Doing everything wrong: Shame, truth-telling, and writing it out

From Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

From Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

This is probably one of the hardest posts here at Visible and Real. And yet, I feel like there’s an elephant in the room that needs to be talked about. Because I think it’s blocking a lot of things around my writing, about my showing up to this space (and other spaces), and I don’t like the way that feels. It’s not that I dislike writing book reviews – I’m actually enjoying it and sharing some of my new reads and old loves with you all. But, I miss posts like THIS one (which is a post that comes to mind frequently for me when I think of this space), where I felt I was real. I miss feeling real in this space.

So, let’s talk about shame, vulnerability, and {hopefully} moving forward.

The irony is not lost on me that this post is publishing exactly two years after my most popular post, the “unveiling” of Visible and Real classes. That I started this blog in March 2012, let it languish, and then dove back in and started writing more regularly when I wanted to start a business teaching writing practice online. Early posts are scattered, trying to be everything to everyone, throwing in this and that. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing – and yet, I was trying. I kept trying to put everything out there, and yet, I also know that I didn’t take the time to build a tribe, as They say you should. I didn’t have a Brand. I didn’t have a Platform. I was doing Everything All Wrong. And then, six months later, I said I was backing off of the workshops, etc. Cue shame, which creeped in and told me how much of a Failure I was and how I fucked it all up and did it All Wrong. It made me question everything I did in this space.

For me, shame often manifests in anger (not shown online), jealousy (not shown online), frustration (not shown online), and avoidance (cue the months of crickets and fits and starts of writing). There was all of this shame, self-loathing, and uncertainty of what I was doing and all this smashed together Stuff I had tried to do (and didn’t work). I wanted to make it work. I tried the best I knew how. And I appreciated the time I got to spend with those first few groups – small but mighty. Yet, I didn’t stick it out – for so many reasons.

But, every time I came to this space, I was reminded of the ways I had Done It Wrong and attached that to who I was (and what I was worth). Perhaps it isn’t such a surprise that this is a bit of a problem and makes for showing up hard, if not damn near impossible. Writing, storytelling, trusting myself and my own truth became difficult, because I felt that’s what I had been doing in creating this space and chasing my dreams of creating space for writing practice, and I did it ALL WRONG. It didn’t work. So, if it didn’t work, was I just blowing smoke?

Confession: I give up pretty easily on a lot of things, especially when it gets hard.

This was yet another instance. This was another place where I Gave Up and I walked outside of the arena. I couldn’t take it and I was Unworthy. {This is a message I have fought with, given into, and believed for much of my life.}

Confession: All of the good grades? All of the performing? The giving up when iI’m scared of failing? It helps keep me feeling Worthy of the grace, love, and beauty I am surrounded by. If I don’t fail, if I do everything Right, then I will be Worthy. I feel it is required of me to be the Bright Ray of Sunshine to make everything better and to not cause waves. And if I am not Worthy, I move in one of two directions: Complete Shutdown or Overperforming. {Either end of this pendulum is exhausting.}

And failing causes waves. Struggling with depression and self-injury causes waves. Being angry causes waves. Wrestling with the jealousy and feeling like I will never make my dreams come true causes waves (internally and externally). And yet, the experience of this all is the very storytelling that I was seeking to do here. And yet, I couldn’t show up and tell this truth – it would cause too many waves. {And to be honest? I also began to feel that because I couldn’t make dreams happen, I shouldn’t have them at all. Easier, my brain told me. I forget that sometimes, my brain lies.}

20140721_120032791_iOSOne of the things I have been trying to do is to work through some of this – through lots of writing, art journaling, and really trying to get down to the blood, bones, and sinew of what has kept me from being fully present here V+R the past year and a half. What is this that keeps me from this – and how can I work through it, on my terms, with my own truth?

In this, I have also needed to recognize my own culpability – the ways I shut down, the ways I tune out, the way I stick my head in the sand and keep trying to make sense of the world through lenses that are Not Mine. The ways that I give up and stop doing the work (whatever that means in the moment). I had to accept that I was making a choice in not showing up… and that showing up would require me to be brave.

This isn’t something that has come up overnight. Rather, this process has been prompted by my own desire to be braver, my work with my therapist, and what seems to be a message coming through in blog posts I’ve been reading, courses I am taking online this summer. And, frankly? I am sick of avoiding this space, of feeling this shame weighing down my shoulders. Heavy heavy heavy on these shoulders – it’s no wonder I’ve been having issues the past few weeks.

