel safe expressing those things and in so doing, we’re letting others posses the same. It’s a win-win.
Once we do all that, we get what we need and then the exchange begins: We get what we give.
*heck yeah — i’ve made more goofy cartoons to go with these posts than ever. i’m letting it all hang out.