We Go Through a Lot of Bowls

You heard it. We go through a lot of bowls. Bowls for cereal at breakfast, bowls for pasta at dinner, bowls for ice cream before we go to bed. We go through a lot of bowls. And I applaud you if you got through this paragraph without thinking “bowels.” You are more mature than me.

Why am I emphasizing this? I’m not completely sure – but what I do know is that I had an “ah ha” moment today (it seems appropriate to use Oprah’s preferred phrase for personal epiphanies, she graced the stage of Good Morning American this morning) that stopped me in my tracks. Well, I was sitting down, but you get the picture (And I’m getting an “ah ha” moment right now, realizing that I use humor to shield myself from being vulnerable with my feelings – I’m just going to pretend that you do this too so I don’t feel so weird).

So here’s the meat: I led a book study on Brene Brown’s newest book (Daring Greatly) at Bethlehem Lutheran Church yesterday in Minneapolis. It spurred great conversation, albeit there were just 3 of us, but it was still so worth showing up. The other two ladies were named Amy. I’m Allison. We were the A-Team, laughing about how once you know Brown is a Texan, her accent is so loud and we shared about vulnerability, shame, courage, and what these look like in our real messy lives.

First we watched Brown’s first TED talk together (it summarizes many of her main points that preempted Daring Greatly), and I thought I was all leader-ish and fancy and knew all the answers to my answer-during-the-video questions.

One was “What is vulnerability?” And I authored the question. Crap. Here I am thinking I’m this fancy know-it-all about vocational discernment and social work according to Brene Brown, and I can’t spit out a fancy big-leader-teacher answer with big 25 cent words. I answer it, knowing full well I’ve never answered this question in my life like this before: Vulnerability is waiting to hear back about a job idea/proposal/description thing (currently I have a part-time job, and this would be an additional job). I shared my answer with the Amy’s, who had striking answers of their own of personal experiences that made me feel so blessed to be with them. I admired them for their courage, but noticed a stark observation – in this waiting time, that so many of us experience, instead of waiting in gratitude for the opportunity, I was anticipating the realization of a worse case scenario – hired, fight with co-workers, fired, networks ruined, no job, die in a ditch.

Not kidding. And what really drives me insane, is that Brown anticipates this move in her own book. She knows this and I do too (replace child with husband – that sounds terrible, but you’ll get the gist). She uses the example of watching over her child sleep, so full of vulnerability, joy and peace, but then feeling her mind turn to the nastiest images of a car running them over, baby getting dumped in the trash, or horrible images from CSI or NCIS. Instead finding joy in vulnerability, she felt despair and practiced grief, which does no one any good.

Brown writes, “When we turn every opportunity to feel joy into a test drive for despair, we actually diminish our resilience. Yes, softening into joy is uncomfortable. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s vulnerable. But every time we allow ourselves to lean into joy and give in to those moments, we build resilience and we cultivate hope” (pg. 126).

Jump 24 hours later, I’m sitting with a friend and, as the verbal processor that I am, I realize that I do this exact same thing. When I do something vulnerable – I immediately jump to worse case scenario, covered, bam, 10 points. But the bad kind of 10 points, not the good gooey brownie kind, but a bad 10 points. A non-resilience forming 10 points. I don’t want to do that any more. To which this friend said “You’re fine. You are considerate, conscientious, compassionate and responsible. One of the most responsible people I know.” And I even wrote that down as she spoke, paper and pad (I know, I just got an iPhone two days ago, 50-year-olds are telling me ‘welcome to the 21st century!’) knowing later I’d need to not forget it, and I will need reminding that someone in the world actually thinks that of me.

I’m starting to understand that instead of being grateful for the opportunity to be vulnerable, I was practicing grief. To create a job, that’s truly an amazing opportunity. It’s not a big hairy deal, not one I’m going to live or die over, but it’s pretty darn awesome, and I feel blessed to be in this position. Being vulnerable. Putting myself out there. Feeling naked. Standing in the birthplace (how Brown understands vulnerability) of innovation, creativity, joy, connection, meaning, fulfillment. Oh gosh. So I wait. And pray. And remember that these people I want to work with are awesome. And make lots of coffee dates.

So case and point, I did it. I managed to be my studious teaching and researching self on all this vulnerability/shame/Brene Brown writing. I did not find cold controlled results, but found a very human experience. I think I’d be a terrible ‘cold hard facts’ researcher. I love people too much. I think I like it better that way. And it really is true, we go through a lot of bowls. I’d be lying If I said there wasn’t a stack of bowls in the sink waiting to be put in the dishwasher that’s currently full of clean bowls (and other kitchen-y things). It makes me wonder how we lived through the first two years of our marriage without a dishwasher. Here’s to being vulnerable and rocking it, or at least, trying to.

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