I recently started reading Brene Brown's new book Daring Greatly: How The Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms The Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead.
On Thursday I went out for a couple of beers with some coworkers -- walking towards the subway, I had to pass the book store and I decided to stop in. (Tipsy bookstore-browsing might be one of my favourite things ever, for the record.) Anyway, I noticed that book and, since I'd seen it on a couple of my favourite blogs lately, decided to pick it up.
I won't write a full review of it, but I really enjoyed it for a couple of reasons.
The book talks a lot about how as a society, we've lost the ability to be vulnerable (and connect) with each other. It argues that instead of being vulnerable we put on masks. One of those masks is addiction; not just to drugs or alcohol, but to food, internet, shopping, busy-ness, whatever.
About a year ago, I started noticing that one of my biggest triggers for eating was feeling stupid. If there was something at work I was struggling to do, or had done wrong, my first instinct was to stuff my face. Preferably with something sweet. But I eat for celebration too, and I think that's also related to vulnerability -- in a lot of ways, successes make us feel just as, if not more, vulnerable as failures.
The other thing I noticed that was a big eye-opener for me is that, in all the fiction I've ever written -- from my current novel-in-progress, to last year's NaNoWriMo novel, to the very first short story I wrote as a (relative) adult -- the common theme is that the main characters need to learn to be vulnerable.
The first short story I wrote, for a creative writing class years ago, was about a teenager who got quasi-supernatural powers by being a bitch, but eventually takes her bitchiness too far. Her real struggle was that she was dealing with her parents divorce and needed to just deal with that, instead of deflecting / distracting herself by being a bitch. (Look, I didn't say it was a good story, just that it was about vulnerability.)
The novel I'm writing now is about a girl who uses time travel to try to solve her sister's murder -- but in the end finds that there are no short cuts for grief and that all her best efforts won't bring her sister back. She has to learn to live with that vulnerability in herself.
I don't know, it was just interesting to me how completely and totally this theme seems to pervade my writing, without me even noticing it before. Maybe it even shows up in this blog. (Actually, now that I write that, I'm pretty sure that, yeah, it does.)
Did I ever tell you about the very first poem I ever wrote? I think I did, but I'll tell you again now. I wrote a poem when I was five years old. My mom still has it. It went:
Star, star, under the car
Won't you go up in the sky?
"No, no, not so high,
I'm too shy!"
Ummmmm. Yeah. Apparently vulnerability is my life theme. And I didn't even know it.