My quest for the mystical concepts of authenticity and vulnerability began a few months shy of a year and a half ago. It started the first and only time I’ve cried with a client. Something about that is frowned upon…..we’re encouraged not to do that. I would label myself as a person that feels life, however unprofessional tears were never really an “issue” I struggled with. I was working at a domestic violence shelter. Maybe it was the fact it was the middle of the night. Maybe I was in a fog of sleepiness and diminished mental capacities. Maybe my empathy cords were simply tugged too tight that week. Or maybe I noticed something in that resident I didn’t see in myself, the ability to be open, vulnerable, and raw with another human. I was touched by her ability to speak her shame, her insecurities, and regrets at the same time she spoke of facing and combating those things to take her next step forward. I saw in her something I wished I could be…real. All the time. As social workers we’re taught to push our comfort zones, to constantly examine ourselves, and more importantly to be awesome in every way. Understanding what made me emotional that night opened my life to a world of no return.
Understanding vulnerability and “realness” brought me, of course, to Brené Brown. Pause for necessary praise. Not only an ongoing obsession, I find myself often using the phrase, “Well, Brené Brown teaches us…” Historically I use humor, laughter, sarcasm and positivity to avoid and block the tough stuff, to change the subject when conversations go somewhere I’m not a fan. But to live and love wholeheartedly, we have to take the good with the bad- joy and sadness. The ugly and the pretty. Cue Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance. But where does that tough stuff- that shame- have a comfy place in real life? Let me tell you, I found it!
A week or so ago I went to a poetry slam. 10 poets got on a stage…with a microphone…in front of strangers and friends…and performed their shame. They shame threw up on all of us. Their shame was that green slime that ruled Nickelodeon in the ’90s. I saw them take sad, vulnerable, and heart wrenching stories from their past and proclaim them to all that would listen. I remember thinking, “OMG, that person in their poem could be here- listening! What are they doing?!” They created poems about breakups, sexual assault, abortions, and the realities of being a woman. They yelled and proclaimed that stuff we shush up about in social settings. The stuff we don’t say out loud. And then the audience applauded. And felt moved. And cheered for these strangers that spilled their guts and their emotions and their realness on the floor. Acceptance. Everyone was happy and proud. It was incredible.
I went home wanting to be one of them….to be upfront and real with my life like I’m living one of their rad poems. I wasn’t even upset when one of the poets snubbed me after I complimented her (or maybe I was).
I want to be able to throw my life down to others and be like, yea! What now! Where’s the applause?