I’m listening to Brené Brown. I have this love/hate relationship with her words. They touch me deeply. Truly. Honestly.
It’s hard to like it sometimes.
It’s hard because it makes me shine a light on me and my emotions and my story. Especially the tough ones. The ones that make me disengage. The ones that try to define me and own me and railroad me into thinking I’m less than. My worth. My vulnerability.
The book I’m listening to right now is Rising Strong. Wow, her stories! She is a wonderful story-teller. They cut right to the chase.
In this book, she tells us about a time she and her husband have a tiff and how she learned from that time and faced emotions and vulnerabilities to strengthen their marriage.
Now, I haven’t even gotten past the second chapter, but already she has given me so much to think about.
“We disengage to self-protect.”
Oh, have mercy! Those words cut through me so completely. I wasn’t ready to hear them. I wasn’t ready to understand how I avoid conflict like the plague. How I turn and run whenever anything gets too difficult. When anybody becomes too difficult for me to understand. Whenever an emotion becomes too overpowering or difficult to feel. When I feel vulnerable and want to hide.
I was ready to cut and run right then when I heard those words. But I was on the highway going home, so I had to sit and listen – and feel.
Recently, for as much work as I have done to find my authenticity and strength and joy and gratitude I am still working through avoidance and fear and self-protection.
I was proud of myself just recently when I had to say “no” to an offer to barter my services. I had to have more respect for myself, for my worth, for my value. I realized that and took measures to ensure that I stayed true to myself. That was huge! Especially when the guilt started to set in. When I thought the other person would not like me because I said “no.”
But also, just recently, I had to walk away from a relationship that made me frightened to stay in and more frightened to walk away from.
A friendship/relationship that was intense and made it hard for me to say goodbye.
I was hurt. My feelings were hurt so deeply I couldn’t move forward. Couldn’t express myself. My needs. My wants. My worth. I felt so vulnerable. It was frightening.
You see, I am relatively new to the dating game. I know… I’m freaking 60 years old. You’d think I’d have been around the block a few times.
You’d be wrong.
When I was younger I was concentrating on my career. When I came home to St. Louis I was concentrating on my family. When I decided to stay in St. Louis rather than return to New York I concentrated on surviving. When I went to work I concentrated on existing. Then I had my daughter and I concentrated on my blessing.
There were a few men sprinkled here and there. Obviously, there was at least one good one! But, you see, I never felt worthy of any of them. It made it easy for me to be manipulated. To be used. To be thrown aside when something better came along. Vulnerability was not my strong suit.
It made it easy for me to disrespect myself and build a wall of fat around my body. I figured if I wasn’t worthy of someone’s love I was going to be damned sure they weren’t going to be interested in me because of how I looked. I mean, if they didn’t get close I can’t blame the real me. If they didn’t get close I wouldn’t be hurt. If they didn’t get close I wouldn’t have to be vulnerable.
“Hurt doesn’t go away simply because we don’t acknowledge it. In fact, left unchecked, it festers, grows, and leads to behaviors that are completely out of line with whom we want to be, and thinking that can sabotage our relationships and careers.”
Fast forward to a couple of years ago when I decided to take my life back! I lost a ton of weight. I feel great and have pride in myself. I feel authentic and grateful and joyous. I returned the stage and felt seen and heard.
And, it was time to start really dating. Allow myself to be vulnerable. And, it worked.
Until it didn’t.
Until I felt more than I should have from a two-year relationship that was deemed to be only friends. Intimate friends. But friends.
Until I feared being left behind. Until I felt lonely knowing my daughter was leaving and I would be left on my own. Until I wasn’t enough and “we were truly just friends.” Good ones, but friends nonetheless.
I knew I needed to change the dynamic of our intimate friendship a while ago. But I was scared. I didn’t want to be alone. I didn’t want to lose the intimacy. I enjoyed the companionship. The company. The laughs. The man. But, I could never communicate what I wanted or needed.
And he was always looking elsewhere. Of course, he did. I allowed it. I looked elsewhere too. Where was the respect in that?
I was told I was his only true friend. Until I needed to care for myself and then was told I failed him as a friend. Where was the respect in that?
“We can’t ask people to give us something we do not believe we’re worth receiving. And, you’ll know you are worth receiving it when you trust yourself above everyone else.”
Damn’t it Brené!
Where is the trust in myself?
I deserve more. I deserve love. I deserve someone to see me as their partner and companion.
I don’t blame anyone. I remained in his company because it felt good. Knowing there wasn’t any romantic love.
That’s not true. I blame myself.
So I need to express my story. I need to tell it loudly if only to myself. Because I was unable to share it with my friend. I wasn’t able to communicate what I wanted or needed in our relationship. Because I wasn’t able to express my past and how I feared my future.
Of course, what I really only wanted was a friendship, but the intimacy threshold was crossed and I was unable to go back. Was he using me? Or was I using him? Either way, it wasn’t right.
Would it have saved whatever we had, had we more communication? I’ll never know.
But, I cannot deny what brought me to this moment. To face my worth once again. To face my fears once again. To trust ME once again. Without hiding. Without staying silent. Without disengaging or protecting myself.
Because I do deserve – companionship, partnership, respect, love. Yes, and friendship. I am worthy.
“Loneliness does not come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to you.”
I must learn to stay engaged while protecting my heart, myself. I need to learn to communicate what my needs are and not cut and run when things get tough. When I feel hurt. When I feel discomfort in any situation – personal, professional, or otherwise.
Share what is important to me and making sure I am heard.
And, just think, I still have 2/3 of the book left! I’m looking forward to hearing what more I can learn.
Time to engage once again!