Monthly Archives: March 2013

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Today, my mentor/dear friend/sister is leaving to go overseas for a couple of years.  I am totally, totally excited for her…..and absolutely devastated at the same time.  Last night, the following interaction occurred between me and Chelsea over text about this situation:

Me: ='( ………..I’m sorry I’m such a mess over this.  

Chelsea: You mean, it is painful to love someone so much?

Me: =(  Yes.

Chelsea: How about not apologizing for loving someone with your whole heart, so much so that a change like this is really hard? That’s human, sister.

I couldn’t help but laugh in the midst of my tears. One of the scariest marks of my friendship with Chelsea (and, to be honest, one of the best) is our willingness to confront our inner narratives with each other—in other words, having real conversations about what’s going on for both of us.

It’s funny how quickly I start to become ashamed, especially when it comes to “getting emotional.”  My own life experiences, particularly with my parents, taught me that it wasn’t ok to cry. Crying was a weakness, a sign of being immature, of not being strong, even of being “bad.” And it didn’t matter how serious the reason was…….whether it was crying because I lost my favorite sweater, or because of my abuse, crying was indicative of something being wrong with my heart.

It’s been a slow, painful journey of unlearning that inner narrative.  My mentor is one of the key people who has been with me in that process. She has sat with me when it’s taken me literally an hour to tell her what’s wrong because I kept having to filter and re-filter my emotions so I wouldn’t break down.  It takes tremendous patience to sit in front of an ice block and watch it melt. 

Arctic Ocean North West Passage

Her loyalty and faithfulness to love me, even as I sat frozen in my shame, has truly been a profound force of healing in my life.  And now, she is leaving.  She’s not really leaving me—we’ve had numerous conversations about how we’re going to stay in touch, and how we both very much want and are committing to continue to be in each other’s lives.  But the reality is that we won’t get to spend time together the same way…..and she won’t be just a few minutes’ drive away anymore.  To say that makes me sad is a profound understatement—-it’s a sadness for which I can’t find words.

So I cry instead.  And I cry (or at least I try to cry) without apology—and in doing that, I acknowledge the depth of love I have for my mentor, instead of keeping it under wraps. And that act of crying becomes a invitation for others, not only to enter into my pain, but to enter into their own.  It’s interesting to me that the shortest verse in the Bible says “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). For some moments, that’s all that needs to be done–in fact, that’s all that can be done—sometimes crying is the only good and decent thing to do. I think that it actually honored Lazarus to acknowledge that even God Incarnate wept in the face of his passing—before any other words, before a dead man was raised from the grave, the first offering Jesus made in response to the death of his friend was tears.

For those of you ashamed to own your humanity, own the image of God in you, and own the depths of how much pain or sadness or despair you may be in: stop apologizing.  Just cry. You are much closer to being like Christ in those moments of unabashed grief than in moments of trying to minimize or ignore it.

Go on.  I dare you. Share your good, tear-softened heart with a safe person in your world.  And watch the ice melt together.

 

 

 

 

Shame: The Vulnerability Hang Over

So, I have a confession to make. Last Tuesday I wrote about Brene Brown‘s “The Power of Vulnerability” TED Talk, and I front-loaded the video with a story about the after effects of my abuse that was pretty vulnerable. Now, Ana and I have committed to vulnerability as a hallmark of this blog. We don’t want to write bull sh*t. We don’t want to lie to people. (Well, we do, to make ourselves look better, but we’re committed to not doing that.) We’ve been practicing vulnerability with each other, with other friends, in therapy, in small groups at church, in our music. You’d think with all that practice, it would get easier. Nope. 

Choosing the risk of emotional exposure (aka, honesty with other people) kind of feels like I’m running and jumping off a cliff of unknown height, and I’m not sure whether I packed a parachute.  I thought somehow the frequency would decrease the fear and quiet the panicky voices of insecurity that start screaming, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?!” Nope.

Fonda won an Academy Award for his work with K...

I read yesterday that at age 75, actor Henry Fonda was still throwing up before every single stage performance. As an artist, his emotional nakedness was a kind of necessary exposure, in order to perform. He knew he couldn’t hold anything back. The audience would know intuitively and the gift he was giving to the world would be diminished. You’d think that after hundreds of Broadway performances, critically acclaimed films, and nominations for Oscars, Tonys, Grammys, Emmys, Golden Globes & BAFTA awards, he’d feel a bit more secure about his work. Nope.

So I feel comforted that after writing last week’s post, I woke up the next morning with a vulnerability hang over. I re-read what I had published, thought about the places I had posted it on the internet, and completely freaked out. What the hell was I thinking?! I asked myself. Chelsea – freaking – Davis, I can’t believe you told people about all that crap about your abuse. Holy Eff. You are waaaaay out of control. No more writing this week… or maybe ever. 

My defense mechanisms sound pretty reasonable when I’m running scared. They sound like they know what they’re talking about. Like they’ve got the power to quell the sheer panic gushing up from the parts of my soul that cracked open as a result of my vulnerability. They’ve done this before, in moments where I have bared my soul. Defense mechanisms are like the clean up crew after a nuclear meltdown. They suit up and head in to see what’s leaking from the reactor and they shut it all down to prevent the population from further exposure to dangerous nuclear material.

