so very worth creating

NOTE:
As a future health professional, I’m sharing this deeply personal post with intentionality. I’m sharing it for those who are, like me, spending a lot of time “lying facedown in the arena” and wondering whether it’s worth even bothering to stand up one more time. I’m sharing it as an antithesis to what Brené Brown calls “gold-plating grit,” or “embracing failure without acknowledging the real hurt and fear that it can cause,” instead getting into what the “toughness, doggedness, and perseverance” of true grit-in-progress look like for me these days.

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When I accepted my first salaried job offer about fifteen years ago, I rejoiced. I’d have steady money for food and shelter, and I’d have health and dental insurance, too!

Unfortunately, I didn’t accept only the work and its corresponding salary. In feeling more than in thought, I also accepted as truth that I’d have to reject whole parts of myself to fit into this new-to-me, normal-person world. I believed I’d have to hide Continue reading “so very worth creating”

not a (midlife) horror story

Early this month, an innocuous enough question from someone I respect set in motion an unraveling.

At the time, I didn’t realize it for what it was. It wasn’t, after all, delivered with a written announcement: “Congratulations! Your unraveling has officially begun!”

Rather, the question sat with me as I read and reflected early the next morning. I mulled it over as I wondered how it applied to other facets of my life, past and present. The question was prominent in my heart when I then read a Daring Greatly passage I’ve read many times before without once truly understanding it.

Finally, I understood, exclaiming, “Oh. Oh!” before weeping at words I’d only just come to know in my bones.

Since I first read all Brené Brown’s books a couple years ago, I’ve spent a lot of time doing what Brown calls “rumbling.”

As Brown explains the concept in Dare to Lead, a rumble is—among other things—“a discussion, conversation, or meeting defined by a commitment to lean into vulnerability, to stay curious and generous, [and] to stick with the messy middle of problem identification and solving.” While there’s more to her definition, this is the part that applies to rumbling with myself.

A week and a half (and so, so very much rumbling) after being asked that seemingly innocuous question, I found myself thinking, “Man, this is just not like my other rumbles. What is even happening here? What am I missing? What else am I supposed to be learning in this rumble?”

Something about the way I framed these questions nudged me toward the answer. Wait, I wondered, Is this my midlife unraveling in process? Is this what Brown was writing about?!

I googled “brene brown midlife unraveling” and found this post. With every word I read, I grew lighter of heart:

At long last, the set of patterned responses I’d always thought was me was unraveling,

opening the possibility of my becoming truly me.

The sense of possibility was thrilling, for about a half a day. I was finally clearing out the crap, hurrah! After it was cleared, the sky would be the limit!

Anything at all was possible …

Except:

What looks like a universe of possibilities from one angle looks—and feels—very much like an absence of anything whatsoever to hold on to, from many other angles.

(Crap!)

The last couple of weeks, I have been doing the best I can. I have been living in simultaneous gratitude for much possibility and exhaustion from attempting to navigate the world without all my old tools crutches.

I’ve been reading furiously and trying to find short-term fixes to get me through to long-term mendings. I’ve plucked potential answers from the ether, crossed my fingers, and plowed forth as best I could.

Once or twice so far, this has worked out okay from the get-go. The rest of the time, it’s worked out not so great—which, thankfully, is itself useful: “Welp, I still don’t know what the answer is, but I know it’s definitely not that!”

This is, how do you say? Oh, yes:

A start.

One of my many recent rumblings has been about boundaries.

What’s OK with me? What’s not OK with me? How do I identify this with clarity such that I can communicate it early, and kindly?

Growing up in profound, sustained violence, I honestly wasn’t aware such things as “boundaries” existed. Even when, late into college, I did start interacting with people who did this super-puzzling thing where they asked me what I thought and then actually acted in ways that showed they genuinely heard me, I had no idea what I was experiencing.

What was it they did that was so weird and wonderful? What was this thing where they treated me like … I was worthy, even when I disagreed with them? Like I was worthy, period?

As I rumble with boundaries as part of this simultaneous unraveling and building-anew, analogies are especially useful tools. I’m trying on and discarding instructional analogies several times daily, seeing what rings true to me heart-wise and discarding the rest.

Unfortunately, sometimes analogies that feel really spot-on one moment fall apart the next.

Fortunately, from a perspective of leaning into discomfort, there really is something to learn in it all.

