First a confession: I am typing this from a coffee shop. I know, I know… I vowed never to darken the door of a coffee shop again until I was out of my financial hole but the truth is I’m 36, single and seem to be making a full time occupation out of analysing my feelings at the kitchen table. If I don’t step out into the real world at least occasionally, I’m going to lose the plot.
So yes, I’m in a coffee shop but I’ve been pretty good over the last few week in that (a) I’ve been doing a lot of paid work and (b) this is my first coffee outing in a week, (c) I’m very aware that the coffee I’m now drinking now costs 2.50 which is why (d) I’m not going to spend the 3.50 on the plum tart that’s winking at me. The little flirt.
So anyway. I’m back… sort of. I hope.
After spending August working like a busy bee, I’m now getting my self-help head back on but it’s not coming easily. It all just seems so random at the moment. Why am I doing this? Was life as it was really that bad? What’s the point etc? Why don’t I just spend me time doing paid work so that I could earn enough money to buy the nice new Autumn clothes that are everywhere? I could just drink, shop and forget like normal people.
I’m tired of looking at all my flaws and from pushing myself to face them. Really tired. But if I wasn’t tired I guess I wouldn’t be doing it right.
A friend said last night that it’s good that I’m getting fed up with it because it means I’m not ‘totally self-obsessed.’ The emphasis was on the ‘totally’. Ha!
Another friend sees it differently; she told me that when I started this project she worried that it would all be quite superficial, gimmicky and pointless. ‘But it’s not,’ she said. ‘It’s real, you’re changing.’
She’s right. It is real and yes I am changing- which is brilliant, but it doesn’t always feel brilliant. It can feel messy and uncomfortable. My eyes seem to be almost permanently leaking. Good, bad, anything gets me going.
But sod it, as I said in the last post, I’ve started so I’ll finish – albeit slowly, messily, weepily…
SO SEPTEMBER! MY FAVOURITE MONTH OF THE YEAR
I had been faffing a lot about doing another money book but then last week three different people mentioned the same word to me and I took that as a sign.
The word is ‘vulnerability’ and the reason it’s one people’s lips is because of a book called Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. You may have seen her TED talk which has been viewed 6 million times apparently.
I’d seen the talk when it came out but I only read the book this weekend. It’s beautiful and real and true and feels like it gets to the core of being human. That sounds like some pretentious back of the book blurb, but sod it, I’m self-obsessed so I may as well add pretentious to the mix.
There are no 10-step guides or practical exercises so this month will be more of a reflective month than a go out and do random stuff month, but I think that’s OK.
Brown’s basic point is that most of us will do anything to avoid vulnerability which she defines as ‘uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure’. We don’t want to be vulnerable to ridicule, to hurt, to rejection, to failure, to embarrassment – and so we go through life protecting ourselves with what she calls ‘armour’. This armour can come in three forms:
- Perfectionism (if I do everything perfectly, I’ll be good enough, I won’t mess up, I won’t fail, people won’t hate me, I’ll be in control)
- Numbing (I can’t bare to feel what I’m feeling so I’m going to get drunk, get high, eat my feelings or work myself into the ground/keep busy so that I’m too tired and distracted to feel anything)
- Foreboding joy (shutting down in moments of joy because you don’t want to feel the pain of that the joy will get taken away from you – so that feeling of loving your children so much it’s actually terrifying, what if something happens to them…)
However, by protecting ourselves from vulnerability and all the bad feelings that come with it, we are also depriving ourselves of all the good feelings – we cannot feel pure joy without being vulnerable.
‘Vulnerability isn’t good or bad. It’s not what we call a dark emotion, nor is it always a light, positive experience. Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.
Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.’
She says that the only way to live a full life is to embrace vulnerability –be the first person to say I love you, wear your heart on your sleeve, get hurt, try again…
People who live like this are called ‘Wholehearted’. A bit like how Susan Jeffers says in Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway that successful people aren’t less scared than the rest of us, they just feel the fear and do it anyway – so this book says that nobody is immune to vulnerability, some people are just better at ‘leaning into the discomfort’ and going for it.
This is all stuff that we know in theory but doing it in reality in quite a different thing.
I have spent my life protecting myself from anybody hurting me. Despite what this blog may suggest I avoid intimate moments where I’m raw and exposed like the plague. I find them so excrutiating and puke-making I run, sometimes literally.
Which is why I’m 36 and single with lots of lovely experiences under my belt but no big loves and no great heartbreaks. The two go together.
So that’s the theme for the month. Not just love, but life, messiness and vulnerability. I don’t really know practically what’s going to happen but let’s just see…
Ps hello to you all, I’ve missed you. I hope you’re well.
PPS – this does not mean I’m putting head in financial sand again – I’m not, I promise. I’ve been earning, I’m checking my balances every day and as of yesterday I started writing down what I spent. This habit is exactly 24 hours old, so we can’t break out the champagne yet but baby steps etc.
PPS – THIS IS THE QUOTE THAT’S IN THE PICTURE AT THE TOP: It’s from a speech made by Theodore Roosevelt and Brown opens her book with it.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”