Wednesday, April 3, 2013

"The Power of Vulnerability"

Today's surgery went perfectly, both physically and emotionally. I drifted off to sleep before the nurses rolled me into the operating room and when I woke up in the recovery room over two hours later, I felt like a split second had passed. I can only hope that every woman who faces this type of reconstructive surgery has as smooth of a ride as I did today.

Moving on from the medical update, let's turn to something far more interesting...

Last night, I watched this VIDEO that an incredible woman (an old friend, who I'll call "Claire") sent to me. I don't know Claire very well, but after we spoke over the phone for a half-an-hour last week, I learned so much about her. I learned that Claire faced an ultimate tragedy and yet, she has so humbly had the courage and the strength to carry on with remarkable unselfishness, grace, and perspective. I know that's a long list of adjectives, but trust me, it still doesn't do Claire justice. 

(Please Note: If you'd prefer to read my favorite excerpts of the talk, please see below. The full transcript can be found beneath the video on the webpage linked again here.)

From speaking with Claire, I also learned that she and I cope with difficulty in very similar ways. So when Claire emailed me the link to the video, I watched it -- all 20 minutes of it -- and I didn't even multi-task in the meantime (a real rarity for me). As Claire had predicted, I found this video to be fascinating, smart, and so right on.

In a later post, I want to try to apply Dr. Brown's concepts to my own life -- before, during, and after cancer. For now, however, I need to grab a pain killer and go lie down. My new boobs may look nice under my sexy Velcro surgical bra, but my chest still feels raw and sore.

To Be Continued...

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Excerpts from Brene Brown's TED Talk 

(Full transcript can be found at video link)

...And shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection: Is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, that I won't be worthy of connection? ... What underpinned this shame, this "I'm not good enough," -- which we all know that feeling: "I'm not blank enough. I'm not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, promoted enough." The thing that underpinned this was excruciating vulnerability, this idea of, in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.  ...

I roughly took the people I interviewed and divided them into people who really have a sense of worthiness -- that's what this comes down to, a sense of worthiness -- they have a strong sense of love and belonging -- and folks who struggle for it, and folks who are always wondering if they're good enough. There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they're worthy of love and belonging. That's it. They believe they're worthy. [Emphasis added.] ...

Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language -- it's from the Latin word cor, meaning heart -- and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can't practice compassion with other people if we can't treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and -- this was the hard part -- as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.

The other thing that they had in common was this: They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn't talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating -- as I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing. They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say, "I love you" first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees, the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They're willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.  ...

And I know that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it's also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.  ...

And we perfect, most dangerously, our children. Let me tell you what we think about children. They're hardwired for struggle when they get here. And when you hold those perfect little babies in your hand, our job is not to say, "Look at her, she's perfect. My job is just to keep her perfect -- make sure she makes the tennis team by fifth grade and Yale by seventh grade." That's not our job. Our job is to look and say, "You know what? You're imperfect, and you're wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging." That's our job. 

But there's another way, and I'll leave you with this. This is what I have found: to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there's no guarantee -- and that's really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that's excruciatingly difficult -- to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we're wondering, "Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?" just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, "I'm just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I'm alive." And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we're enough. Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, "I'm enough," then we stop screaming and start listening, we're kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we're kinder and gentler to ourselves.

1 comment:

  1. Tara
    I enjoy reading your blog. Thanks for posting the link to the video. I wish you a smooth, healing trajectory.