More from Brene Brown.
I've had Pet Sounds in my collection for a while now and have listened to it quite a bit, although this morning is the first time I really *heard* to this song.
Granted, Brian Wilson was likely heavy into LSD at the time, and the lyrics sound a little fortune cookie, but oh my goodness is there some deep truth in there!
March 16, 2020
I am thinking of you and wanted to send you a note; a record of sorts. A nudge. To let you know that you are indeed living the life of your dreams.
First, let's address why it doesn't feel that way for you now. It's 2013 where you are now, and you're feeling overwhelmed and underwhelmed by this life you've created for yourself.
You moved to San Francisco buoyed by promise and fueled by clarity in your mind and heart. You didn't know how it was going to work out for you there, you just knew that it was going to.
For the first time in your life, it felt safe and possible to have a close relationship with your dad.
You didn't know what the next step of your career was going to be, although you knew that it wasn't going to be with a big corporation.
You knew you were going to miss your friends immediately, but felt compelled to strike out on your own and make changes because you had begun to really not like yourself. Your grief called things into sharp focus, and unless you made changes, you were never going to find inner peace and any sort of compassion for yourself.
And despite being surrounded by a close-knit community of people, you were lonely. And incredibly fearful that you would never find intimate love with a partner. You were stuck in patterns of unrequited crushes, protecting yourself at all costs, because of your deep insecurity about your body, and this long-held belief that you weren't deserving of a relationship unless you made some changes first. And yet, these changes weren't being made.
You also needed to put some space between you and so many constant reminders that your mom was gone, or else you were going to go crazy. In some sense, it felt like you already had, and you were so afraid of becoming even more numb. Of blinking, and missing a life you were not living fully.
(The one thing you were crystal clear about when you arrived is that you were going to live in a beautiful apartment. You knew that it was going to have a bay window, be painted green, and have crystal door knobs. Funny how quickly that manifested because of your clarity. More on that later.)
So, it's been 5 years. Let's take stock of what's happened.
Your experience of San Francisco has been both effortful and effortless. However, to you it feels like much more of the former. You're feeling the challenges the most, you're worn out by your choices, and by this pace and place you've chosen to live. You still have the clarity you came with, although you often feel as though you've lost sight of it.
You have a close relationship with your dad. In fact, he is one of the closest people to you. He's salty and he drinks too much, but in times when you need it most, he is always there ready to offer hard truth. It isn't always with a soft touch, but you've been able to let him know what you need more than you were ever able to as a kid. It's been fascinating getting to know him all over again as an adult. He's also been a huge source of financial support, which helped you to get a Masters' degree and change careers.
Your career. Wow. Okay, in your first 6 months in SF you thought you were going to stay in film. You figured since you had all of this big, important knowledge from your gig at a big, important studio, you would and could easily parlay that into more personal and grounded work. Were you going to work in non-profit? Were you going to become a filmmaker? It wasn't clear until you began to make your place in the local film community. You were asked to be on the Board of Directors of a women in film group. In the beginning, you were proud of this, thinking that it added credibility to the direction you thought you were on. But really, it amounted only to bragging rights, because when it came down to doing a huge amount of unpaid work for rewards and goals that you weren't invested in, you left and changed directions.
You casted about for options and clarity, and when you were able to answer 4 questions: (What do you enjoy? What are you good at? How can you make money? How can you make a contribution?) you discovered with unwavering certainty that you were going to make a major career switch. You went back to school, got your Masters in Psychology, and got well on your way to becoming a therapist. You thought you could anticipate the challenges of this new career, but you couldn't have had any idea of how much the work would impact you. You also chose to work with really challenging populations, and in 2013, the reasons why are not clear. You're just feeling exhausted by them. But alas, you're plugging along mightily.
You still miss your friends. You've created a community in San Francisco, but it's disjointed and spread out, and you don't feel as though you have a strong core of people that you can turn to for everything on a regular basis. You've finally embraced how easy it is for you to form connections with people, and the positive effect you have on many, but you're spending a lot of time alone, feeling sorry for yourself. You extend yourself a bit more compassion (which is a mighty, mighty shift from 5 years ago) but you still feel as though something is missing.
