Something new is happening.
I am feeling more joy than dread this week. I think it has something to do with careful exposure. I am starting to share my struggles in a way that does not ask for pity or even understanding but in a way that says: “This is me and I’m totally cool with how deeply flawed I am. Nice to meet you.”
During my senior year of high school, my classmates and I were asked by a teacher to develop a social support system of at least five people so that we wouldn’t be a monumental drain on just one person. She used the visual aid of a large pie. The pie represented our vulnerabilities, our problems, or those things we needed to get off our chests. She explained that we would need to share our pie with a variety of supportive others and not just one. We were supposed to list at least five supportive people then divvy up the pie according to how much each person had to consume our problems. The big idea was that the whole pie would be much too much for one person to consume. (Even just half would be a sickening amount). We needed to divide it up relatively evenly – but not perfectly into at least five slices. I now call this the “Pie of Consternation”. One girl listed five people she felt she could go to when life got hard. This is how she served up her woes:
I think I had just two trusted others and had no problem heavily laying my grief on them but this was not the kind of truth I am seeking today. Complaining (or venting) about life can feel great with sympathetic or co-signing friends but it is easy to remain dishonest by revealing only those things that paint you in a good light. So although the pie exercise was illuminating and held much value, it did not completely teach me how to be honest about what made me human. What I needed to learn is that no one is perfect. So many will do everything in their power to display flawlessness in their work and in their personal lives but all this serves to do is make them untouchable; unrelatable. We become more lonely when we can’t make connections with others who deal with the same hard experiences and feelings. What happened for me was a complete lock-down on self-acceptance. How come I couldn’t be like those who seemed to have it all together?
In order to help others who might also feel inadequate in comparison to others, I endeavor to begin carefully revealing my struggles with the goal of greater self-acceptance. It seems all the other “magic pills” I had tried have not worked. No matter how many self-help books I consulted, no matter the latest technique I tried in order to rid myself of low self-worth, I was still mortifyingly, inadequately me and I wanted nothing to do with that “me”. (That’s not completely true, I have one more technique to evaluate: EMDR. I am currently seeing a therapist who specializes in this therapy that has been used to help traumatized children and adults reprocess past experiences that led to present roadblocks. I’ll let you know how that works. I’m optimistic!)
Getting real has been a key point that keeps coming up as I explore recovery from childhood trauma. The work of Brene Brown and her “Power of Vulnerability” TED talk, as well as her books and interviews, helped get me here. The contributions of Glennon Doyle on the topic of telling the truth in the face of emotional risk and exposure moved me albeit tentatively toward this new attitude: Careful sharing. It requires a keen awareness of who and when to let others know you.
The kick-off to my budding commitment to the truth had to be what happened about three years ago after I read Jeanette Wall’s masterpiece, The Glass Castle. My journey to discover what truth-telling could do took hold but it wasn’t until last week that I aspired to shed my shame by revealing my fears, my painful childhood experiences, and my perceived inadequacies.
There is an unknown trail ahead of me. I really don’t know what obstructions may lie there (rejection, humiliation, loss of friends?) but I do know that I am experiencing a certain sense of optimism now. In this present climate of unfiltered being, I am free and open to sharing in the realness of those other close friends who share their unfavorable moments. Where previously a week could not pass without a feeling of dread of some imagined trouble, I now have a free-floating sense of gladness.