If you wonder why I love Brene’ Brown so much, it’s due to a couple of things. First, her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, started me down the road towards easing up on myself and others, by breaking free of the need to have everything “just so.” Second, she thinks a lot like me, in that she really feels we need connection with others. In Daring Greatly, she says:
We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.
I know this to be true. For so long, I built up walls and wouldn’t let anyone in. Like Brene’ says, I too always had an exit strategy, a way out if I felt I had to engage too much. I suffered from depression and loneliness, even in the midst of gobs of people. I felt stuck, just getting up, going to work, working, coming home, making dinner, relaxing for an hour or two, and then going to sleep only to wake up the next day to do it all again. All the joy had gone out of life.
When I decided it was enough, I started getting out of my comfort zone, joining groups where I had to talk to people, where I had to connect. I’m actually OK at connecting in groups, but I still kept everyone at a safe distance. I didn’t want anyone to get too close. They might figure out that I’m not perfect or strong, I might have to make someone mad, or disagree with them. I might have to show my true self.
It’s taken me several years on this journey and I’ve still not arrived where I want to be. I’d really like to be free enough to disagree with others, to stop swallowing my feelings in favor of keeping peace. I love peace, but not at the expense of hardening my heart. I’m learning, but it can be a painful journey.
Brene’ opens up Daring Greatly by discussing Teddy Roosevelt’s “arena” speech. I memorized a good portion of it when I was in college, and it’s one you probably know, too; the one that says something like, “The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood…and if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.” It’s obviously where she took her title from. But she makes an heart-piercing point early on:
When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make.
I’ve done that for too long. I have sacrificed a lot, and lost too much. I have stuffed my gifts so deep inside of me that I lost my song for quite a few years, not a note, not a hum came out of me subconsciously. For those who know me well, they would notice that songless bird, but not know how to help. I was in a deep hole.
My song has finally returned, and I’ve been climbing back towards the sunshine, but it has not been without loss. I like who is emerging. I’m not sure where I’ll end up, what path God has in store for me, but I know it’s going to be a great adventure. I’m ready to step into the arena, with all my flaws, and dare to be who I was made to be.
DAY 344 HOMEWORK: Not sure where you’re at tonight, but what’s keeping you out of the arena? Get in there and fight, and be sure to let who you are to come out.