You continued your pattern of choosing unavailable men, and had unexpressed, unrequited feelings for one particular man. You spent two years attempting to fit yourself into the limited amount of space he was holding for you, rationalizing and waiting for your friendship to become more. It didn't.
However, you expressed yourself to this one. You didn't hold back, and you were fully expressed. Despite the risks. Despite your fear. Despite the knowledge that he didn't feel the same. It changed everything for you because you found your voice in intimacy, because you didn't shut it down. This was and is a really big deal.
You also experienced a very brief and passionate affair with a man who entered your life as a friend. It was a deep and honest friendship, and you began to see and feel just how much you were capable of when it came to expressing your feelings. However, he fit your initial pattern in that he was emotionally unavailable, and it ended very, very badly. He offered and asked to be the person that you turn to, and encouraged you to be vulnerable. When you were, he couldn't support it because his own challenges were bigger. You were angry and hurt, said so, and asked that he not contact you. He responded by calling you many things, including a coward. This one hurt tremendously.
Your grief over your mom is still a huge part of your life, and you know now that it always will be. It still hurts, but with space and time, it hurts differently, and it doesn't take your breath away as much. You've reconnected with some family, and made attempts at reconnecting with others because your anger and grief have subsided.
So, that's the way things are in 2013. You've been through a lot, and you've made many, many, choices that are in alignment with living a full life.
I'm here now to tell you how things will be for you in the future. To illuminate a plan toward continued happiness, and to let you know that your life is listening.
Seven years from now, your dad remains a big part of your world. By continuing to show up and express yourself, and ask for what you need from him, he remains a close and vital part of you. You will continue to find your courage to set your boundaries, and as a result, you become fully expressed with the most important man in your life.
You are successful in your career as a therapist. Choosing to work with challenging people has paid off for you. Your fraught fear and exhaustion have given way to courage and certainty. You needed those feelings then because they constantly give you perspective on how far you've come, and of just how much you're capable of.
You're courageous in your encouragement and support of your clients. Your private practice is thriving, and you are a vital and sought after thought-leader within the non-profit sector of mental health. Your contributions have made huge impacts on the larger community because of your vision and intention of creating more useful and impactful access to mental health services. You make more than enough money to cover all of your needs, and you've paid off your school debt easily and effortlessly. You don't worry about money now, because creating wealth is effortless, and you have more than enough to give to people and organizations you love.
You also begin to travel again. One month a year, you go to a different corner of the world to explore, relax, decompress, and breathe in the meaning and feeling of being a citizen of the world, and you document with your camera. Leaving clients for this length of time is a non-issue because you work with a very close knit community of therapists made up of cherished friends and colleagues made during school and your time as an intern. You are able to make referrals for your clients without qualms, because you are confident that they will be taken care of during your absence.
Your camera. Your photography. You continue to do it because you are in love with the subject-object relationship of capturing portraits of people from all different walks. Your work has been published and shown, and this creative outlet augments your first love of doing good work as a therapist.
Your relationships. Let's start with the one you have with yourself. You found the courage to put yourself first and this has meant a huge change in your physical health. No longer do you hide at home behind cigarettes and food, cowering from how tired you feel. Instead, you've discovered that treating your body with the same care and connection that you effortlessly create with others created a huge shift in the way you see yourself. You are comfortable in your body, and do not carry the extra weight that enabled you to hide from the world. You no longer want to hide yourself, and you no longer feel ashamed or insecure over your body.
**Your friends. You are already in the process of realizing that the time and space in between you and those you hold dear have nothing to do with how you're held and supported. You will remember that you are already grounded in close friendships, and you will also reconnect and restablish many. You will let go of the belief that the effort to interact and stay in touch is challenging and it will then cease to feel herculean.
You continue to reconnect with your family, and you let go of the misgivings you've carried over being distant or not close in the first place. You get to realize and embrace the feeling of family, that intrinsic heart connection that transcends time and space. The feeling that you've felt was missing and that you were contributing to? Yeah, it changes. I promise.
