Occasionally, I don’t want to be a blinking pioneer. I don’t want to be daring greatly or go for my big, bold f***g goals. I don’t want to stretch outside of my bloody comfort zone. I just want to be safely boringly plodding along.
Sometimes I even have my stereotypical housewife fantasy. It goes like this: See the kids off to school, do a bit of shake and vac to put the freshness back, eat chocolates, watch Neighbours (is it still on?), make the kitchen floor sparkly clean with Flash and prepare a nice healthy meal for my kids.
Maybe whilst swigging a gin and tonic.
This post is about daring to be vulnerable. And I’ve decided to spill my guts (sparingly), because most of us are actually human and most of us tend to fall into the trap of being very harsh on ourselves when we’re not firing on all cylinders, whilst telling ourselves that we are the only one with a problem.
It’s just not true.
But how much shall I share? How vulnerable do I dare to be? In the big bad web world, where every word is recorded for posterity, where, once it’s out there, it’s out there.
One school of thought is:
“Post only positive and happy things”
Whilst another is
“Those who feel the need to keep telling us about their amazing lives probably have a lot of problems”
For the record, I find this particular perspective rather cynical and bitter. I tend to unfollow those who sneer at other people’s expressions of happiness.
I try to strike a balance. I post some of my joyful moments and some of my successes, when I’m moved to. I try to follow an 80/20 rule of focus on the good with the occasional rant about Trump/Brexit/injustice in the world/a utility company.
But I don’t think I’ve ever shared the deeply vulnerable stuff.
In this post, you’ll learn that (shock horror) I DO NOT HAVE MY SH1T TOGETHER ALL THE TIME.
You’ll learn that I am so far from reaching Buddhist enlightenment that I can’t even see the light whilst squinting.
You’ll learn that I don’t have a picture perfect relationship
You’ll learn that I don’t have unerring self-belief (but you probably knew THAT one already!).
You’ll also learn that, despite meditating every single day and practicing mindfulness for the past 3 years or so, sometimes I’m a VERY SLOW LEARNER.
You’ll hear that, very recently, I had thoughts like this:
- Nobody likes me
- I feel sorry for myself
- I’ve got a cold and it’s the end of the world
- I feel sad and lonely and scared
- I don’t want to do anything
And I’ve decided to share this to help others feel ok about not always being ok. And why is that useful? Well, Brene Brown expresses it best:
“You can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability”
A rainy Wednesday
I walked out into the pouring rain with Ernie, my labradoodle. It was 1.30 pm in the afternoon and I had delayed his morning walk because the weather was so foul, and I felt foul too.
I had a train to catch in 2 hours. Streaming with cold, coughing, spluttering and yawning, I threw up my hood and hunched up against the driving rain.
I felt really low today. Grey, grey, grey.
Two days ago, I’d had a blazing row with the bloke. It started with me making a comment about a light bulb. It had resulted in us not speaking to each other. Two days and counting. We were both sulking.
The boys had noticed and it was having an impact on them. I knew that it had upset them, made them feel vulnerable – is mum going to split up with John, they were wondering. After all, their parents are divorced parents; they’ve seen it, they know it can happen.
Guilt – I’m hurting my kids. I’m rubbish.
I was about to head to London for my very first gig with a prestigious coach training school and consultancy. I’d only been asked to do it a week ago and I’d cleared my diary to make it happen. I was thrilled to be asked – this would be a real “feature in my cap” for my coaching CV.
Last week I was thrilled – today I was just worried that I would be crap.
I caught up on some of my to do list in the morning. I did something that I’d been procrastinating on, that took me out of my comfort zone, made me feel vulnerable – because I was worried about rejection. I invited some friends round for afternoon tea. When I sent the invitation, I started to doubt myself.I was “daring greatly” to take this little action, and the negative self talk was loud: What if they all said no? What would that mean about me?
Not worthy. Not likeable, not good enough. That’s what it would say about me!
Even though I was going to London to do something exciting and career-enhancing, I didn’t want to go. I felt lonely at the prospect of being “down south”.
- I wanted to stay with my boys and heal the wound I’d caused.
- I wanted to be friends with the bloke again.
- I wanted to sink into a hot bath and hide.
- I wanted to curl up in front of the fire and watch telly and have my mum bring me tomato soup and toasted cheese sandwiches. With tomato sauce.
- I wanted to hold my boys so tight and infuse them with certainty and safety and love. A feeling of guilt so strong, I felt it in my gut.
As I trudged down the path, tears started rolling down my cheeks. It was all so grey.
My phone rang. It was the bloke:
“What time do I have to pick Fred up?”
A pause as he hears me sniffling, then:
“Are you crying?”
“Are you sure you’re not crying?”
“No. I’m not I’m fine” <snort, sob, sob>
“What’s the matter my love? Are you crying?”
The gentleness of his words almost imperceptibly cut through all the heavy greyness. And I let more tears flow, instead of biting my lip.
“Yes, I am crying”
“Why are you crying?”
“Because I’m snotty and my throat is sore and it’s raining and I don’t want to go to London I want to stay here with the boys and you and I don’t like not being friends with you and I don’t want to split up with you and I’m worried that nobody likes me and I’m worried I’ll do a crap job tomorrow and they’ll never ask me back. And I’m picking up an enormous poo”
A touch of laughter, a dollop of kindness, a whole heap of love.
It was all it took to break the entente discordiale.
The bloke listened, then said;
“When you get back from your walk, we’ll have a big cuddle. We’re not going to split up. It will be alright.”
And that’s all it took to help me to crawl back out of my poor little me rabbit hole. I took a step back from the dog poo (safely contained in a bio degradable poo bag) and I looked at the situation again:
- My boys are loved by both their parents. I just need to keep that message very strong.
- I am loved by those who matter. I am liked by those who matter. I am ok. I am enough.
- I am not going to be away from my family forever. It’s just 2 nights.
- I’m going to stay with one of my best mates, who I love and who loves me for who I am, with or without a cold, full-on gregarious or snotty, quiet and reflective.
- I’ll take my London gig one step at a time. It will be an adventure. I will serve the people I’m there to serve, with my heart – that always works.
- I’m so bloody lucky with my life.
- I love being outside, I love walking with Ernie, even when it’s pouring with rain.
- This too shall pass
So that’s the tale of an ordinary Wednesday when one ordinary gal felt a bit low and a bit sorry for herself.
It was nothing special, nothing heroic.
Most couples argue, most people get colds, most people feel guilt, most people feel self-doubt, most people have times when they just can’t be arsed with any of it.
Yet we hide it. We pretend that we’re ALWAYS OK thank you very much.
And mostly, “I’m fine thank you” IS fine. We don’t want to become negative psychic vampires, sucking the joy out of other people’s lives. Mostly, a measure of resilience is about feeling the pain, dealing with it quietly and getting back to OK.
But now and then, a little vulnerability can go a long way: It helps us to be more mindful, to put our worries, concerns and bumps in the road back into perspective. It allows us to bounce back more quickly. As Brene Brown has said in her book, “Daring Greatly”:
Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.
So this post comes from me to you, sitting on my train to London. The the rain is still pouring down as I look outside the window. My snot is still snotting out of my nose. But the tears have stopped and I’m daring greatly despite the greyness. Maybe there’s even a touch of sunshine in my carriage.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, however you’re feeling, you hereby have permission to not be ok, to be vulnerable and to get a bit lost in the grey.