Recently a close friend of mine told me about Social Worker and “Researcher Storyteller” Brene Brown’s TED talk on “The Power of Vulnerability.” I finally had a chance to watch it and was incredibly moved. Brown is funny, insight, smart, likeable, and makes a convincing case for why being willing to be vulnerable is a critical link to connecting deeply with others, as is belief in our own worthiness of love. Her talk got me to thinking about both why I write this blog and what I expose on this very public cyber venue.
My writing on here is inspired by my experience being a part of a phenomenal writing group for several years that my dear friend Joan leads in the Amherst Writers & Artists tradition. I remember attending my first group, from Joan’s urging (which was interesting, because Joan had never read my writing nor do I think she knew that I had been writing since I was a kid for my own creative pleasure), and being terrified when the first exercise was introduced. What? We were going to go around and read our writing just minutes after we had busily etched something on the page? But that was messy, unkempt, cluttered words on a page… I couldn’t share that with others, never mind people I don’t know! I was paralyzed. Joan told us that we always had the option to pass, and I seriously contemplated using that “out” and even mentally gave myself permission to do so for the entire first meeting, if not longer, should I feel so inclined. Yet somehow when the readings paused and all eyes looked at me and Joan asked if I wanted to read what I wrote, I did. Strangely, it felt liberating. I didn’t write anything profound, but it didn’t matter, people responded, people saw themselves on my page, and that kept me pressing down on my pen and opening my voice with a crack to the group week after week. Maybe even sometimes they felt entertained. Maybe even sometimes I believed I was an ok writer. It didn’t matter. I just knew I had to keep doing it.
Fast forward to a year later and I get my first essay published- I was elated! It was a small, indie, radical magazine, but I didn’t care, it was magic to see my name in print and a photo of myself in a magazine that I had flipped through in a natural food store for years. From that first essay, Betsy contacted me about writing together and working on a guidebook project for queer, non-gestational mothers. I was hesitant- me? But I am a total newbie at this writing thing and I am even more incompetent as a new parent. I feel like the infant here! I need someone to show me the way; I can’t be leading others. But our book isn’t about that, nor is this blog.
And that brings me back to the message imbedded within that surprisingly powerful video (seriously, take the 20 minutes and watch it). I have more than once questioned what I have put up on this blog and on another Web site I write for (www.itsconceivablenow.com)- am I exposing too much? Am I too honest? Is this going to come back to bite me? Will I lose a job opportunity for making myself this vulnerable? Am I making people uncomfortable, or worse, do they feel bad for me? But I am writing my truth; I am exposing all my vulnerable parts about my experience of being a parent. (Hopefully, my occasional humor makes it slightly more tolerable.) Yes, I feel particularly vulnerable because I’m writing from a position in which I already feel a bit on shaking footing (being the non-gestational mom), partly because of not having as much societal backing with not having a biological or genetic connection to my daughter, but even more because of all the subtle things being a non-gestational mom brings up for me emotionally. And yet, I write from this place because it’s what feels true to me. I don’t feel shame about it, instead I feel connection when others write to me and echo similar experiences or offer words of encouragement, laughter and meaning. I feel a part of something bigger than my small family of three. It’s been a wonderful experience. I feel whole-hearted.