Your relationship with intimacy and men within that space has also changed. Your relationship with your 10 man, your partner, defies anything you could imagine. Do you remember your despair over not even being able to envision how an emotionally and physically available, supportive man would feel like next to you? Well, he enters your life and shows you. He shows you every day how worth these feelings you are, which supports you in embracing them in yourself. He is patient, kind, passionate, and devoted. All of the changes you wanted in this arena happened effortlessly.
Yes, they shifted into place as soon as you began to make yourself a priority and see yourself differently. That overwhelmed fear you felt over initiating self-change disappeared when you put your focus on how incredible you are. (Don't laugh. It's true. I know you want to feel exasperated by this. Go ahead, and then move on. In 2013, at a very distinct point in your very near future, all of this work you have done on yourself in the past 7 years is going to click into place.)
I'm here to remind you that your life is listening.
And to promise you.
I have so much in my head all the time and writing is one of my most satisfying outlets. I haven't been choosing it lately, and that will just...be.
Here's a list, an update, an admission, a record of right now.
1. I'm over-committed and there isn't a visible end to it yet. I feel burnt.
2. The emotional transition that I thought had reached it's zenith a while ago is still in progress and I no longer feel that there is an end to it. Which, while vastly intimidating, is also oddly encouraging. No matter how difficult it feels, it still feels like I am exactly where I need to be.
3. This transition centers around me speaking my truth and being fully expressed to others about my feelings and needs. I've acknowledged my fear of this before, however for the first time, I am allowing myself to really feel it, and it's terrifying.
4. It's also exhilarating because I'm closer than ever before to making the changes I need to.
5. A stranger climbed through my kitchen window two weeks ago and stole my purse. It was in the middle of the night and I was in my apartment, 3 feet away from this person, asleep. The vulnerability of that moment is hard to shake, and my safe place, my respite, no longer feels the same. On the 3rd day after it happened, I forced myself to turn off the night light and become unfettered by my fear. It worked insofar as I slept, although it has come with the cost of being tired and ill at ease. I expect these feelings will pass, as I am willing them to...although I am pissed off and frightened that it happened. While I don't believe that someone will come into my home again, thoughts of what didn't happen, what I narrowly escaped, are all around me when I am here.
6. I re-injured my knee after 15 years of no issues. It happened in a passive moment, as I shifted in my chair. Searing, hot pain flared as my knee shifted out of place. It barely slowed me down (did I mention that I was over-committed?), and I am grateful for my body's ability to get me through my day. However, emotionally, this injury has shifted me. I no longer have the same confidence in my body, and I have become hyper-aware of how I treat it.
7. I've slipped off of every conscious food choice I was making and have eaten every bit of sugar and bread within my radius that is not nailed down. My pants are tight. What's different is that I'm beating myself up (slightly) less, and just letting it be. I've always used food for comfort, and I've acknowledged that right now, I need a lot of fucking comfort.
8. This will not stand. There are other ways to comfort myself.
9. I'm completely twisted over my friendship with P. We've continued to spend a lot of time together, and I've continued to have feelings for him...and reignite a pattern that I set in place with all the men I am interested in. I shape shift into the amounts of intimacy and care I receive and tell myself that it's enough, when it's absolutely not. I analyze and dissect moments and find reasons to hang in there, to believe that friendship is enough, and most foolishly, to wait for it to turn into more.
A few weeks ago, we went out to dinner in North Beach and sat at one of the outdoor cafes on Columbus Avenue. It was the first time either of us had done that, and as we settled into our meals I realized that we were essentially on a date. We were on our best behavior with one another, table manners fully intact. We were shy at first but quickly delved into personal topics and spaces.
He has been explicitly clear to me about not wanting to be in a relationship. He has spoken of his fear of it, his hesitancy, his inability. This conversation occurred weeks ago and I stuck in there, telling myself that the connection we have was enough to justify me settling for just enough. And yet, here I was. Across the table from this man I adore, giving the moment all of me. My kindness, my humor, my intelligence. Those elements were reciprocated, however I realized that those parts of me are too much to give to a person who cannot and will not be more to me. Because it closes the door to anyone else, and makes it more difficult for me to believe that there is a man out there who is my match without me having to make compromises and justifications to fit the space he holds for me.