This shame has become a burden I can’t carry anymore. I won’t. And I have to keep remembering that this brave is a process, that this showing up is a process – again and again and again. It is a process to make the choice to stand on my own ground. It is a practice to stand in the arena and share truth vulnerably.

the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;

who strives valiantly;

who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;

but who does actually strive to do the deeds;

who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause

~ from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech Citizenship In A Republic, delivered at the Sorbonne (1910)
courtesy of Brené Brown’s blog post on the wo/man in the arena 

This is my life right now – battling the demons of Shame and Not Enough. But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the amazing truth I read through other blogs, through books, through music, through conversation, and through learning to stand (wobbly) in my own truth – it is that coming forward and sharing {dare I say it, to make it visible and real} helps work through these demons and move forward.

#bookreview – Daughter of Smoke and Bone (#1) by Laini Taylor

8490112Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Book #1)
by Laini Taylor
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011
Young Adult/Fantasy

This was a book I had heard a smidgen about, and was intrigued by, but hadn’t thought much about. And then, in this online course that I’m taking right now, one of the readings was Spy on Laini Taylor’s Writing Notebook, which was all sorts of intriguing. So, I downloaded it from the library and started reading.

I should also note: I am a fan, overall, of young adult novels. Some of the newer books aren’t my cup of tea and I do some heckling over (*coughTwilightcough*), but for the most part, YA is a genre I appreciate and like reading.

I really liked Karou as a character; the intrigue of the question “Who am I?” dances throughout the book, as Karou leads a double life as a supernatural errand girl and an art student. She and her best friend, Zuzana, feel like well fleshed out female characters, which is something that is important to me. It felt like they were real characters, with real wants and desires (not only to have a relationship; while that is important, it’s not necessarily the primary reason).

Though, there is the romance portion, particularly Romeo and Juliet-esque of star-crossed lovers and intrigue that arises when Karou meets Akiva on one of her errands. As a character, Akiva is wrestling as much as Karou with issues, though of a different sort. Interesting questions of who am I after what I’ve done come up with him.

The scenery is as much of a character, it feels, as the characters themselves. I felt I was wandering the streets worldwide with Karou and left me wondering more about the magic I may no be seeing in this world of mine. Further, threads of hope are woven throughout the novel, a theme that makes me wonder where Taylor is taking the next novel.

Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic. ~ Karou in Daughter of Smoke and Bone

The world(s) that Taylor creates are engaging and left me wondering enough about “What next?” that that second in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy is now downloaded from the library.

#bookreview – Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

18045891Sharp Objects
by Gillian Flynn
Broadway Paperbacks, 2006
Mystery/Crime, Psychological Thriller

When I finished reading Gone Girl, the book Flynn is most famous for, I remembered thinking that it was ugly people doing ugly things to one another. In some ways, I felt the same about this, except on a whole different level.

Newspaper reporter Camille Preaker, recently home from a brief stay at a psychiatric hospital, is sent to her hometown to report on what appears to potentially be a serial killer. The killer is murdering young girls and taking their teeth. She stays with her mother, stepfather, and half-sister, none of whom she knows very well.

One of the things that Flynn does well is create complex characters who get into your head. That doesn’t mean you like them, but you feel them. You learn more about yourself in how you respond to them, and what judgments you make about them.

An engaging read, but highly disturbing. Would I recommend it? Perhaps if you’re a fan of psychological thrillers and hard truths that don’t turn away from the ugly parts of life. Potential trigger warnings, too, in part for child maltreatment and self-injury.


#bookreview – Skin Game (Dresden Files #15) by Jim Butcher

19486421Skin Game (Dresden Files #15)
by Jim Butcher
ROC Hardcover, 2014
Urban fantasy

In terms of a series that I have poured time and energy into, probably the only other series I love as much as the Dresden Files is the Dark Tower series (and I think that will have a post series of its very own on the blog at some point, as it is my absolute favorite series/book and the most often recommended read from me). So, that’s saying a whole heck of a lot. (I appreciate the characters, the storytelling, and the explosion factor in the Dresden Files. Your mileage may vary.)

Anyway, Skin Game is the 15th installment of the Dresden Files, and throughout, it reminded me of a scene from season 7 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer which is hysterical when watching from the outside (with insider knowledge), but  would be really frustrating if you didn’t have the insider knowledge. Which is to say, don’t start here if you haven’t read the Dresden Files before.

