My Imperfect Marriage :: How Brene Brown Inspires Us To Rise Strong

Did you imagine that your life would go exactly the way it has? {pauses and takes a deep breath} Me neither. Life is a series of events that leads us down a sometimes unforeseeable path, but can bring us right to where we were always meant to be.

Someone whom I love and trust introduced me to Brene Brown about four years ago. “Who is this Brene Brown?”…I heard you just mumble. If you don’t already know, she is a qualitative “researcher+storyteller” and a professor at the University of Houston studying vulnerability, shame and courage. She has several New York Times best selling books, travels the country helping folks from CEOs to the CIA, has been featured on TEDtalks and Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday series. She is a crusader for “wholehearted living,” and I’m going to tell you how my husband and I have come to embrace it.

The Reckoning

My childhood and into my 20s was a sequence of some traumatic events {as some of us can relate} mixed in with some good. Going into details here could take up at least four really good Dr. Phil episodes so we’ll just skip that for now. In my early 20s reality hit me that I was lost and didn’t quite know how to navigate through the past to get to a better present. There were many unresolved things that were holding me back from being my true, authentic self. In 2006, I met an amazing guy {funny enough, at an LSU game} and realized that we both went to the same college in Natchitoches. From the moment he asked me out on a date, we were inseparable. We graduated from college and then were married in 2008. After several years of having a successful career in the corporate world and then my becoming a teacher, my husband graduated pharmacy school and we found ourselves floating to the next stage of life. Moving to that next stage didn’t come without some major bumps. During his four years in school, I carried us financially so that he could focus on his studies, which were all consuming. There was no time for “us” anymore. I worked, ate and slept. He studied, barely ate and slept. On repeat. We knew something wasn’t right and it had to be dealt with if we were going to survive this marriage thing. The shame and sadness attached to the disconnection that each of us felt was palpable. Little did we know at the time, but we were just walking into our story. Leaning into the discomfort so much that it hurt, made us resentful, confused, scared … vulnerable. We literally felt it all.

The Rumble

As we went onto our next chapter, we found ourselves in uncharted territory because the geography of what we had known up until that point in our married life had drastically changed. He went from studying for four years to working full-time, and I was getting swamped in my job as a teacher in an inner city school. My heart was breaking for my students left and right because of situations I could not control for them. There were also family issues on my end, and our communication at home was getting lost in the mix. Frustration was mounting and we were headed for a break down. Something had to change and we were desperate for it. We turned to making the best investment in our marriage by beginning therapy. Together. I am absolutely not ashamed to admit it, and I believe that reaching out for help should not be stigmatized but rather applauded because it’s quite courageous. Our therapist walked us through learning how to communicate with each other in a more respectful and clear way. She would moderate conversations between us so that we could get beyond the confusion and learn what was truly important to the other person. When we gave ourselves this gift, we began to own our story.

The Revolution

 As Brene says, “We are imperfect beings who are hard wired for struggle but we are worthy of love and belonging.” My husband and I and have come to a place where we both believe that about OURSELVES so that we may believe that about each other. We had to come to a place of compassion and worthiness. Will our relationship be made of only lollipops and rainbows now? Heck no! But in the mess, we have to be willing to find the magic. Daily, we work at this relationship. Other than aiming to have date nights, some things we do to keep that connection alive is we sit down to “check in” with each other twice a day where we give the other person 100% of our attention. How are you? Is there anything you need to put out on the table? Can I do something better? We also have a message board with our full calendar and a spot to leave encouraging messages to one another. We have two very young children and the example that we want to set for them is that THIS life is worth showing up for and being seen. We now ask for what we need instead of assuming the other should just know it automatically. We are constantly in the “arena” getting our butts kicked by work, bills, toddler tantrums, illness, LIFE. But what
matters is how we deal with it and pull ourselves back up.

Are we being compassionate, empathetic and vulnerable so that we can be seen and heard? Are our boundaries in place so that we can protect what we love most? These are the questions we stop and ask ourselves even when the going gets rough. We fall short daily but we are making the choice to live authentically, lean into the discomfort, identify what to do about it and move on. We get to write the ending. The following quote by Theodore Roosevelt is the cornerstone of Brene’s philosophy and it says:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. 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; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

 I have read the books, watched the videos and have been a student through her coursework online. The goal is to continue to live our truth that Brene refers to as the “Rising Strong” process, which is presented in much more detail in her book Rising Strong. It’s comprised of the reckoning {walking into your story}, the rumble {owning your story} and the revolution {taking control and writing your own ending}. Rising Strong is not finite; it’s about leaning into the discomfort on a regular basis because when we do that, our paths can lead to being the most authentic version of ourselves. It’s vulnerable and courageous. With a little self-compassion and a lot of grace, the rainbow that emerges after the storm has cleared is both comforting and beautiful.

 

{I recently had the honor of meeting Brene at a benefit for Louisiana Flood Victims held at St. James Episcopal that she so graciously offered her time for. I was able to tell her “Thank You” in person for being one of my guiding lights on this journey. It was a full circle moment for me. She is as real as real gets, beautiful on both the inside and outside and has a wicked sense of humor! Authenticity personified.}

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