10. I've begun to shift out of our friendship. It's been messy and confusing, and sometimes I can't do it without being a bitch. This feels terrible and the piece that it missing is telling him why this shift has occurred.
11. It scares me to be that vulnerable and honest even though it's the right thing to do.
12. #11 applies to many other areas in my life.
13. I have intimacy issues, duh.
14. I also create mighty evidence to the contrary.
15. I miss my LA and my friends.
16. I graduated in December with a 3.8, and I am damn proud of having a Masters degree in Psychology.
17. I'm amazing.
18. I promise to say that more.
I fully intend to work my way through the #resound posts, although I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the past few months, days, hours, minutes.
I've recently eschewed the notion of creating resolutions at the beginning of the year. I often feel like I am not up to keeping a promise to myself for a year, and the mere thought makes me want to buckle under it.
This year I'm reconsidering this idea.
There is a collective consciousness that surrounds the ending of one year and the beginning of another. I feel that we are all, in our unique and meaningful ways, taking stock of things and events that have happened in 2011 and considering those things that haven't. And we are also looking forward to the things that we intend to accomplish in the days and months and year ahead of us.
For me, rather than looking at resolutions from the perspective of lack and failure, or from where I could have been better or different, this year I'm choosing something else.
I'm been in the middle of an emotional sea change that began in August, and that reached it's zenith two weeks ago. I realized how important it is for me to step into my feelings and express them without being consumed by the fear and insecurity that I so easily allow to hold me back.
It has become vitally necessary for me to be at peace with my inner world and to not have regrets. This perspective evolved exponentially once I began to spend time with people who are at the end of their life; some of whom no longer have the use of language or any traditional means to express themselves.
I have the means right now. Right this minute.
No longer will my fear of being rejected by others be bigger than my desire and need to be seen and heard.
I am grateful for a community of friends who continually support this in me. The truth is that I have been my own biggest obstacle when it comes to being vulnerable and believing that I am worth the hugeness that comes with being a part of a loving and intimate relationship.
Moving forward into this new year that I am so fortunate to be alive for, I will step into believing that I am enough, that I am deserving of love, without giving in to self-doubt and fear.
Shakespeare encapsulated this feeling that is radiating through me with these simple words...
This above all: to thine own self be true.
If your life was a television show, what would its theme song be? What music would be cued at the start of the show or when you entered a scene?
Think about this past year. Is there a song that you've heard that has really struck a chord, one that has spoken to you? Maybe there's a song that goes along with your one word for 2011. Maybe there is a song that you've heard that instantly cheers you up or makes you think of a special moment that happened this year?
Ben Harper was a huge part of my musical world this year, and here are the three songs that reflect this most deeply.
#1 Where Could I Go
The band began fully plugged in. It was the first time I had heard this song, as I was not yet familiar with the gospel in Ben Harper's repertoire. He powerfully sang a few verses into the microphone, and then stepped to the edge of the stage. I was there, standing in the middle, one person back. (You can see my head if you really want to.)
All of us in the audience looked at each other as Ben Harper stood with eyes closed, his toes touching the edge. And then he leaned his head back and sang and sang and sang. Without a microphone. His voice filled up the entire Warfield in ways that I could feel. The audience was at once dumbstruck and dumbfounded, with chills dancing up our spines. It was an amazing moment to be a part of and it absolutely changed me.
Life is much too short to sit and wonder
Who's gonna make the next move and will slowly pull you under when you've always got something
I don't want to wait a lifetime
Yours or mine, yours or mine
Can't you see me reaching for the lifeline?
You say that I misheard you but I think you misspoke
I hear you laugh so loudly while I patiently await the joke
I don't want to wait a lifetime
Yours or mine, yours or mine
Can't you see me reaching for the lifeline?
The lifeline, the lifeline
It's a crime with only victims
We're all laid out in a row
It's hardest to listen to what we already should know
I could hold out for a lifetime
Yours or mine, yours or mine
Can't you see me reaching for your lifeline?
