I continue to percolate on Brene Brown’s wisdom and process in Rising Strong. Her premise is that the “story” we tell ourselves about ourselves needs to be written in order to create a different ending. And it is the stories of our lives – especially the stories of our falls – that make us who we are. By denying or hiding or minimizing our stories, we become less authentic.
I suppose that authenticity may not be a goal for everyone, but it is certainly a goal for me. I spent so much of my life trying to figure out who I was “supposed” to be as a wife, a daughter, a friend, an employee and even as a child of God. It was a horrible dilemma. I never could find the manual so I was constantly searching in people’s eyes and words for the answers. Instead of making authentic connections, I was trying to determine if I was acceptable, and if not, what I needed to do to be acceptable. It was exhausting and very, very lonely.
Brown calls the act of digging into our emotions and our story “the rumble”. The biggest rumble of my life so far – and I expect there will be more – took place after my second divorce. I had gone to counseling before and had worked on my addictions for many, many years. It helped a little, but I obviously was still not functioning well enough to run my own life in a way that was supportive to my spirit. My armor was so solid that it took the blinding emotional pain of divorce and a complete wreckage of my life to give me the motivation to really look inside. I never wanted a real rumble. Who wants to go through that? I found myself in a place where my armor was hurting me more than protecting me. I literally could not move forward and could not budge backwards an inch. The rumble was all I had left.
I don’t know how to describe how I felt at that time. The grief was debilitating, but I’d had grief before. It was almost like my life force had dwindled to a mere drip. I literally could not move beyond what I had to do that minute. Some days all I could do was cry. Other days I functioned fine. But I had no desire to make plans. All I wanted to do was throw myself into the curiosity that had grabbed me about who I was and how I ended up in this place once again. All of the authors I was reading and my spiritual guides were saying that I needed to really be present and open to this process in order to stop these patterns that were crippling my enjoyment and effectiveness in life. It was a sacred time.
The whole premise of Rising Strong is that we have to change the story. But, in order to change the ending, we have to rumble with story to understand the truth. I had to look at my tendency toward perfectionism. I’m not the typical perfectionist who wants my work to be perfect and who kills themselves for their “products” to be perfect. I was the kind that wanted you to think I didn’t have issues. I wanted to be “all together”. And, honestly, people always told me that I seemed like I had it all together. But, they usually told me that after I fell apart in front of them, and they were shocked that I was a mess inside. I always felt embarrassed about that, but what I now realize is they were probably very happy to see that I was just like them. I was just too afraid to get that close. My perfectionism kept me in relationship with people that couldn’t be real and prevented me from real, authentic connection.
I wish that perfectionism was my only rumble, but I realized so much about myself during that time. I rumbled about issues around intimacy, my lack of boundaries and my inability to set them, my belief that I was unlovable and a host of other things. I was so supported. What I found out was that most everybody dealt with these things, but only a small percent of courageous souls will actually take on the rumble. Most want to numb out or lead half-lives or double lives in quiet desperation. I just didn’t want to do that anymore.
When I was in the midst of the rumble, I thought that would be my life. It was very hard. It was time-consuming. It was expensive with therapists and workshops. But after a time, the rumble stopped being my life. And my life got better. Brown hadn’t written Rising Strong, and I didn’t have a process. Re-writing my story happened in bits and pieces and with individuals, but my most powerful part of the process was when I started this blog. One of my main motivators was that I wanted to continue to rumble with my perfectionism. I wanted the people I knew to know the real me. I didn’t want to sugarcoat it, and I knew that it was hard for me to do that with the short times that we could spend together. I knew that telling my story in a blog for everyone to see would push on every button I had. And I was ready to strip away the facade and see what would happen
There are times when the rumble with my perfectionism has been painful, and I’ve truthfully felt shame after some blog posts. But I’ve never taken one down. I used blogging as a spiritual practice, and my blog is sacred space for my own work in being authentic. It has been powerful for me in that way. But I’ve been most surprised by the power of writing itself. I’ve always heard that writing will help bring closure. That first year of blogging I slammed doors shut all year long. I wrote my story. I re-wrote my story with the power of hindsight. It was profound, and it literally changed my life.
Today, I blog more about my daily life than I do my past. I’m not rumbling so much with past anymore. My fear about rumbling being my life was unfounded. The rumble was and is worth it. I am at peace with who I am today. I know my boundaries, and I set them. My relationships are real and authentic. Surprisingly, I have many more friends than I ever had before. I thought I would have less, but boundaries help me be cleaner with the people in my life. And if we don’t mesh, the connection dissipates rather quickly. I still rumble on occasion, but the process is just how I “do life”.
Brown’s book is helping me define my process a little more. Rising Strong outlines a process for something that is inherently messy and hard. It gives me structure and a language that makes sense. And I just love the fact that her books are becoming mainstream. I dream of a world where we all rumble with ourselves instead of each other. If we could do that, we could all rise strong – as individuals, as a culture and as a world.