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Day thirty-eight

December 8, 2016

A few weeks ago The Nurse recommended a couple of Brené Brown videos she thought I should watch on YouTube. I asked her how long they were. She said the first one about empathy was only a few minutes. The second, a TED talk about vulnearbility, lasted about 25 minutes. I told her I hated watching things of any length on my computer (which is true, and now that my wi-fi is dead I can no longer watch YouTube on the televsion), so I probably would not watch the second.

I did watch the empathy short, which was very sweet and did resonate with me.

Back in October, when I sent the link to my birthday appeal (the appeal which detailed some of the struggles I’d been having with depression for the past three years) to a handful of friends, I was incredibly touched by the fact that they all thanked me for sharing my struggles with them. I now know this was empathy, which, as the video indicates, is a helluva lot more helpful than sympathy. “At least” really is no use at all when you’re in a dark lonely place.

I did not watch the TED talk on vulnerability, although I did find and watch a five-minute video of Brown on the subject, the main message of which seemed to be that vulnerability was the birth place of creativity and joy. That’s all very interesting, I thought, and it does not seem to bode well for me, as I’ve had a lifetime of cultivating my fuck you attitude. Bit late in the day to go all vulnerable.

When I saw The Nurse on Monday, I told her I’d watched the empathy video and an abridged version of the vulnerability one. She said she really wanted me to watch the TED talk. Fine.

Yesterday, taking a break from my going-nowhere entry, I decided, okay, let’s do it. I found the video and started watching it. After a few minutes I was getting a bit antsy, so I turned up the volume and started folding and putting away the laundry. But I was listening and as I did she said some things that really kicked me in the stomach.

Here was one kicker from her research:

“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. The thing that keeps us out of connection is our fear that we’re not worthy of connection

Holy shit. It almost felt as if the woman had climbed into my head and listened at the door of that cupboard containing the voice that repeats, over and over, “You are not worthy of love. You are not worthy of happiness.” I was really paying attention now.

Brown started looking specifically at these individuals, the ones who possessed this magical sense of worthiness. And she concluded:

“What they had in common was a sense of courage. 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 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. 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. They’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.”

Wow. Fucking wow.

For two days earlier this week I’d been writing about a man I came to love in a way I’ve never loved anyone else. I described it (for want of any other way to do so) as a “to the bone” kind of love. If I’d watched this video when The Nurse originally suggested it, I would have known exactly how to describe it: whole-hearted love. Love that leaves you exposed, yet somehow not caring. A real connection with another human being. A warts and all love that doesn’t question your worth, but just is. Holy fucking moly.

Brown concludes her talk (click here if you want to watch the whole thing) thus:

“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 – 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.’

Blimey.

Where to go with this? (Brief pause while I laugh out loud, because as I typed the question I suddenly found myself picturing of Ebenezer Scrooge – as played by Alistair Sim – pleading with the ghost of Christmas future that he is too old to mend his ways, too old to change.)

People have told me they think what I am doing – this Black Dog Diary – is very brave. Is it? I don’t know. Perhaps it is. In the past month I have, on more than one occasion, said, “Okay, this is me, warts and all. Make of it what you will.”

Is that me making myself vulnerable? Again, I don’t know. Again, perhaps.

Has it done me any good? Yes, I think so, although the jury’s still out.

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