Oh, the beautiful words penned by Brené Brown. She is my favorite. Today, anyway.
I have lots of favorites. But I find myself reeling with the raw, unfiltered content of her writing. Always.
She was my inspiration to write this blog. Not the post, the entire blog. She was my inspiration to let the world know about me, my life, my dirty secrets. At least some of them.
I was reading about integration earlier this morning. The process of piecing together all the fragmented mirrors that only reflected the person I thought they wanted me to be. Trying to pick up those broken pieces and put them together in some sort of mosaic that is the real thing. A whole human, authentic, real. This is my biggest challenge.
I am REALLY, REALLY good at being who people need me to be, at showing them the face they want to see. But it’s tumultuous and soul-sucking. Being a chameleon is hard work. And it is never worth it.
I have had such a hard time putting the pieces together. Some of the reflections are so painful to ponder that I don’t even want them to be a part of me. It hurts to reconnect the parts that I have left abandoned over the years. You know, the parts that seem to stand in the way of who I am now, of who I want to be…
I have written about my memory issues a bit. A traumatic brain injury in 2012 wiped out a lot of my past, and I was so incredibly thankful. But as it has slowly returned, I find myself longing to wipe it away again. I was a hurt person, hell-bent on running away from anyone who professed to care about me in any regard.
Even now, when I am on social media and I see a name from the past, my thoughts go wild with “You can’t be part of this life. I don’t want you to know me now! You belong in the past, the dark days when I didn’t know what I was doing (Not that I do now, but I pretend a little better). You belong with the pain I have stuffed in the dark recesses of nowhere. I have friends now, a family. I have people I love in my life now. I even like myself for the most part. Please, please leave.”
When I started writing, I had no idea how painful, how raw, how vulnerable it would be to share parts of myself for anyone to see. I couldn’t imagine that my new life might be contaminated with the old. And I still really struggle with the idea of people from my past reading about me, about my breakdowns, breakthroughs, my thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams. They didn’t earn that right! I know life is messy and imperfect, but it is also amazing and wonderful and oh, so complex… and to have them see me, to have them know the old me and the new me… the two people I never wanted to meet each other… that is hard.
But I am coming to terms with it. When the memories started returning, I was angry. I didn’t want to see that girl. I didn’t want to remember. The pain inflicted on me, all that I inflicted on others. Part of me still screams: I hate that girl. She is not allowed to be a part of me.
But, in my anger and my grief I have realized that girl IS me. Still. She was a crucial part of me becoming who I am. And all the breakdowns, the breakthrough, the struggles, the victories. Those are all a part of me too.
The frightened little girl, hiding in a closet with her siblings, the girl who would disappear for days by the time she was 8 years old, the girl who knew how to patch someone up, the girl that broke bones and chose to conceal pain because she hated that she was a burden, the girl that hid when she should have fought harder, the girl who was always alone and ashamed and hurting… that girl was me. The girl who picked fights and sent people to the hospital, the girl who lost her temper over anything and everything, the girl who searched for love in all the wrong places, the girl who was a hard-partying, looking-for-attention girl… she was me also.
And then there’s me, now… the volunteering, care-taking, church-going, mellow, messy woman. I can provide a safe place, a comfort to that little unloved girl. I can teach her not to compare her reality to the fantasy lives other people live in her head. That little girl deserves to be loved and cared for and treated with compassion. And I am the only one capable of bringing her healing.
I was too young, too hurt, too afraid to give all of that to her back then. But I can now.
I don’t like to put down the shiny, pretty mask. When the confident, smiling image is replaced with reality, it means that there are parts of me exposed that I want to deny exist. It means those hidden secrets that I don’t tell anyone… I might have to tell a few of them. It means my insecurities, my doubts, my fears, my hopes, my dreams, and my deepest desires might be stomped on by someone else.
I read an article recently saying that in order to be vulnerable, you have to be okay with ALL of you. And that, that is hard, agonizing, slow, ever-so-slow kinda work. Reconnecting is hard and painful. But giving my younger self a home has been an amazing experience. I know I am not good at it yet, believe me. Vulnerable means that my defenses are down, it means I am open to hurt. It’s far “easier” to hide. Hiding is what I am good at.
But because I am putting the pieces together, I feel like I am more me, just me. I can be authentic, vulnerable, real with myself. And I am learning to do the same with other people.
Vulnerability is healing. It’s courageous. It is strength I never knew I had. And honestly, if I never let anyone see the real me, how am I supposed to learn that the real me is loveable? That the little girl who thought it was all her fault is actually just a little girl who needed love?
Thank you for being on this journey with me. I honestly feel that if we were all a little more vulnerable, maybe the world would be a better place.