what’s worth got to do with it?

I am a little late to the party. Brene Brown’s videos have been creating quite a buzz, but I only recently watched her most well known one, The Power of Vulnerability. Really phenomenal stuff. I am a fan.

I laugh at her humor and marvel at her succinct articulation of things I have intuitively believed but still questioned all my life. And I feel completely validated by the fact that all of what she says is backed by research.

There is only one thing that I have trouble with. It’s not the validity of the research or the conclusions she makes based on them. It is what those things confirm to me about how the world views love. And I simply wish we saw things differently.

In The Power of Vulnerability, Brene talks about people she calls “whole-hearted”. Basically these are people who live full and satisfying lives with deep, connected relationships. She says that what sets this group apart is a belief that they are worthy of love. Those not in this group, those living disconnected and unfulfilled in their relationships, seem to have a belief that they are not worthy of love.

(There’s more to it than that, but if you are not going to watch the video linked to the blue words above – which you totally should, just hover and click and it will take you there – that summary will have to do.)

I believe I fall in both of these groups at different times and moments in my life. I believe the truth of what Brene proposes that this basic self-assessment has a dramatic affect on our lives.

I just don’t like it.

Because while believing we are worthy or unworthy of love may impact our lives in magnanimous ways, either way we are viewing love as something to be earned. And that is the problem I see in the world, the problem I see in myself.

A misunderstanding of love. 

Love does not account for worth. Love is a gift. Truly, no one is “worthy” of it. It cannot be earned. It is not a commodity to be traded for inherent value.

Don’t get me wrong; I think that every human being does have inherent value and worth. I think every human being desires to be loved and needs to be loved and should be loved and is loved.

But that love is not earned by value or worth. In fact, love is distinctly given in spite of those things. That is what makes it love.

Believing we are worthy might help us in life, but it perpetuates a misunderstanding of love. I think the trick is to let ourselves receive love – truly take it in and accept it – regardless of our worthiness of it.

 

(Normally I would stop here because I have a short attention span as a reader so I try to keep my posts under 500 words. So I promise not to hold it against you if you stop reading here. But I just can’t leave this next part out.)

For me it comes down to moments like this: picture a moment of marital friction. I am furious about something. I want to be right. I am stomping around and screaming because I want my way. And then I realize I am acting like an idiot. And I am sick with myself about it. But I want my way anyway. And I know that in this moment I am unlovablly human.

But my husband comes close to me and touches me tenderly on the shoulders anyway. He tries to pull me in for a hug.

In that moment, what do I do?

Sometimes I push him away because I am so furious and confused and pissey and weak and human and unworthy of love that I refuse to accept it. I only want the love that I think I have earned.

And sometimes, due to some intangible miracle, I let his touch soften me. I let it break me. I let it in past my will and my need to be right and my need to control. And I know I am not worthy of it. But that’s okay. It’s love. I can let it in anyway.

So the question for me is not so much if I believe I am worthy of love, but will I let love in even though I am not worthy of it? Because that’s what love is.

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infected

Where do artists find their bravery? Creative self-expression is incredibly risky business. It involves taking a chunk of your soul and doing the best that you can to put some tangible form to it.

And this world tells us to stuff our souls down and pretend they don’t exist. Souls are an intangible part of us that are not easily explained and therefore make us all a bit uneasy.

But our souls were created to live and thrive and express themselves. I find I am much better off when I live connected to myself, to my soul, and have some way of communicating that. To others, perhaps. But mostly to myself.

And art helps me connect with my soul and remember it is there and it is a part of me, no matter how uncomfortable that may be at times.

I have observed an infectiousness to art. People I don’t know, perhaps hundreds of years ago, perhaps ten minutes ago, wept and laughed and searched and journeyed in an effort to discover their soul.

And after the painfully wonderful process of finding this treasure, they found a very brave piece of themselves and used that to help them express that soul.

Then I or someone else sees it or hears it or reads it.

And somehow, some way, through the mystery of it all, the observer who is open to wonder and beauty and things that don’t make sense (hopefully me!) is touched. And amazingly, this person finds a piece of himself or herself through experiencing the art of another.

So art is a way we find ourselves and find one another.

But there is always a risk. Because not every individual is touched by art. Art is often misunderstood. Misconstrued. Misinterpreted. And so the artist is as well.

Art requires a commitment to bravery all the way through the process, from being willing to discover one’s soul to letting go and seeing where that soul takes us all the while letting go of what others might think of any end result. Including ourselves.

What art has moved you recently?

control freaks

The discomfort is seeping out of my pores. I tried to find anything else ready to post. I like to have things more thought out. More refined. More controlled. This one feels more like a zit I can’t stop myself from popping.

Lately, I have been watching and listening to both my self and the people around me, and the theme of control seems to be slapping me in the face everywhere I turn.

I think we as humans grab for control. But I don’t think that is truly what we want. I believe that what each human being truly desires more than anything else in this world is love.

But, as I have mentioned before, love is inherently uncontrolled. Unearned. Unpredictable.

And that makes most of us quite uncomfortable. Including me.

So when we want to show love to someone, we often try to control that person and make that person do what we think is good for him or her. But that is not really love at all.

When we want to be loved, to have someone else show love to us, we also try to control others. Manipulation comes into the mix and things get messy fast. Because we as humans seem to feel loved when we get what we want. But that’s not really love either.

And all the while, during this time when we are grasping for control, trying to make people do what we want them to do or be who we want them to be, we miss the fact that what we are given to control is ourselves.