Butcher leans heavily on all the history that has come before in the Dresden universe. There were times, since I haven’t reread the series in a while, I went on a Wikipedia hunt for a character or reminders about past books. And yet, Butcher also does a nice job including enough banter or catch up that the reader has a vague idea, which is enough for the purposes of the book.

Butcher has commented that books 12-14 were like a “special three part episode.”

For me personally, CHANGES – GHOST STORY – COLD DAYS is the big three-part special episode that comes in the middle of the season like they used to do in the old shows, like in the 70s and 80s. “This is the HUGE, EPIC episode!” and they’d occasionally pre-empt the whole evening to show it to you. That’s what those three books are to me. This will be getting back to what we’ve done before. Harry’s been kind of in isolation for a while, and the events that have happened to him have kind of changed him over time. We get to see a little bit more of that, we get to see a little bit more of him stopping that. And you get back to Chicago to the Scooby Gang and so on. Although he can’t spend as much time with them as I’m sure a lot of readers would have because the whole premise of SKIN GAME is he gets loaned out to the Evil League of Evil so they can pull a job. So that’s what he’s busy doing, he’s got to hang out with all these jerks and psychopaths. (From an August 2013 interview)

for me, this book puts Dresden in a different light as he’s wrestling with the choices he’s made over the past few years (books), and what the consequences of those choices are. There were some major changes that happened in the last three books. I appreciate that the core of Dresden is battling with what that means for him.

All in all, I really loved this installment of the Dresden Files, recognizing the amount of backstory it requires may put some people off. But, for me? That’s what makes me coming back to a series – that it remembers I can remember and leans on the backstory to move forward … kind of like life.

#bookreview – The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

SilkwormThe Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2)
by Robert Galbraith (pseudonym for JK Rowling)
Mulholland Books, 2014

Last year, when The Cuckoo’s Calling book came out, I was hearing good things. And then news broke that Robert Galbraith was actually JK Rowling, which made it even more interesting. This year, she was back with a second installment of the Cormoran Strike novels, and I much prefer this one to the first.

Snarky (and lascivious) novelist Owen Quine goes missing – which is nothing new. This time, though, he has just had a (very public) disagreement with his agent over Quine’s new novel, which could easily be considered libelous. Quine’s wife wants detective Cormoran Strike to find him and bring him home. Nothing seems particularly out of the ordinary during this missing person’s case, until Strike find Quine murdered – in a rather gruesome way. The game is afoot! (Or something.)

One of the things that enthralled me in this particular mystery was that – until the killer was revealed – I had no idea. There were hints of it throughout, as Strike begins to string it together about 2/3 of the way through. But, Galbraith gives nothing up through the novel (or I just didn’t see it).

The characters are what make this series. While Quine (and many of his fellow writer/publisher colleagues) are not likeable, the two main characters – Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott – are likeable, real characters. They aren’t perfect – by any means – but they are real and caring and want to get the job done. Plus, they both have shady pasts that are just starting to be revealed through small snippets of their lives being lived as they chase down criminals.

Highly recommended (way better than Casual Vacancy and faster paced than Cuckoo’s Calling), though with the trigger warning of unfaithful spouses and gruesome murders described.

#bookreview – The Magicians by Lev Grossman

6101718The Magicians (The Magicians #1)
by Lev Grossman
Plume (Penguin Group), 2009
Urban fantasy/Magic

I had heard amazing things about this book. Hailed at a grown up Harry Potter, I was intrigued by the idea of a college of magic, Brakebills, and how a young man is drawn into this world and set on his path – after feeling pathless for much of his life.

In the beginning, I could not put the story down. Quentin Coldwater, the main character, was someone I was rooting for, because everything seemed to go wrong for him from the beginning. I wanted something to go right. Then, meeting some of the other characters, such as Alice, Quentin’s girlfriend? I loved the ways that smarts and hard work were important for the work. Plus, magic! The descriptions of Brakebills were enchanting and I could picture myself there.

I found, though, toward the middle, I just could not get the oomph to finish. I had stopped caring somewhere along the way. I was finishing simply to see it through. Quentin become someone I was just like, “Really?” I wasn’t sure he was someone I would like in real life. I appreciated that there were no easy answers, but at the same time, I just wanted the novel to end.

When I got to the end and saw that it was the end of the novel, but left like a cliffhanger, I wasn’t sure if I would continue. On GoodReads, I see that the other two books have higher star ratings than The Magicians; there is a part of me that wants to finish the trilogy (I am a completist at heart), and yet, after walking away from this one going, Meh, I’m not sure that I will.