Monday, September 17, 2012

Have you lost your marbles?

You know those times when you read a book and you start to think it might have been written just for you, and just for you right in that moment? I read one of those this past weekend.  Daring Greatly by BrenĂ© Brown. This is one of those books that just to go back and read the things I highlighted as I was reading the book the first time would take another hour.

I had picked it up from the recommendation of The Bloggess but not read it yet. Then because she (Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess) was going to be on Katie Couric's show last week I Tivo'd and watched and it ended up that BrenĂ© Brown was on that episode as well. I was blown away listening to her speak about vulnerability as a strength. So I sent a quick message to a friend of mine that I KNEW would dig it as well and made plans to read the book as soon as I finished the book I was in the middle of. And I was not disappointed.

There is a lot of good stuff in this book but one of the images stuck with me so strongly I actually dreamed about it last night.  Ms. Brown tells a story about teaching her daughter about trust. She related it the marble jar her daughter's teacher kept in the class room. When the class was collectively practicing good behavior marbles went in the jar, when they weren't marbles came out. And when the jar was full they would get a party. So Ms. Brown teaches her daughter that friendships and trust are like the marble jar. That as people earn your trust you put marbles in the jar and as they do things that lose it you take marbles out. She went on the talk about how a trust can be broken so severely that you seem to pick up the jar and dump all the marbles out or most likely you throw the jar on the ground and break it completely.

She also talked about our armor. And that most of us learn to put it on and take in off in middle school and that by the time we are adults we are all masters at our own armor. I had to laugh at this. I am double armed usually. Humor is the first level. As you are all shocked by right now. I will tell a joke if things are uncomfortable or if the focus on me is too intense. When the uncomfortable starts the jokes start as well. Sometimes it's just enough to give me time and space to think and sometimes it's complete misdirection out of a conversation or situation I don't like.

Then I have my real armor. The layer that is closest to my skin. Anyone who knew me in middle school or high school can tell you that back in those days it was more apparent than it is now. The visualization I have for this layer is spikes like on a porcupine. When I was younger the spikes were normally out. I didn't let anyone get close enough to me to see who I was. As I aged and mellowed and worked through the anger it was like I brushed them down. Added some conditioner to them. Smoothed them out. But they are still there. And if I get my back up the spikes can come right back out. And if you are standing too close when they do you will get cut. I can almost feel them raise when I am in a bad situation. Like the ridge along a dog's back. Because I have spent so much time trying to work past this when I feel myself starting to shut down and pull my spikes up and retreat I generally take some time and try to figure out what is going on and either calm back down and realize that everything is fine, or shut down the person causing my spikiness to react.

So I got to thinking about those times in our lives where the jar breaks. Where all the trust is gone and the marbles are scattered. What happens next? What if you try to fix the jar? I pictured super gluing the jar back together. But the problem is that you know the jar isn't as strong as it was. You know that it could break again at any moment. So you end up holding tightly to the jar to hold it together. But here is the thing with trust. To trust someone (put more marbles in that jar) you have to let go of the jar to grab them (show vulnerability) but to show vulnerability (be willing to let go of the jar) you have to trust someone. So you never put any more marbles in the jar. You just sit there holding a jar. And if you are like me you do it wearing a suit of spikes and spouting jokes.

Because no matter how many times someone says that you can trust them until you actually let go, show that vulnerability and give it a try you won't. And we are back to the cycle. To earn trust someone has to be vulnerable enough with you to trust them. And to trust them you have to be vulnerable enough to let them. And once the jar is broken how do you start to earn that trust back? And should you?

I think the bravest people of them all are the ones who let go of the broken jar and trust that it will hold the marbles. Or better yet just replace it with a new jar and start the path over.

I'm not there. I'm still practicing this whole vulnerability thing. Too many years of not trusting anyone enough to put marbles in any jars let alone a broken one.

I have a few broken jars in the recycle bin. I have some jars with marbles in them just starting to fill. I have empty jars sitting next to boxes of marbles waiting for the next chance. But most importantly I have two full jars on my windowsill right now that the sunshine can play through casting rainbows on my soul. And the owners of both of those jars have seen my joking side, my prickly side and my vulnerable side and still sit with me adding more marbles to the jars and enjoying the class party when I cook for Thanksgiving.

Seriously, you all, read the book. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The chapter on parenting had me in tears. And made me want to double check just one more time with C that I was a decent mom. But then I looked at that full jar again...and I knew.

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