Middle of last week, I both locked in and acted upon a not-quite-right analogy. While I owe some related apologies, I’m not beating myself up. I very much needed to meander through that analogy to find the one that really worked.

The one that made me go, “Oh. Oh!” and feel an overwhelming sense of resonance-imbued relief:

In my analogy, I’d found a foundation on which I could build,

the possibility from which so many others may flow.

When I first read Brown’s insights on the midlife unraveling, it all sounded like a horror story to me. While some part of me was clear that she didn’t mean it as only a horror story, the non-horror elements simply did not register for me.

Now, I think upon that innocuous early October question that helped really kick off my midlife unraveling and am profoundly grateful.

This is hard, and it is harrowing, but it is not a horror story;
it is a story of wonder, and curiosity, and courage;
it is a story of faith, and exploration;
it is a leaning into possibilities, and
deciding which ones are worth
trying to transform
into actualities.

the possibility of healing

Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: “Who has earned the right to hear my story?” If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky.
— Brené Brown

Recently, I have worked to become ever more sparing about what and how I share. I’ve arguably over-corrected, failing to share specific concerns when doing so would actually have been wise.

I’ve known for several days that there’s something important for me to share here, but I haven’t been able to find the right, actually shareable words. I’ve tried getting at the “something” in a few draft posts, only to wordily wander far and wide, not to mention deep into narrowly-shareable territory.

I have learned so, so many things in the last few months of “rumbling” toward understanding. But as I reflect today on all I’ve learned, only a fraction of which I can yet match with appropriate words, I find that my key learning so far is this: Continue reading “the possibility of healing”

Choosing Comforts Wisely

On Sunday evening, inspired by an afternoon chat with my husband, I re-watched an eye-opening Brené Brown video. The first time I watched it, I mainly absorbed its core message on “Why Your Critics Aren’t the Ones Who Count.” This time, I locked on a specific nuance.

At about 16:40 in the video, Brown says that “clarity of values” is necessary for anyone committed to living in the arena. She names courage as one of her values, and says, “If courage is my value, I have to do this. Whether it’s successful or not is irrelevant.” 

This got me wondering how Brown identified courage as one of her values. Even more so, I wondered how on Earth I could identify mine.

I searched “Brené Brown finding values.” I found her list of values, but wasn’t sure what to do with them. I read folks’ examples elsewhere and got an idea how to proceed. 

First I wrote down every value that resonated deeply with me. I thought the list would be huge, but I captured fewer than a dozen words.

After I had the full list in view, a few clearly resonated less intensely than others: Continue reading “Choosing Comforts Wisely”

Dragoning Greatly: An Introduction

I wrote my first blog post in June 1995. From the very first email response I received, I was hooked. I’d been heard! That could actually happen: I could be heard.

Online, I could be appear more than the broken teenager I was offline.

That was so powerful. Unfortunately, it was also setup for a lot of unhealthy behaviors.

A couple months ago, I fully and finally saw just how unhealthy my relationship with blogging had become. I deleted my existing blogs and began learning how to simply sit with myself, my thoughts, and my feelings. This, too, was powerful.

At first, it was only painful. It might have remained that way, but for one thing: In this quiet place, I found the works of vulnerability and shame researcher Brené Brown.

A friend had recommended Brown’s Daring Greatly several years ago. I’d bought a copy, read the preface, and … didn’t relate at all. As far as I was then concerned, I was already daring greatly.

About a month ago, my primary care provider recommended Brown’s Netflix special. I said I’d consider checking it out. I thought, Yeah, I already tried Brown. Not my thing. In fact, I just sold back my copy of her book a couple weeks ago!

On a whim, I did end up starting Brown’s special. Within moments, I was transfixed–laughing, choking back tears, and celebrating the fact Brown’s out there doing what she’s doing.

I wasn’t exactly sure what she was doing that was so foreign and new, but that was okay. I was just glad she was doing it.

Since then, I’ve discovered Daring Greatly was only one of Brown’s books. I’ve read all save one of them, and am halfway through the last–her latest, Dare to Lead.

I didn’t intend to ever again have any kind of personal site, but I’m inspired by Brown. What I do today doesn’t have to be like what I did yesterday. In fact, it couldn’t be, with all I’ve recently learned from Brown and my many other teachers, both global and local. Continue reading “Dragoning Greatly: An Introduction”