I’ve been reading Brené Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection and it is undoing me. People warned me this would happen, which in all honesty, is why it’s taken me so long to pick it up. I knew it was going to require some energy. But when a group of women from my church decided to embark on this journey together, hungry for community, I enlisted. Four weeks in, Brené’s concepts surrounding shame, vulnerability, courage, compassion, and connection are already challenging the way I both think and live.
One morning last week, I woke up feeling unusually homesick and, oddly enough, craving a road trip. This was strange to me because with the chronic pain I battle, road trips have become a much bigger challenge for me than they used to be.
Then I realized, March was the month I always used to hop in my car for spring break and drive to Montana to visit my favorite grandparents and other relatives. March is also the month that my grandpa unexpectedly passed away four years ago. And five years ago this April, I came out to my family and as a result, lost everything.
Suddenly, my feelings of homesickness and desire for familiarity and belonging made sense. This time of year holds a lot of pain for me. Whether I’m consciously aware of it or not, my soul remembers. Awareness of my triggers always helps me process them, but that doesn’t necessarily make the process any easier.
It was with that realization that I then realized something else: I suck at being vulnerable. I didn’t want to admit to anyone that I woke up with tears in my eyes that morning, nor did I want to admit that I felt homesick. It felt weak, like I was somehow revealing my nakedness. But deep inside, I longed for the arms of a Mama Bear to wrap me up and let me cry on her shoulder. Yet I struggled all day to reach out.
Being guarded is ingrained in me. The evangelical church taught me to wear a façade and appear like I had it all together, even when I didn’t. My family stressed the importance of reputation and maintaining appearances, which gave me no place to talk about the real things of my heart. And life experience taught me to be careful who you trust, causing me to rarely expose my weaknesses, struggles, and shortcomings for fear of being disowned, betrayed, abandoned, or labeled a failure. So the reality is, I’ve learned to protect myself and my heart.
But according to Brené Brown, that is not wholehearted living. Deep inside I know it. I’ve always longed for more and craved authentic connection with others–a place to belong and be fully myself. Granted, moving to Denver after coming out five years ago brought me closer to that than I’ve ever been, allowing me to finally feel at home in my own skin and belong in the community of my home church. But still, I long for more. I long for a deeper and more authentic connection with people.
First, it was hard for me to admit that I still regularly dream about my family because when I do, my day often starts with tears.
It was hard for me to say that I’m homesick. I often default to saying I miss specific events rather than specific people because it’s easier, or at least, less painful. In all honesty, I wrestle with what it means to miss people who have hurt me so deeply, as if it were something I shouldn’t experience. I suppose you can both miss someone and not be sure you want them back at the same time. But regardless, it hurts and feels complicated.
It was hard for me to acknowledge that a dream I couldn’t remember affected me all day, not because of the dream itself, but because of the memories, loss, and sadness it caused to surface.
I did finally reach out to a Mama Bear…sort of. I sent a text at about 7pm that night after sadness accompanied me all day. Yes, I suck at being vulnerable. But I’m trying. I want to live wholeheartedly with enough courage to call a Mama Bear at 7am, not text her at 7pm. I want to be vulnerable and let people see all parts of me. I want to not be afraid to admit that I’m hurting. I want to live authentically, and hope that as a result, I find the true connection and belonging that my heart seeks.
If you need to be undone, join me in reading The Gifts of Imperfection. It will challenge your soul, and perhaps we can learn and grow in authenticity together.
P.S. In effort to continue being vulnerable, I admit that I was horrified when I saw that my blog last week did not generate in “perfect” format. While it was formatted correctly on my website, the email that went out to my subscribers was not. The problem has since been resolved with my apologies. Alas, I am human after all.