For awhile after listening to Brené Brown talk about how we make true connections by sharing our vulnerabilities, I wore this crown of pride around thinking: THIS IS WHY I HAVE SO MANY GOOD FRIENDS NOW! Because I’m so open about my vulnerabilities on the interwebs and it allows me to make richer connections! I would look at the friendships I’ve made over the last decade, both in the real world and over the internet, and I would proudly carry the weight of success like it somehow was something that belonged just to me.
This was/is often validated by how my people would say, “It’s so amazing how open you are about everything in your life! I wish I could be like that!” I would look around and the rich friendships I have and think, “Yeah! I did that!”
And don’t get me wrong, there is some truth and some connection to my ability to make friends now and living my best true self online and offline, but I’ve realized lately that I’m not the one who deserves to wear the crown. It’s the people who have approached me with similar vulnerabilities. What I’m doing does not take a lot of bravery. Once you’ve done it a few times, it doesn’t take a lot of new bravery to write about personal shit online. Once you’ve jumped over that hurdle once or twice, the rest of them are easy. It’s the person approaching me with a shared story that is brave.
Not only does it not take any real effort anymore, but writing a Facebook status about needing a therapist is not really “being vulnerable” like I used to think it was. Because I’m not exposing that underbelly to anyone in particular and waiting to see if they react. I’m just rolling over with a blindfold on and some people come over and sit with me and others abandon me and some don’t even see me but truthfully…I don’t ever see who does which.
But then someone comes up to me at a big social function and says, “That thing you wrote about being Pro-Choice the other day? I really appreciate that. I can’t be really open about my thoughts on Facebook because of my job but I just want to you know I feel the same way.”
THAT is the person who deserves to wear the crown. THAT is the person who looked me in the eye and shared their vulnerability not really knowing how I’d accept it. There’s not a lot of risk to writing online about anxiety and depression and issues around low self-image or insecurities about parenting. I mean…it’s a little brave. But really the bravery comes with the people that send me emails or leave me blog comments or tweet me responses that say, “Me too. Here is my story.”
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, not to reduce the pride I feel in being so open about my “issues” so to speak, but to be more honest how it has helped me build relationships because shouting into the void doesn’t do it alone…it’s the next step…the people who respond in kind and more importantly…ONE ON ONE…that creates the relationships. Me just being open about leaving the church is not enough to build a strong relationship with someone. It takes that other person text me, or sending me an email, or meeting me for coffee and saying, “I left the church too…”
THAT is what the key is to the relationship building that can happen around shared vulnerabilities. And those are the connections that help me feel less alone in this world.
I’m not great about replying to people in general. I live in this scattered brain that is constantly bouncing around and struggling to stay focused and so when I get some sort of digital communication, especially if I notice it on my phone and not my laptop, I read it and then never remember to respond. And it’s not like I don’t think of it often. There are some comments I’ve gotten on this blog and some tweets and instagram messages that I carry in my heart for years but I couldn’t really tell you if I ever got around to thanking that person. People have shown me great kindnesses in person, the kind that warm my heart when they pop into my memories on really sad days, but I don’t know if they know how important of a part they play in my box of sunlight that I open on the dark days.
I’m trying to be better. Well, I’ve been trying to be better for a long time but I definitely feel like I’m trying more lately. When my aunt went into hospice care several months ago I started thinking a lot about how she might die without knowing the place she held in my heart, and so I took the time to write her a letter to tell her. And ever since then I’ve been trying to figure out some method of checklists or something to help me make sure people know how grateful they are for everything from short messages of support to long decades of friendship.
A year or two ago I tried to start a master list and that backfired and was so intimidating I just never did ANY sort of recognition. Now, what I’m really trying to do is – when someone pops into my mind or some sort of surge of gratitude fills my heart for someone – I try to sit down to do something about it. Send a text, write a letter, something IN THAT MOMENT while I’m thinking about them.
But jeezus…again…I AM SO SCATTERED that I’ll literally sit down and do that and end up paying bills instead. Or seeing my book on my table and thinking, “Let me just read for a few minutes.” Hell…as I was writing that last paragraph I remembered: OH! I need to ask that friend for their address! So I clicked over to FB message them and then got distracted by my notifications and then came BACK to this entry after looking at my notifications and NEVER EVEN GOT THE GIRL’S ADDRESS.
Anyway…my point of all of this is I find myself reflecting more and more on the light in my life that is thanks to the way other people have responded to me and wishing I could do more to show my gratitude to each and every soul that has made me feel a little less insecure. I still walk through the world assuming I have nothing of worth to give many days, but I’m trying to speak to myself with love and a lot of that involves incorporating gratitude into my natural patterns of thought.
On that note…thank you for being here. Thank you for commenting. Thank you for emailing. That you for just reading. Every time I have to deal with the technical side of this blog (like the move) I wonder if there’s any point in any of it. Am I just writing to the void? But then I remember all of the useful links and book recommendations and shared stories and words of support and I remember…OH YEAH. This place has helped me feel less alone and even if I can’t write about everything that is going on in my life right now (it’s a lot, y’all) I write about a lot of it and I’m so grateful so many of you reach out to pat me on the back or hold my hand when I need it.