The Thick Of It
When I think about all of the reasons not to talk about the hard parts of life - the struggles, the failures, the mishaps, the inabilities - those reasons all funnel into one larger bucket that encompasses them all: The Shame Bucket. For many people (myself included), the Shame Bucket is a deep bucket, and one that is very uncomfortable to reach into and explore. It contains the darkest feelings of unworthiness, the coldest insecurities and fears, and worst of all, the most isolating pangs of loneliness. Because in order for shame to thrive, it needs to convince us that we are the only ones struggling, the only ones who feel inadequate. It tries its hardest to make sure we keep things to ourselves, and to make us believe that vulnerability is weakness.
(I'm still reading a lot of Brené Brown, can you tell?)
I will be the first to admit that I have not been my best self for quite awhile. It was only a few years ago that I finally started to confront a lot of things I feel shame about, taking them out of the bucket one at a time, examining them, and sometimes dropping them back in because I wasn't ready to deal. Occasionally I just reach in and grab a big ol' handful of stuff and see what happens. It's not pretty, and it's uncomfortable as hell, but when I look back, it's been these moments (days, months, years) of truth and self-work that have gotten me through some of the darkest times in my life. The sucky, albeit beautiful, part about the whole process is that it's never over. There are many forces working in favor of the Shame Bucket - societal norms, pop culture, the opinions of other (usually well-meaning) people - and because those things never go away, neither does the necessity of a daily practice of keeping shame at bay.
A lot of stuff has been happening in my life lately. I'm in the thick of adulthood, of transitions, of limbo and of figuring things out. Being waist-deep in the realness of it all can be both exhausting and exhilarating. It means I'm not on autopilot. I have to wake up every morning and actually use my brain, even when I don't want to. I'd venture to guess that a lot of stuff has been happening in each of your lives as well. We each have our own anxieties and demons, and we're all terrified of anyone else finding out about them, because...then what? Will we be rejected by those we love? Will we be laughed at, will our parents be disappointed in us, will be be labeled as a bad person, as unattractive, as a failed adult?
Those are all very real possibilities. But I've made a fantastic discovery: the people who do the labeling, the judging, and the shaming...those people are not the people who belong in our lives. It can be scary to open up and bring truth to the people who are closest to you, to be completely vulnerable about your failings and your mistakes, but if you've surrounded yourself with people who are unconditionally there for you, who are willing to listen and love you no matter what...the result can be amazing. And yes, there might be some losses, which is heartbreaking, but you know what? I don't want wishy-washy. I don't want people who flee at the first sign of trouble. I want a tribe. A tribe of like-minded souls who are going to walk through some shit with me, and I with them, to critique but not criticize, to be honest but not cruel. To say, "Yeah, you messed up, but I love you anyway".
Finding out that my world is already full of those kinds of people has given me a sense of lightness, where before there was fear. The hard part is that in order to really know, it usually means that relationships have to be tested. I truly believe in the goodness of each person; that everyone is doing their best, and that everyone has a right to their own reactions and responses to whatever comes their way. I also believe that everyone has the right to change their mind, to reconsider, and to think and do whatever makes the most sense for them. That can sometimes mean that paths diverge. But those paths also have a chance of reconnecting. As Glennon says, "Either way, lovely".
I'm so very grateful for my tribe, near and far. I have oodles of gratitude for unconditional love, for selflessness, for empathy and willingness to do the hard work of understanding each other. These are the things I hold tight to when all else fails. I don't know how I got so lucky, but ain't gonna take it for granted. Life is good.