Be Vulnerable. Be Brave.

be brave, vikings

My sister told me the other day that she thinks of me when she hears the song “Brave” by Sara Bareilles.  So I went and listened to it and read the lyrics…and yeah. I cried.

(Then I went and watched the version with the childhood cancer patients and that one really made me cry. A little too close to home!)

I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot lately, because, quite frankly, it’s terrifying releasing your first book into the world. I know not everyone will like it, and that’s okay. Every story connects with the people who need it most. But it’s still scary to put out something I’ve poured so much of myself into.

The same thing happens every time I share a new song. I just have to push through the fear and upload it.  My fear almost kept me from ever singing again after I left Los Angeles. I’m so happy I didn’t let that happen, even if it took me six years to really start singing again.

I recognize that courage isn’t conquering fear; It’s being terrified and doing the thing anyway. This post about bravery by Susan Kaye Quinn led me to an awesome video about vulnerability, fear, shame, courage, and personal connection.

Dr. Brené Brown says that vulnerability is the core of shame, fear, and our struggle for worthiness, but it’s also the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, and love. If we try to numb ourselves to escape this feeling of vulnerability, we risk numbing joy, gratitude, and other positive emotions too.

And in our culture we do our best to numb that feeling of vulnerability: we’re the most in debt, obese, addicted, and medicated group of adults in history.

She makes a joke about eating a banana muffin or drinking a beer to numb negative emotions, but I totally know what she’s talking about. I think I’ve spent most of my life trying to bury negative emotions–escape from them.  Allowing myself to feel vulnerable has been a major struggle for me, but it’s something I have to do if I want to have a good marriage, if I want to have a loving, authentic relationship with my daughter, and if I want to create stories and songs that matter.

In the Legacy Code Saga, the fleet has a drug called “grimp”. If a colonist displays negative emotions, they’re likely to have a medic pushing them to get on the drug. The colonists try to pretend things aren’t as bad as they really are, and all my characters struggle with this.

They struggle with caring more than they should, they struggle with shame and fear, and they struggle with fighting the desire to numb their pain. And that’s really no different than what many of us struggle with, even if we’re lucky enough not to have to deal with some of the horrors the fleet in Legacy Code deals with.

In order to escape feeling vulnerable, we seek perfection. We want control. We  try to make everything uncertain, certain.

ragnarok, bravery

Ragnarok today? Nope.

Battlestar Galactica, Jera rune, eternal return

AR / Jera rune. The mystery of the eternal return. Or, as they say in Battlestar Galactica: “All this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.”

(And if you’ll allow me an odd aside: Ragnarok is supposed to be today. It’s the “end of the world” according to Norse mythology. Except that’s not what it is. We call it that because we like to see things in absolutes–name what can’t be named and shove it in a little box.

But the northern people envisioned a cycle: death and rebirth. They were comfortable with mysteries, with uncertainties, and living with the unknown. Things didn’t fit into neat little boxes for them. Bravery in a harsh world is a major theme in Norse mythology. Don’t be surprised if you see a book from me featuring the old northern religions in a year or two. In fact, I’ve already written a first chapter. ;))

Dr. Brown’s takeaway in her speech is that if we want to be happy, we must be willing to be vulnerable. And we must believe we are worthy of love and belonging.

Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is the key to connecting with others and finding happiness.  My level of happiness has definitely gone up since I started allowing myself to be vulnerable, to share who I really am with others, and to do the things I want to do, even when there is no guarantee of success.

Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Be brave.

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