“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
― Brené Brown
I can remember the day like it was yesterday. I was sitting in a comfy chair in the front, sun-lit sitting room of my beautiful home that I had dreamed of for years. I had it all. A family. A home that we built in the perfect Nashville neighborhood. A dream job. Really good friends. And here I sat, lonely and sad. Really sad. I was seeing a therapist at the time that suggested for me to read this book by a researcher named Brene Brown called "The Gifts of Imperfection." Another "one of those kinds of books" I thought to myself. You know what I am talking about: the self help kind of advice that motivates you for like a day and then you forget about it the next. I didn't need another reason to feel like a failure. But, like I always do, I ordered the book and started to read it. And, sitting in that chair, with my sad, heavy heart as the sunlight tried unsuccessfully to cheer me up, something in me awoke. It was one of the first times in my life that I thought, YES, YES, YES, this person GETS IT. They get me. I felt seen. I felt heard. And I no longer felt alone.
Brene gave a voice to my heart. She gave me permission to step into the vulnerability that I always desired. She named this dirty, ugly thing that I had been carrying around for way too long: shame. And she also pushed me to be honest about my story. To truly delve into the deepest, most shameful places and live there for a bit, to tell the truth about who I really am. Now, let me tell you, it SUCKED. It was not a fun journey. To "explore your darkness" is a slow, painful exploration. It was as if I was only given a scalpel and a very, small flashlight to find my way out of this hole I had buried myself in for years and years. But the beautiful thing was that I had help. And the honest thing is that I could not have done it alone. I had the help of a professional therapist that sat with me in my tears and questions. I had the help of my dear friends that did not give up on me, even when they had every reason to give up. And I now know that I had help from a God that loved me regardless of my darkness.
So, years later, I sit here in the light. Am I happy? Sometimes. Am I lonely? Yes ,a lot of the times. But do I know myself? Hell yes. And that is the greatest gift of all. And it is a gift that I want to give to others. One of the tools that I was given to help me better know myself (besides therapy, Brene Brown and wine) is the Enneagram. If you don't know much about it, I would suggest heading to the Enneagram Institute website for a better description than I can give you and a test to take that can help you know your type.
For those of you who know your Enneagram type fairly well, I would love your help. I am going to start a project this month on vulnerability and the Enneagram. I would love to photograph one or two people for each type, men and women. If you are interested, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a current photo, your type and a brief explanation of what your type has taught you about yourself.
My hope is that we can feel less alone. That we can encourage those who have not "explored the darkness" to step in with brave hearts because the journey is painful but damn worth it. And that there is LIGHT on the other side. Love and peace to all of you!