Tuesday, January 30, 2018


Turns out, graduate school really takes it out of you. 

Not as if I haven't done all I knew to do over the past seven years to be my best self.  But the last eight months have been an entirely different story.  Rapid transformation seems to bring on a certain measure of shame for not changing, evolving, so quickly in the past.  

Education and resources and perspective have changed and elicited this transformation... there's no way my brain looks the same as it did at the beginning of last summer.

I read something in Daring Greatly by Brene Brown a year or two ago... and I spent an hour trying to find it on the internet yesterday without having to check the book back out from the library.

Turns out everyone loves talking about bravery and vulnerability and what it does for us.

But not many people want to sound byte the narrative about what happens if we do it wrong.

And I wasn't doing it wrong on purpose.  But it still was happening. 

I got a nasty text from someone who didn't know me the other day.  Who talked about how I was too much, essentially.  That I had abandonment issues.  No wonder I was alone.  I took it with a grain of salt because, again, they don't know me.  But I sifted through the criticism and remembered this term from Brene's work.  Looked long and hard to find it.  The internet is a strange place.

But its called "floodlighting".  Defined by Brene as an attempt to elicit a response or to breed connection or a false sense of intimacy.  When we share too much too soon with the wrong people. 

Some people do it for attention (think: Kardashians). 

And then there are people like me.  Still working through a lot of shame and a lot of trauma and trying really hard to not let it fester in the dark. 

Maybe I want to know if you're okay with my story before we get too deep into this; it'll hurt less if you choose to bow out early.  There's a small part of me that still naively believes that if you know what I've been through, maybe you'll choose to engage me differently.  Not stay out of pity or choose me out of obligation.  But if you know what my family has been through and you recognize you can't fill a single need we have, maybe you'll just choose to go.  Maybe you'll choose to communicate. 

Maybe it's my way of normalizing some of what we've been through.

But it's not good.  And I know that.  I knew it before I just didn't have a name for it, and so now that I have a name for it I not only feel empowered but I have immediately done the work I know to do to fix it.

This space, my writing, is not so different from that concept of too much too soon with the wrong ones.  But you choose to be here. Over the years, you know whether you want to click this link and read along or not.  Really I don't share details here until after I've processed it all, anyway.  And that's one key component to healthy vulnerability versus floodlighting.  Being vulnerable not to fill a need and not dependent on a response. 

Yesterday I was talking with a friend who was describing herself as an empath.  I have spent my entire life with empaths. 60% of the women in my immediate family are empaths.  It wasn't until yesterday though, after my friend stated that she thought I was one too, that I realized I wasn't.

So, as per usual, I did some research. 

Turns out there are four common emotional personality types.  The Intellectual, the Empath, the Rock and the Gusher.

And guess which one I am. 

I am currently hitting my face with my palm, face red still from the embarrassment.

Sometimes it's embarrassing to find out who you are.

And I'm right there.

Gushers, according to Dr Judith Orloff, are incredibly comfortable with our emotions.  We express them, experience them, share them.  Sometimes too much.  We don't wallow in negativity because we are comfortable feeling it, but we often want to talk about it.

It took me a few minutes to get over feeling embarrassed and of course... shaming myself for feeling lots of emotions, which of course makes me the "gusher" that I am.  It took me reading through the other personality types to convince myself that I was not the only one with inherent and interpersonal flaws. 

And then I realized what the author recommended was not to change yourself, but to strengthen yourself; her methods suggested were everything I've been working on the past seven to eight months.  Somehow, without the words to describe myself, I had perceived my own need and begun the hard work. 

I also was able to recognize and acknowledge that this is one of the reasons why I am not too shabby at my job.  Why I thrive in these fast-paced, charged environments.

The way people feel doesn't scare me.

People's experiences and feelings and grief and joy... I am not overwhelmed by them. 

I understand them.

My empathy may not look like absorbing their energy or sharing their load. 

But I can sit with someone.  I can let them be, whatever it is they need to be.  I am a sensitive listener.

And that's something. 

Am I still a little embarrassed?  Sure.  Kind of like realizing you've been walking around with a hole in the seat of your pants, or your dress got caught in your pantyhose.  Nothing too mortifying.  Nothing anyone has not seen before.  Just a little embarrassed because here's a flaw.  And I know I have them.  I just didn't want you to know.

The other facet of this process has been resisting the urge to text everyone I've ever vented to and apologize.

I'm sorry for who I am, essentially. 

None of this is news to you all.  I'm sorry it took so long for me to see it. 

Growth sucks.  But here I am.  Neck deep in changing our whole lives, starting with my mind and heart.

I'm doing the best I can.  

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