Have you ever made what seem like great plans and then just beforehand you suddenly wonder what on earth you’ve let yourself in for?
That was me recently.
If you follow my blog you’ll know that;
- I live in London and
- I LOVE Brené Brown’s work
So when the opportunity arose to do her Rising Strong workshop with Karen Anderson, a therapist I know in Las Vegas, I jumped at the chance.
We’d have a holiday, Roger would fly home and I’d stay with a friend during the workshop. Which all sounded like a great plan.
Until a couple of days before.
We were hiking in Death Valley and I froze. Yes, the route was rocky and steep, but I’ve walked more challenging paths.
In my frozen state I realised this wasn’t about the path, this was my ‘OMG what have I done?’ moment.
Everything seemed overwhelming. Roger was flying home, leaving me in Vegas of all places. And we all know what can happen in Vegas, don’t we?
I had to find my way round a city with motorways running through the middle, driving a car twice as big as my Ford Fiesta with controls on the ‘wrong’ side and not enough pedals. I was to stay with someone I’d only met once face to face. And as for the workshop, I had no idea what to expect.
I paused for a moment, paid attention to what was going on in my head and body, took a few breaths and one of Brené’s quotes popped into my head.
‘We can choose courage, or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time’
My slightly less frozen brain recalled that I’d spent the last few years choosing courage and it has worked out pretty well. Okay, so maybe I don’t normally do so many new things at once, but comfort zones are made for breaking, aren’t they?
This was not the time to back out.
So I chose courage.
And of course it was THE most transformative weekend workshop I’ve ever done. In fact it was so wonderful that it’s taken me over a month to write about it.
Both Angie and I had concerns about my stay; I mean you think you get on well with someone online and on Skype and you hope spending time with them will be the same. And of course it was more than fine, in fact it was fabulous. You know how very rarely in life you meet someone, you really click and feel very comfortable being open and vulnerable with them? Well this happened with us; we talked for hours, we laughed and cried together and cemented what was already a beautiful friendship.
And now the Rising Strong workshop.
The premise of Rising Strong is that ‘if we are brave enough, often enough, we will fall. Rising Strong is about what it takes to get back up and how owning our stories of struggle gives us the power to write a daring new ending.’
As a childless women and a business owner, Brené’s words really resonate with me. If finding out that you can’t have the child you so desperately want isn’t a fall, then I don’t know what is. Losing both your parents is a pretty big fall, and choosing courage in my business has led to a fall or two.
So far I’ve got up reasonably well and I am determined to write the ending of my story, and I knew that there were many techniques in Rising Strong that could help me to do even better.
One of the many things I love about Brené’s work is that she doesn’t just pluck ideas from the air; she’s a grounded theory researcher so all her work is based on solid research.
Angie had done the course already and she assured me that we wouldn’t be going too deep so I felt comfortable, after all who wants to be completely vulnerable with a group of women they don’t know?
Hmm, sorry Angie, not quite true.
There were six of us on the workshop and on the surface we had very little in common; different backgrounds, age, family circumstances etc. but as the hours progressed and we got deeper into the work our differences ceased to matter.
At times it wasn’t easy (well to be truthful it was downright hard) but I had travelled a long way and was determined to get the most out of the three days. I learned many new things and I am a different person now. Here are four.
What I learned
1. Vulnerability IS powerful. The more vulnerable we are, the deeper we connect.
Brené writes that one of our deepest desires is to be truly seen, really seen. And it isn’t easy; being brave and opening ourselves to others takes real courage and vulnerability and when we do it is truly wonderful.
Karen had said that it would take one person to dive in then everyone else would follow, so that was me, straight in with both feet. Because of the safe space she created I shared some things that I’d never previously articulated even to myself and I had some big realisations too. And deep connections followed as we realised that, deep down we are all the same.
2. We all carry a basket of pain,
I had heard Brené say that ‘the baskets of pain we carry are all different sizes’ and until now I didn’t quite get what she meant. And as we peeled off the layers and got to the heart of the work I realised how true this was and how each of us was struggling to carry our basket lightly. My basket includes my dream of having children and the loss of my parents; for others it was something else (which, for obvious reasons I won’t go in to here).
Until now I’d resisted looking too deeply into my basket, and, being a therapist Karen guided me gently in, supported me to dig around and lead me lovingly back into the light. To do this and to be seen and heard with compassion and empathy was an experience I will never forget.
I believe we all carry a basket of pain. Some carry it visibly and others hide it away. And I’ve learned that, for connection to happen the sort or size of basket doesn’t matter, neither does what’s in it. What matters is sitting together with empathy and compassion.
3. This is my life and my story. I WILL write the ending.
Like almost everyone else, my life didn’t turn out as planned but I won’t let what happened in the past determine what happens next. I know I’ll have other falls in the future (because that’s the price to pay for courage), but I have the tools to get back up.
And whatever happens I will do my best to lead an authentic and fulfilling life and to write my own ending.
Let me ask you – who is in control of your life, who’s writing your story? What difference would it make if you took control and wrote your own ending?
4. I will continue to choose courage
I spent over ten years choosing comfort and all that happened was the years passed.
I’m done with that now.
My life has been transformed by choosing courage, so from now on it’s the courageous move for me every time.
What would the courageous move be for you and how would it transform your life?
I found some new things in my basket so I have work to do, and it’s all okay. How that will affect my life and business, I’m not yet sure. All I know is that I’m a different person now and this is another step in my journey to uncover who I really am.
A grateful heart
Thank you Karen for sharing yourself and your skills; for creating and holding a space where I was comfortable being me. You are an absolutely wonderful therapist and I am so grateful for your support and friendship.
Thank you Angie for opening your home and your heart to me. For laughter and tears and for really seeing me. You inspire me every day. Thank you to the others on the workshop; it was an honour to spend the time with you.
And thank you to Brené Brown whose work made all this possible.
What about you?
Do you see yourself in any of my story? If so please leave a comment below (you can use a different name).
If you’re keen to explore how your life could change by choosing courage how about booking a complimentary session via my online diary and we’ll spend 20 to 30 minutes getting clarity on how the courageous step could change your life. The hard sell is not my style and I know you’ll get something from our conversation.