There’s just one problem in this analogy: sharing the deepest parts of our souls (even the ugly parts) is not nuclear reactive material that is somehow going to destroy everyone around us and the environment. That’s a story that arises from another major force at work: toxic shame. 

Toxic Shame is the 5 Star general that orders me around most of the time. Shame likes to call the shots. Shame has convincing story to tell: an air tight, Supreme Court ruling argument. You’ve been rejected before, and you’re going to be rejected again if you let people see this about you. Because of this ___________ [insert your own narrative], you are fundamentally bad. If you tell people, they will definitively know you’re bad, and then they’ll leave. Shame’s job is to keep me from being disliked, abandoned, or ridiculed. It is common to humankind, and it has a driving, evolutionary purpose: to keep us from being left out of the tribe to be picked off by wolves… in other words, to prevent us from being vulnerable.

The reason shame is so powerful (so powerful that, unchecked, we obey its every command) is that we have been rejected before. I don’t know any grownups that survived childhood unscathed by shame, without having at least one experience of feeling like an outsider. The problem is, in order to be an insider, we have to let people inside.

Toxic Shame is an assault on the human psyche that breaks down intimate relationships. When we feel that we are fundamentally bad, we are desperately afraid of other people knowing the depths of us. We posture, we hide, we put on masks. Some of us drink or medicate away our feelings of shame. Some of us get straight A’s, wear expensive suits, and only appear in public coiffed, as if we just left the salon.  Toxic Shame (“You are bad”) always results in hiding.

The original “hiding” in response to Toxic Shame.

So after last week’s post… I hid all week. I didn’t write, even though I was scheduled to. Shame was that little cartoon devil sitting on my shoulder, telling me lies, sweet little lies, that had enough truth in them that I got confused. Shame was hard at work, bent on convincing me that vulnerability is actually a path to destruction rather than to life. I know better, but I listened to shame anyway. It shouted me down. It told me everything that was wrong with me, ran through a list of my failures, and drew flow charts of the inevitable rejection to come. I started wondering if it was right. If somehow there was something fundamentally bad about me that I had exposed to other people, and now they all knew

There’s only one way I know to kick shame’s ass. Tell on yourself.

After 4 days of emotional avoidance and withdrawal, I called my friend Jen. Jen kicks ass, and she’s been punting my shame out of the picture for a long time. She knows my soul pretty dang well. As I shared with her that I was secretly afraid that I was bad and that the blog was proof and maybe I was a chaotic, evil, friend eating monster and all human attachment is bad and that I wasn’t safe to be around and what if I totally blow it publicly or my marriage doesn’t heal and I eff everything up and everyone knows… She listened to me, interrupting my run-on narrative to punctuate it with truth and compassion.  She also recommended Brene Brown’s second TED Talk on Shame–the one in which she confesses to having a vulnerability hang-over after her original talk. You can watch it here:


After a couple hours (yes, my shame narratives are long–they stretch back years), I asked her one final anxiety ridden question: “What if I am about to fall off the edge of a cliff and everyone knows but me and I’m going to wreck my life?”

Jen answered, “Even if you did, Jesus would meet you there. And I would be there, too.”

Take that, shame! Boo-yah! 

 

Where does Toxic Shame rear its head in your life? How does it prevent you from being known and loved? If you could listen to what it’s telling you about yourself, what would it be saying?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Showing Our Cards

Cards

One of the most vulnerable things for any person to do is to share something very personal about themselves to others—whether it’s through a conversation, an email, or a phone call, it takes courage to put yourself out there and show your cards.

We often talk about vulnerability in our posts, and yet we haven’t actually exhibited that in one key area—many of our friends and family members have been asking us “how’s the music coming?”  And for the most part, we’ve kept a very tight lid on it–this is partly because the songs are very much in process and we haven’t had official decisions about how we’re going to produce them, market them, etc.

There is good reason to wait—the reality is that our songs, at least in current form, are not yet ready to release as an album. On a personal level, I can say that I don’t want the songs to suck.  I don’t want to share imperfect material with a world that is quick to criticize, condemn and share joy in the humiliation of others (how many Youtube videos have you watched that feature someone being embarrassed or teased in some way?)  In other words, I don’t want to share our songs because they are pieces of ourselves–I don’t want those pieces to be hurt.  And frankly, that’s a very reasonable act of hiding our talents under a rock.  It’s a safe way to avoid risk.  It’s a safe way to play it safe and talk about impacting our culture and world without actually beginning the process of doing it.  

So why share some of our scratch demos?  Because we recognize that showing our cards (aka sharing our raw, unfinished songs) invites people into our process.  It invites people into seeing what we’re about and creates conversation about how you can support the process. It reveals a glimpse of what we want to share with a world desperately in need of songs that hold the tension of pain and hope. And it’s time to jump in the water:

I don’t want us to suck.  I don’t want people to listen to our songs and think they are less than amazing.  But unless we risk putting them out there, how will we ever know?  And how will we gain valuable feedback about how to make them even better?

So we want to hear from you.  You can catch a glimpse of some of what we’ve been working on by listening here–we posted 3 song demos for your pleasure.

I’ll be honest—I’m scared sh*tless over the response (or lack of response!) we’ll get from you. I’m scared some of you will think we’ve been wasting our time to focus on this, or will suggest we go find other ways to help the world. But we don’t want to play it safe anymore. And maybe, just maybe, you might actually like our songs!  So check it out.  We’d love to hear from you.

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