We ignore that truth and try and control other people instead. Because they seem so much easier to fix. Because taking an honest look in the mirror and dealing with our own stuff is hard. One of the hardest things I have ever done or continue to attempt to do.

However, my hope in doing so is that my haunting need to control lessens and I become more capable of giving love. Freely. 

tension of the sweet spot

Where is that sweet spot? That place that challenges me to stretch farther than I thought I ever would without being so far to break me? I would appreciate if that place was easier to find, to be aware of within myself, to dwell in.

Recently a friend asked me to write a poem for her husband. I know some would argue that all of what I write is poetry, just mostly in the form of prose. But I do not think of myself as a poet.

When I wrote the one poem I have published on this blog, I felt terribly out of my element. Poetry is outside the box and makes me squirm. Very risky business. I don’t think I have that intuitive gut that tells me how the words need to be broken up, where they ebb and flow to make just the right song.

And yet, there is something weighty in the freedom to express something without having to spell it out. To guess my way through something based on hunches and relying on instincts I didn’t think I had.

This was also the first time I tried to write something for someone else. What a privileged challenge to climb inside someone’s soul and try to figure out what is locked in their heart and express it on their behalf. Looking into her words to find what is behind them. Empathy and listening – strengths I live in as easily as I breathe – become a foreign. I am a novice once again. And it feels good to be so green.

She gave me her raw material and I just about died. Her heart of love for her husband, this life they have built together, the respect and honor for this man. This was sacred ground. How could I ever do this justice? I almost broke the entire time, but I also felt like I was flying. How can that be?

I have a draft. She may love it. She may hate it. I hope she feels free to be honest. No matter what the result, I am better for it. I didn’t look for it, I didn’t orchestrate it, but this was that sweet spot, making me wretchedly uncomfortable and wildly energized all at once.

nothing else was on……i swear!

I saw myself in her. Truth is, I saw all of humanity in her. Tears streaming down her face in classic Bachelor style, she was a picture of brokenness.

“What did I do wrong?” rejected Nikki asked bachelor Ben Flajnick on the secluded Puerto Rican beach. Isn’t that what they all ask the cameras during their tearful exit interviews when they fail to receive the coveted rose? Is that what I would ask?

I am a little embarrassed to admit I watch this show from time to time. Every few seasons I will catch more episodes than I miss. I confess, mostly that has to do with if I can find anything more entertaining to watch at the slated time.

Mostly I don’t like the show because it puts all of the worst of the female nature on display for the world to shake their heads at. But last night I was struck by the words of this girl and how they revealed a piece of me.

In asking what she did wrong, she is revealing a belief that somehow love can be earned. That if she just did something different, then she would have received her payment in Ben’s love.

I know that on The Bachelor we are talking about romantic love…..being “in love”. But I think the concept applies no matter what kind of love we talk about. Not long ago I became painfully aware that I held this same belief.

I was moving through life trying to earn love. It seems natural in a way. Most everything in this world has to be earned, why not love? And to be honest, (because we live on this planet with a bunch of humans) much of the time we do have to earn love. But when we earn it, is it still considered love?

It would be nice if I could earn love because then I could have some control over the whole thing. And I like control. But love is a gift. And inherent in the concept is the lack of ability to earn it.

So I am left wondering what this girl’s interview would have sounded like if she didn’t believe that love could be earned. And I wonder what my life would look like if I understood the same thing.

hyperventilatng

If yesterday was “trying to breathe” then today is definitely “hyperventilating”.

Yeah. That’s is my husband’s new car in the picture. The one that I was driving to the conference. I hit a pole as I pulled out to come home. Mostly drive-able but somewhat banged up.

I am the car.

My one-on-one appointments didn’t go as well as I had dreamed them in my mind. I knew that was likely to happen, but it didn’t make the dream less desirable, thus less painful to part with.

I fought back tears now and then in the following few hours. There was more learning to do so the emotions would have to wait. I am not sure my emotions are used to waiting.

But by the end of the night I thought I had moved passed it. The agent I pitched to during the social time who asked me to send all of what I had (when the revisions I told her about are done) helped a bit for sure.

Then I hit the pole. A four-letter word may or may not have passed my lips. As I drove home I battled myself just like I did in the era my book is about. Because of the plot seminar I took today I can now articulate the “faulty belief” I held in those days. Love is earned.

And ever since my one-on-one’s that didn’t go how I dreamed, I struggled with a feeling that I had not earned the right to be loved by my husband (who sacrificed time, money, and a weekend as a single parent for me to be there).

I know this isn’t true. In my head, anyway. It was just hard to convince the rest of me. Especially after that pole.

Love is a gift…….a gift of grace.

My husband does not love me because I make his life easier or better or more comfortable. He doesn’t love me because I am such a wonderful wife and avoid poles when I drive the car.

I was just so frustrated that I was dealing with this old issue. No matter how my husband might respond (because let’s give him some grace and remember he is a human husband and doesn’t love to spend a long hard day with the kids just to have his wife come home with a banged up car) I want my reaction to be one of a person who knows that love is not earned.

But like the car, even though there were some hits today, all is not lost. I certainly have made some wonderful friends and connections at this conference. My understanding of the book I am writing and the audience I am writing it for is clarified. I have WAY more tools to practice to become a better writer. And after moving through some emotions and lots of Kleenex, I remember that love is a gift of grace, impossible to earn.