I had a date night with myself last night. I took myself to go hear Brene Brown speak. The queen of all things vulnerability. I was excited because vulnerability has been making a huge appearance in my own life and the lives of my clients.
Last year when I was in the middle of the Arizona desert towards the end of a transformative three-month road trip, I made a pact with myself and the Universe. I promised to "walk straight into the fires of my fears." I knew without a doubt that the next step in my personal practice was in the arena of fear. Fears were still quietly lurking around many corners of my life and it was time to call them out. Not quite a year later, I'm still keeping my promise to myself. Sometimes facing my fears comes with ease, sometimes it feels a bit more like the Universe has shoved me out onto a stage in front of a crowded audience with no preparation and told me to speak for three hours on a subject I know nothing about. The magic is that when I keep my tenacious energy to keep my promise to myself, even in the "shoving" moments, I always make it to the other side with more clarity.
So back to last night. Me...Brene...vulnerability. The message I took for myself was that the Universe was urging me to be even MORE vulnerable, even MORE courageous than ever before. And the last 48 hours feels like an introduction to precisely that.
I ran into a lovely woman who was on the retreat I co-led last weekend and we chatted about the talk as we walked to the metro. When she asked me why I came to Brene's talk. My answer was one word...vulnerability...well two...vulnerability and fear! I had been working a lot with fear in my own life and the lives of my clients. She was surprised by my answer, not expecting fear to be a challenge for me. It got me thinking on the way home the number of times I've had a story in my mind that when someone makes something look easy, it must be. The truth is that any amount of ease takes practice. For me. For anyone. And the tenacious commitment I have to walking through fear is the same tenacious commitment I have in my own life to choose joy over, and over, and over again. It takes constant practice. With each day its more practice, it's more curiosity, there are more fears to uncover, more opportunities for vulnerability, moments I'm still not choosing joy, and most of all, endless opportunities for me to learn. And I realized that its important to be even more vulnerable with my clients, my students, than ever before about the work that goes into that practice. About the moments I stumble and the ways I pick myself back up. Because that is precisely what I love most about Brene.
Brene spoke about the stories we tell ourselves. My face lit up. Story has been at the center of my own life. The center of where I can either trap or free myself. In her new book Rising Strong she calls our immediate emotional story in a situation where we feel threatened the "Shitty First Draft" (SFD). I laughed loudly when I heard her describe the concept because my mind always has some pretty "shitty first drafts" of stories. You know those moments when your mind takes the voids of information, promptly fills them with made up information, puts the storyline in a nice box, and ties a pretty bow around it as if this beautiful package is full of only truth? Ha! Yeah! Those moments. Those stories. That typically include very little of the truth.
Let me give you an example. Yesterday in the wee hours of the morning and the last moments of Wednesday evening, I had a long awaited phone conversation with someone I care about deeply. This is someone I've been on and off romantically with for months. And earlier last month I finally told them that I loved them. I took the giant leap of being the first one to say it. Their response was absolutely not what I expected. In the process they shared that they had concluded that we were not compatible long-term. I felt rejected. I felt not good enough. And then my mind proceeded to write a SFD about the situation that included that I wasn't good enough, that I wasn't smart enough, beautiful enough, even enough of a woman for this person. That this person didn't care about me and that their silence was precisely because of that. The not good enough, the not caring.
The truth is life is grey. My mind loves black and white..clarity. But I always learn over and over again that life is grey. Always. Because I have a good deal of practice with my SFDs in my life, I know very well that the SFD about not being good enough and that this person didn't care was just not true. So I did the most vulnerable thing I could do. I picked up the phone and I started sharing the stories of my mind with them. I shared the expectation story my mind had written that this person would drop everything to drive up to see me and tell me how much they loved me and that they couldn't live another day without me. I acknowledged that I was hurt because of the stories I had created in my mind. The fairy tale story and the SFD not good enough story. It felt good to bear my soul in a way like never before. And then something beautiful happened. They were vulnerable back and shared some of their stories. They shared how they hadn't called because they thought I must hate them after everything that had happened. While their story told them I hated them and they didn't call, my story told me they didn't call precisely because they didn't care. The story on both sides stopped us from connecting when the only thing we both wanted to do was precisely that...connect.
Yesterday the Universe invited me to step into more vulnerability and muster more courage than ever before. First with the courageous and vulnerable phone call, then with the talk by Brene. With the year anniversary coming upon me of the three month road trip pilgrimage I took last Fall, I'm ready to make a new pact with myself and the Universe not in the desert of Arizona, but in the quiet of my apartment with Spotify playing in the background. A pact to continue to truth test the stories my mind tells me. To share the stories I tell myself to the people they are written about. And to keep walking into the fire of my fears. And most of all to stand in the potent combination of vulnerability and courage to live my bravest life yet. In the process, I'm making a pact to empower my clients to do precisely the same. One of the ways I'm doing precisely that is through my eight-week Choose Joy Program launching next month. I'd love for you to join me and the other courageous souls ready to foster more joy in our lives. Until then, here's to a life ahead with even more vulnerability, courage, and bravery. And most of all...more of the most beautiful result of it all...joy.