Welcome to Day 2 of my new series, “30 Days of Brené Brown” wherein I will take the top 30 quotes as determined by Goodreads. Who is Brené Brown you ask? She is a research professor at the University of Houston, author of several books on emotional health and authenticity and all-around bad-ass when it comes to shame and vulnerability research. But more importantly, she is my “if you could have dinner / evening out with anyone you don’t know who would it be…” -person. Go here to learn more about her. In each post I will try to limit myself to 1,200 words.
Today’s quote… ahh, if it were that simple. Somehow, today’s quote is three excerpts. I will share them as they are and write briefly (God willing) about each one.
Here we go. Inhale:
We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.
I can say yes to this. I know that when I let my guard down and when I release my deepest fears either on the internet in this blog or in person to a … person, that I feel better even though I’m wincing for a lashback. (Is that a word?) ahh, backlash. Anyway… Brené actually had a wonderful image on her facebook page about the recoil she would feel from oversharing. I’ll go look for it. Hang on… Here it is:
Isn’t it great? I get that feeling, I know that feeling and I often exist in that feeling: walking jell-o. Just this past weekend, Thanksgiving, I’m pretty sure I walked around and into things with that lampshade on my head. I have a member of my family who is very much in touch with who s/he is and another member who I believe literally Can’t Stand It when other people are. I know this is all about that person and its attendant vulnerability fears.
When my mom died (recently, for those who are new here — just on Labor Day — and I’ve written plenty about it, just enter “grief:” in the search field to the right), I knew who would rise to the occasion and who wouldn’t. It was not a contest, but I knew that all the work I’d done for the last decade about looking inward, learning who I was, being ok with who I wasn’t and trying desperately EVERY DAY to be as authentic as possible would enable me to be real with the reality: Mom was dead and she wasn’t coming back and arrangements had to be made. Being that open with myself helped me be with others who were able to help me. It’s that simple.
I also have to be careful: I feel myself dialing back from people a bit these days. I learned at a young age to not rely on my mom so much. If when you’re a kid you determine you can’t rely on your mom, you basically end up trusting no one… I see that’s how I’ve become recently. I’m kind to others but don’t get too close these days. I think it’s a reaction from her death. I feel myself pulling back from things and people… calcifying a bit. Hmm. I suspect I’m not honoring the spiritual connection that grows from offering my trust. I know it’s trust. I think it will come back in a bit; I’m just feeling a bit tender and protective is all.
Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.
You can’t give what you don’t have.
“You can’t get candy from a hardware store.” My cousin told me this about six years ago when we were talking about family and our similarities and shared chaoseses…es. Turns out she’s wrong though — I was just at an ACE-True Value hardware store and they had those awesome bags of Olde Tyme Hard Candies in a barrel by the register and I had to buy the lemon drops and the cherry drops. Then my kids found them and they were gone.
The point is that yes … and no. I was pontificating in our hot tub to one of my boys last month and we were talking about love, the love I have for my mother and father (as irrational as it is) and the love I have for them and the love I have for their father and the love I have for my brothers, friends, and BILs and SILs and cousins and other extended and vital people in my life.
I explained that TO ME, love is not a choice. Like is a choice. Love is a chemical thing that happens to you that while it should be absent of fear, there (for me anyway) is a fear component in that I love that person so much I am afraid to lose them. It doesn’t mean I won’t go on, it’s not some sort of wacky codependence; it’s just that my love is super strong and that I adore those people. But it is not just given. Yes, it is something that grows from a place of our own love inside. You can’t grow / give / share what you don’t have already, otherwise it is an unknown and you’re all, “what the hell is this emotion? it makes me all soupy and kind and want to shout from the rooftops with joy and whatnot. eww.” You have to have it to feel it and then give it.
I don’t know what was in my mother; I want to say it was love, but I think it was mostly fear and attachment, that is why –no matter WHAT anyone says– I can’t ever truly say, as if my life depended on it, if she actually loved me. I think she tried. I know that I had an attachment / survivalist relationship with her, but I don’t know (still in these early months of grief, so cut me some slack) what the true relationship was. I tried hard though.
Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.”
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
Yikes. Yes. I just wrote about withholding love and connection in another post about the Ultimate Withholding: the Silent Treatment. This post is not just about the Silent Treatment, it’s about a few other things too, but the bottom line is this: When you withhold, it’s awful for everyone. Withholding creates these little pockets of borderline personality disorder (BPD) … I know, that sounds so simplistic, yet here’s why: when people with BPD are in their BPD zone, it goes like this: “I will do all I can to make everyone as miserable as I am.” Pat Conroy put it brilliantly in South of Broad (which you really must read — he’s such a fantastic writer) when a psychiatrist character explains BPD to his protagonist:
… a shrink in Miami once diagnosed [her] with borderline personality disorder. When I asked what that meant, the doctor told me, “It means you’re fucked. She’s fucked. I’ll load her up with drugs, that that’s about all I can do. The borderlines are mean, egomaniacal, relentless. Their job is to make everybody around them miserable. In my experience they perform their jobs very well.”
And that’s how it is for people who are around people who withhold their love, their relationships, their attention, their courtesy, their awareness that you even exist… why? Because you have Somehow Not Met Their Standards and that means you are bad. Bad person and everyone who is savvy must agree or they get the treatment too. And who loses in this game of all games? Everyone. But most of all the withholder. Eventually, the other person wises up and walks away. That’s when you can’t get candy from that hardware store…. and by the time that happens, you don’t want candy anymore, salt will do.
I grew up with all sorts of blame, shame, disrespect, tacit responsibility, deflection, denial and subterfuge. It’s not right. It’s a horrible way to raise a family. Anyway, back to Brené. If one acknowledges the pain inflicted then the love can grow and a relationship can be had. Saying, “I’m sorry for whatever it is you say I did or didn’t do for you” doesn’t quite cut it. Trust me on that. I also wrote about those fun kinds of atonements in a post about Perfect Apologies.
I hope I did these three quote justice.