I love Brene Brown. I am whole-hearted. I lean into the discomfort. I push myself and believe I am worthy of love and belonging.
Except sometimes when I don't. Sometimes I'm mean. Sometimes I'm unhappy. Sometimes I'm vulnerable in more than one part of my life and then I fall to pieces and need putting back together again. I'm built like humpty dumpty. Ok, not so much with the last part.
So the other night, I had had a really, REALLY busy day. This busy day followed a series of about 12 days where my four-year-old threw screaming fits exactly EVERY time we went anywhere.
So this morning, I get up, pack up the kids for tumbling lesson for Thing 1, then put them in the rec center childcare for 45 minutes while I work out, tumbling lesson for Thing 2, then drop off Thing 1 at gramma's, take Thing 2 for errands and napping in the car... I'm going to stop now because I'm sick of this so I'm certain you've begun skimming by now.
By the time it's evening and I'm to be 10 minutes late for work, I have to jet out still in my work out clothes. I should specify exactly HOW inappropriate for work they are here. On top we have: a torn open t-shirt that says "DOPE" across the bottom in red letters with a tanktop under and who-cares-what-else. SERIOUSLY. Torn. Dope.
And sometimes, especially when I'm teaching a writing lab late into the evening in a small extra use building, I see next-to-no-one and could keep my jacket on and get away with this, sort of. But it's hot in the lab and
Not tonight. Tonight, unbeknownst to me a small group of all the higher-ups and most important of the people who could ever give me a full time jobs are all coming to have dinner with a speaker whose been flown in. So every single one of them passes by the window where I am wearing said inappropriate outfit. Thankfully I am at least working with a student.
A student whose feelings have been hurt by an instructor who was not careful wording strong direct criticism. So after working with this student for an hour, I help him through some tears and hurt feelings and he leaves and I'm left to flail uncomfortably for the next couple of hours through being in my insanely uncomfortable skin.
I fail at: making flyers, blogging, responding to emails, smelling pleasant, and that's just the beginning. In between these failures, I spend my time obsessing about what a shitty mom I am and how badly I've handled everything, um, ever.
As the event lets out, a colleague of mine comes up and we make small talk. Somehow she ends up telling me she'd like to read my book. Instead of having a normal person's reaction to this I say,
"It's a great book." (and it is. But I say this in a voice that squeaks and smells of awkward vulnerability and weird eye contact and probably old sweat since I'm still in workout clothes from approximately 10 hours earlier.)
I laugh and then say, "it'll change you're life. Well, ok that's a joke but it's a good book."
She practically sprints away.
When I get home, instead of asking directly for support from Rob, I whine about our son and he says he can't do anymore talking tonight (it's late and he's right it is.) and instead of saying anything smart, I nervously henpeck about him drinking my whiskey and any number of other things I don't actually care much about and he refuses to sleep with me (which I admittedly deserve.)
I spend hours that night tossing and turning and experiencing the hell of the evening over and over again.
The next day I wake up and cry to Rob about how I am spending a lot of time vulnerable. A LOT. And while I usually lean into it, it's all been too much. I tell him through tears how dumb I was the night before and how much pressure I'm putting on myself and how hard it all feels. The stakes are huge. I want to be a writer. I want to be a good mom. I need people to love this book. My son deserves the best of the best. And what if none of those things happens?
Publishing my book is intensely personal. A friend said when she was reading it, she felt like it was really personal to read it since she knows me and she felt like it was almost too intimate to read what I'd written. I knew exactly what she meant.
I spent years on this. I did the absolute best I could.
Doing the best you can, it turns out, is scary. Because there's no better. So if it's not good enough, that's the top.There's no better. You just failed after trying as hard as you could then.
Sure, the next book will be better than this one. I will grow as a writer for the rest of my life and continually get better at it and so someday I'll look back and think how much better I could have written this book. But for now, this is all I have. This is the best I could do. And I need it to be good enough to get to all those other books I'll write later.
And I get four and five stars. But those four stars are like in a performance review when your boss says, you're great here, here, here, and here and you have room for improvement here. I think oh god, four stars and you're my friend means that you really would've given it 2 if you didn't know me and what if everyone who sees the reviews thinks that too.
And you can see how this road of vulnerability can lead to insecurity and how much worse I can make ANYTHING if left to my own devices.
I am through-apnd-through honestly me. All the time. I'm genuine.
So if I feel like I said above, and I try to say "the book's great." It comes out weird. This is the closest I've ever been to knowing what it feels like to have Asperger's. My voice goes all flat and low and my eye contact is off and sometimes I say things as questions accidentally and then I laugh too loud and ... I mean to say, "yes, I'd love for you to read my book. thank you." But instead it comes out "I'm a weirdo!"
So instead of cheerleading and trying to convince anyone I'm anything but terrified, I started with my husband and said, "I'm spending all my time feeling vulnerable. And I can handle that in one area of life at a time but this, this is hard."
And he does what he does. He hugs me more. He tells me I'm beautiful more. He tells me, I am, in fact, not built like humpty dumpty at all but am sexy and that our 4-year-old is hard and we've all had a hard week. He tells me he's had a hard week with our 4-year-old too.
So then, when the next colleague, that very morning, congratulates me and asks about how I feel about the book, I'm honest.
I tell her it's the most time I've ever spent being vulnerable and that's good but it's hard too. And I sell a copy. Lean in.