Dear Jeff Brown,
You are the hero of the day. Did you write this (below) knowing that SO many people would feel like it was written specifically for them?
“I know we often want it all happy and positive, but that’s just not where much of humanity is. Many of us are overwhelmed with pain, undigested sadness, unexpressed anger, unseen truths. This is where we are at, as a collective. So we have two choices. We can continue to pretend it’s not there, shame and shun it in ourselves and others, distract and detach whenever possible. Or we can face it heart-on, own it within ourselves, look for it in others with compassion, create a culture that is focused on authenticity and healthy emotional release. If we continue to push it all down, we are both creating illness and delaying our collective expansion. But if we can just own the shadow, express it, release it, love each other through it, we can finally graduate from the School of Heart Knocks and begin to enjoy this magnificent life as we were intended. Pretending the pain isn’t there just embeds it further. Let’s illuminate it instead.”
~ JEFF BROWN
When I read these words on Jeff Brown’s Facebook page today, they hit me hard. Everything in me wanted to share it.
Maybe it sounds geeky and hippity-dippity, but I have ‘rules’ for my Facebook ‘shares.’ I ask myself:
– Will this somehow make the world/someone’s life better?
– Will this help to forge deeper connections within the self and/or with others?
– Will this make people laugh (for all the right reasons)?
– Will this inspire people to be more honestly connected to their own humanity and the humanity of others?
If the answer is ‘YES’ to any of those questions, I’ll share the nugget.
When I witness what I did today — an instant surge of online connectivity simply through identifying with a powerfully worded & universally shared sentiment, an outpouring of honesty that says ‘I GET this’ — I know that “The General We” have touched on something huge and human.
Moments like that just can’t be swept under the rug and traded in for the newest funny cat video (oooh, I love those too…)
Let’s be honest: we’re not ones to share much less than our ‘best selves’ on social media. We have all done this, and we will continue to do it because, if you think about it, it has a really stunning way of showing us the overarching highlights of our life — the things that we’ll remember (and will want to remember) at the end of the day. Plus, it makes us look like we have perma-happy lives or are full of really unique ideas, which, for some reason, is really important to us. 😉
We do this in real life too. How many of you have been asked that all too common question “How are you?” and have answered with, “I’m a lost, god-forsaken, blubbering piece of mess and I have no clue how to get untangled.”
Yeeeeeah, probably not many, and if you did, the person who expected you to reply with sunshine and rainbows oozing out of your pores was most likely flabbergasted.
How many of you have said you’re “good!” “fine!” “great!” and the perennial favourite, “really busy!”??
(Remember, I say this, because I am guilty of ALL of this.)
In a recent friendship-as-mutual-therapy conversation with a dear friend, I saw how those of us who strive to show our ‘shiniest selves’ as much as possible have a very hard time when we fall short of our own expectations of being, well, shiny. Even worse, when we fail to show anything less than that shiny side to others, we feel like we’ve let everyone down.
What happens when the ‘shiny, happy, steady people’ feel tarnished? Worn out? Confused?
‘WAIT’ by Vancouver artist Kelly Clarke.
In sharing our less-than-perfect moments, opening up our own vulnerabilities and truly hearing the vulnerabilities of others, something amazing happens:
The inspiring Brené Brown has devoted years of her life studying vulnerability, but it never ceases to amaze me how real this idea is until I see it come to life right in front of me.
When we share our imperfections, what we perceive as our ‘failures’ or ‘shortcomings,’ we create the space for the most honest form of human connection.
Now, I’ll admit I’m pretty new to the process of living compared to, say, a centenarian who went through world wars. At the end of the day, my life could be touted as being fairly uncomplicated and not nearly as riddled with past deviance as the guy smoking the joint at the bus stop admitted to me today. (Such a nice guy! That’s another story for another time.)
The thing is, I’ve felt old since I was a kid. My 8 or 9 year old self was VERY much looking forward to being in the vicinity of my current age one day, and in this particular phase of life.
Case in point, my childhood best friend and I (we are still friends to this day, which is a true gift) didn’t play ‘House…’
We played ‘Mothers.’
Yup, two 10 year old girls pretending to be happily married to our respective ‘husbands,’ then spontaneously pregnant and contentedly rubbing our bellies, then giving birth to our plastic dolls, and once that was done, having ‘coffee’ together as we rocked our respective babies in our hand-me-down Snuglis (once inhabited by us as infants) or child-sized doll carriages.
At age 8 or 9, with our childhood games of being a wife and a potential mother aside, I wouldn’t have anticipated that my vulnerable, ’emotional’ moments at age 31 would feel not too far off from that of, oh, a 9-year old.
This weekend, my husband and I went over to my in-laws’ place for dinner. On the way over, I acknowledged that I was feeling a healthy combination of tired, borderline anti-social, mellow and just not quite up to snuff. (I love people to bits but I’ve gotta start owning my Introversion!) We had barely been in the front door not more than 60 seconds when I broke down, and let’s face it, there’s no graceful way of breaking down…
Why the insta-tears?
Well, it was because my mother-in-law eagerly suggested that we should pop across the cul-de-sac to meet the sweet little 3-year old girls that live across the way.
In the most polite way I could muster, I lost it. The way I dissolved was as if I had been asked to take care of newborn sextuplets with explosive diarreah on the eve of the apocalypse. And you know what I said? (Here’s the kicker.)
“Sometimes, I just need to not meet new people.”
Great, I thought, so now on top of coming a bit unglued, I am being unfriendly AND unwilling to meet new people…who are 3 YEARS OLD. We used to play MOTHERS!! I LOVE KIDS!
I may have felt for a split-second that I was showing ‘weakness,’ but I knew in my heart that I was 100% being true to EXACTLY where I was in THAT particular moment. Not everyone is comfortable with breaking down in front of their family — this wasn’t a cushy moment, and this wasn’t even the first time I’d ever cried in front of my in-laws! I took myself for a long walk and reminded myself to detach from the mental process of why I was feeling the way I felt. Instead, I shifted my focus to all the messy, vivid sensations of how utterly uncomfortable and undeniably right it had felt to ‘come apart’ the way I had — not the story of “Why” 20 minutes ago or 5 years in the future, but the realness of what was running through me NOW. In reality, I knew that I hadn’t come apart. I was claiming my honest feelings in order to become more whole. Who I was in that moment may have looked less than shiny, but I had been, and was being, totally and utterly true to myself, tears and all.
What I am grateful for now, 3 days later, is that instead of being flabbergasted at this unexpected unravelling, my mother-in-law hugged me, followed by my father-in-law… then my husband hugged me and kissed me on the forehead. They all met my feelings with compassion and promptly scooted me out the door for nature therapy.
No one made me go meet the 3 year olds that day, even though I am sure they are adorable beyond measure. Instead, I sat and stared at the subtle shifts of the clouds that hovered in the bright, blue Sunday sky, and felt the sun wash over me.
They say ‘in every life a little rain must fall.’ Sometimes, it’s a deluge, and not even a sunny day is immune to a downpour.
Where I live, we like to talk about the weather. So in meteorological terms, here it is:
Even the shiniest of people need these clouds. We need these clouds to break wide open to even begin the process of getting a piece of our sunshine back. No cloud ever withholds the rain. And if those you love can see YOU clearly through all forms of weather, then, by golly, it’s your lucky day.