The lifeline, your lifeline, the lifeline
Initially, I held someone else in my mind as I listened to this song. Someone who over the past year, I have developed deep feelings for. However, as the year wore on and I began to admit the fear and great hesitancy I have over letting him know how I feel, my perspective shifted and I listened differently to these lyrics, as if they were written for me, by me.
#3 In the Colors
I will dance to this one at my wedding.
My hustle became very intense this year. With school, two jobs, and an internship, my hustle became my story and it was a way I could validate being so tired and checked out of social engagements, and unable to travel home as much as I wanted to.
I handled my hustle mightily this year, and my body's ability to move me through all of my responsibilities felt like the stuff of greatness.
However, my super power in 2011 is decidedly not my hustle.
As I became grounded in the emotional components of my internship and what it was calling forth in me, I became aware of something powerful in me very quickly.
The first time it happened was when I was sitting with a woman named Shirley. She was bed ridden, unable to speak, and in an indeterminable amount of constant pain.
I was intimidated by not having a traditional feedback loop with her. I could not depend on the cues I was used to through language and body movement. All she could do was look at me.
As I sat there, I felt all of my anxiety and uncertainty and fear, and willed it all to fade away. The moment was not only about me. It was able being there with her, being present with her.
It was a physical sensation. As my apprehension melted away, I looked at Shirley and she looked at me. And I felt myself drop into a purely feeling place. This place exists just below the level of tactile experience, and I discovered that getting there was easy for me.
In this place, I could feel Shirley. I could feel her thoughts and emotions, and I could transmit information. She was agitated by her pain, and as I sat there in this place with her, I let her know I understood. I acknowledged her great amount of pain, and let her know that in the moment we shared, we could be calm and peaceful, no matter how fleeting.
I felt her shift with me, and I began to get to know this fascinating person.
All without words.
My super power is this deep reservoir of calm and feeling that I learned to access willingly. In this place, I am able to communicate through feeling, and I learned how to understand the information that is transmitted between others in this other state of awareness.
I am learning what it means and how it feels to be fully present with other person and it is absolutely the most super powerful thing I experienced in 2011.
The most delightful bit of good I did in 2011 was fulfilling my awesome responsibilities as the "Day Of" person at #nerdwedding2011.
In the weeks leading up to this joyous affair, I was curious over how I was going to be able to contribute because this event was a really big deal. Yes, because it was a destination wedding. Yes, because many of my beloved loved ones were going to be there. And, what made it the biggest deal of all, was that it involved one of my most favorite people.
I've known Jason for over 20 years, and it meant the world to me to see and feel how he had found the love of his life.
It gave me hope. It made him shine.
It was a huge thing for me to witness.
When he asked me to handle all of the day of details pertaining to the venue, the food, the guests, the staff...I freaked out. A little bit. On the inside.
And I said yes instantly.
And it was amazing.
I was amazing.
The day of, I remember flitting from here to there. I remember talking to the restaurant staff repeatedly about this, that, and the other thing...especially the chairs and seating. (Oh god, was there going to be enough for the grandmas and the extended fam? Oh shit, what was it about that second table?)
What I remember the most vividly was meeting Jason and Tiffany, the wedding party, and their parents as soon as they arrived, right before the ceremony.
I remember Tiffany's face, a little wide-eyed, and absolutely beautiful.
I remember Jason's face, a little wide-eyed, and his huge smile, so familiar to me after all the years of knowing him.
I remember Dominique, looking at me and saying how calm I was.
I remember Phyllis' face, utterly delighted.
I remember Kevin's face, totally bemused as he captured everything in that moment with his camera.
I remember letting all of them know that everything was handled, that it was all going to be okay. I remember the feeling of peace that washed over me as my intention for the ceremony to go off without a hitch settled into a certainty.
This is one thing I did in 2011 that I am extremely proud of.
Thank you. <3
Did you slip back into any old habits that you wish you hadn't? Did you gain any new habits that you wish you would have walked away from? Did you discover the evils of Nutella? 'Fess up ... we won't tell.