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Once Upon a Time...

You know when you hear or read something that rattles neurons around in your brain and they reconfigure in a new and improved way? Like Oprah's "AHA moments." In my curiosity and sometimes pathological pursuit of self-improvement, I stumbled into one of these revelations.

Sometimes, I hear or read the same idea repeatedly without really internalizing it. Almost every lesson in my life could be broken down piece by piece to find one of The Four Agreements as its cornerstone; still, I struggle sometimes. "Wow, did I just take that personally?" "Am I making assumptions about someone's motives?" Crap.

Onward to my point. I'm a big Brené Brown fan, and in her latest book Rising Strong, she writes about getting back up after we've been suffered a hardship. By breaking this struggle down into three distinct phases: rumble, reckoning and revolution, Brown offers commonsense tools that allow us to deal with our emotions rather than letting them deal with us. Here's an excerpt where she eloquently explains this inner "rumble" you get to have.

The point that really got me was that when something happens, we take said event and filter it through our memories, experiences, insecurities--of course the shrewish voice of our inner critic gets to weigh in--and from all of that we formulate our view of the event and thereby our reaction. Often, that reaction has absolutely no basis in fact.

Here's an example. I see a long-lost "friend" who I absolutely adore at a public event. I run up to give her a hug, and she steps back from me with a vibe that says she's definitely not reciprocating my exuberant greeting. Now, I'm standing there feeling foolish. Embarrassed. Shamed. I stammer under my breath, "Hey, it was nice to see you; take care," and walk quickly away, my cheeks burning and tears stinging my eyes.

Here is the story I hear in my head:

She never liked you.
She only pretended to like you because you hung around the same group of people.
No one really likes you.
People think you're an asshole.
Even some of your own relatives talk nasty about you.
You're worthless and unlovable and a fool.

Good. Grief. That is a wide swath of destruction from a 15-second interaction with a person who doesn't cross my life or mind on a daily basis.

In the past, and by past I mean the 42 1/2 years before I read this book, that 15-second-interaction would have destroyed me for weeks, months, who knows how long, but I would have overthought the shit out of it.

However, with this new skillset--thank you, Dr. Brown--I thought about it, but in a more productive way. I tore apart those statements and addressed them not only as lies, but also really mean hateful lies that I would never speak to anyone. Course my inner critic--she's such. a. bitch--seizes any opportunity to cut me to the quick.

The ensuing conversation in my brain went kind of like this:

So what had happened was: I saw a person I liked a lot, and she blew me off.

She never liked you. Maybe not, but I was always kind to her, and in the past she was kind to me also.
She only pretended to like you because you hung around the same group of people. So be it. I don't hang around those people anymore, but I don't dislike them. If that is the only reason she was nice to me, then she isn't really the person I thought I adored.
No one really likes you. Bullshit. My husband and children adore me. I have incredible, loyal, and amazing friends.
People think you're an asshole. I can be, for sure, but what other people think of me is none of my business. I really try hard to be kind and compassionate.
Even some of your own relatives talk nasty about you. Touché. And they are motivated by their own issues that I didn't cause and I can't fix.
You're worthless and unlovable. So. Not. True. I mean that's just ridiculous. That's like calling a skinny girl fat. You're just grasping for mean things to say now.

And so it goes. But for whatever reason, this time the lesson stuck. The story that I'm telling myself right now...about that interaction STUCK with me. I got it. Brené Brown, I love you.

Today, I saw this:
Holy Mother of Moses. That shook me to my core. I talk about my inner shrew a lot, and I realize  that her weapons of choice are the negative, critical words I heard growing up.
Gulp. Here's the thing: I'm far from perfect, and I have said shitty things to my kids that I don't want them to grow up and use as ammunition to attack themselves. But instead of beating myself up about it, I'm just going to keep trying to do better. I say far more kind and loving things than I do mean things. And I always apologize when I mess up.
Do you do this? Tell yourself stories that may not have any foundation in reality but really make you feel like crap? Is it just me and Brené Brown? Surely it can't be because home girl's selling books like she found the secret to youth and skinniness.
If this feels familiar for you, you should read this book. In the meantime, try to stop and listen to the story you're telling yourself. And remember. It's just a story. In your head. You can edit, rewrite, or just freaking delete it.
By the way, the person who didn't want to hug me? It wasn't about me at all. I can't tell her story, but her reasons for not wanting to interact with me had nothing to do with me. Don't take things personally. Don't make assumptions. Keep being a work in progress.


  1. I strive wildly to avoid the kind of language, sentiment and, well, almost everydamnthing that I heard and felt growing up when interacting with Jinju. I can count on one hand the number of times she has heard me curse. Corrective measures are couched in language that identifies the action rather that the actor. I live in perpetual fear that somehow I will fuck up this tiny gift I have been blessed with. Specifically, I fear that somehow she will have battle the same demons that I did.

    I don't talk to her the way I was spoken to and I don't allow others to do it. I don't treat her the way I was treated and I don't allow others to do it. Not relatives, not friends, not teachers, not no one. Not if I fucking hear or see it.

    As far as people fucking up my day? I am generally too wrapped up in myself to notice. Indulge in you.

    1. Jinju's growing up in a completely different environment than the one we did. So, she's not going to deal with demons.

  2. STANDING, CLAPPING, SMILING, NODDING. hell to the yeah on this post. i shared. it was gorgeous. i miss writing. LIFE IS SO CRAZY these days and the weather is SOOOOO nice. xoxo

    1. Oh Mollllllllyyyyy 😊😊😊
      Thank you so much!


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