Thursday 14 July 2016

Why We're Too Scared to Admit When We're Vulnerable

"We like recovery stories to move quickly through the dark so we can get to the sweeping redemptive ending."

- Brené Brown, Rising Strong

A curious quirk about the nature of blogging, I've come to realise, is that the story never ends. 

As writers, social mediacs, online diary keepers, one day we begin to write our story and we never stop. We start from what we perceive to be the beginning, or perhaps languish in regaling the tales of our childhoods and our former selves which all contributed in some way to make up who we are now, the person behind the fingertips above the keyboard. And while some may quit, give up or just forget they ever started telling it, that story doesn't end until we do. 
And soon enough, the story we tell catches up to real time. The chapters become naturally less frequent as we try and formulate our fresh life happenings into meaningful sentiments worth sharing, with an increasingly snappy turnaround. The pressure mounts when we struggle to find things worthy enough to add to our ongoing narratives, and we risk falling foul of believing our lives have gone to shit. That we used to do wonderful things, and now our lives are dull and purposeless because we can't extract the gold like we used to, and we're not constantly living this highlights reel our previous chapters suggest we used to be.

But there's a reason 'truth' and 'story' are not synonymous. 

While we can both tell the truth and tell the story, the results may perhaps differ wildly. But, that's not to say they're antonyms either. For the truth is objective, the real things that happen to us and that we are a part of. But the story is subjective, how we perceive, react and adapt to the real things that happen to us, and how we think and grow in response to them. And personally, I know which one has more value to me. 

Our stories become our most prized possessions, and other people's stories have the power to make us, break us down, and build us up again. Storytelling is the currency of the soul. But to have meaning, each story has to have a conclusion. We need that ending to fully understand the moral or a message which is revealed at the end. 

But with the never-ending chronicle that we create of our lives, this is something we do not get. When the story is never over, we're constantly seeking that understanding, chasing the sweet irony of 'The End' so that we can have that retrospective epiphany we won't even be able to appreciate because it'll all be over. We can only seek to understand the smaller stories within our lives, figuring out the point of each passing day, month and era as we age. 

But what happens when your current chapter, the era of your life you are living at this second is like staring into impenetrable mist? When you cannot extract the story, let alone the meaning of your life, because your truth is far to bleak to feel like it even means anything?

This is the point where closure seems further away than ever. When the idea that this blankness and pointlessness is a formative experience that will later be a part of a greater story, seems laughable. When you exist in a paradox of feeling caught in a Groundhog Day loop of doing the same dumb shit day in, day out like time has frozen, whilst being painfully aware that time is slipping away from you faster than ever, wasted to mundanity and apathy.

This is the place we fear more than anywhere. This is story we don't want to hear. This weakness, doubt and vulnerability is not good for our egos, and is best served delicately brushed upon just enough in stories to add weight to the grand conclusion, but never lingered upon uncomfortably so that it accurately represents how shit that truth actually was.

"We like recovery stories to move quickly through the dark so we can get to the sweeping redemptive ending."

And the reason I know all this, is because this is exactly where I am now. And this is where I've been for the last year of my life, a character left hanging in an empty storyboard whilst silence falls in the writers room, and no-one can really work out what happens next. 

I don't like thinking about it, I don't like talking about it and I really don't like writing about it, because vulnerability is something as hard to admit to ourselves, as it is uncomfortable and awkward to hear someone at the pub suddenly spew out embarrassingly after a few drinks when asked what they've been up to lately.

I'm reminded of another quote in Rising Strong, Brené Brown's fascinating book which has bought me a long way into understanding what's happening recently;

"Falling down, screwing up and facing hurt often lead to bouts of second-guessing our judgement, our self-trust, and even our worthiness. I am enough can slowly turn into Am I really enough?"

And while it's perhaps this lack of a 'great fall' that's derailed me as to understanding what's gone wrong, I empathise deeply with the change in mindset. I have gone from advice-giver to so desperately seeking advice, rendering me a massive hypocrite for all I've tried to achieve by telling my story. 

All in all, this is the hardest lesson I've ever had to learn - that sometimes progress grinds to a halt, and the universe suddenly stops seeming like it's got your back, and you look up at this vast great wheezing machine that's suddenly broken and you realise you have no fucking clue how to begin fixing it.

It's a truth we never hear because it doesn't make a good story. It's not exciting, or engaging, profound or formative. It's scary and unpredictable because we never knew this could happen. Because when we don't hear the stories, how can we know what to expect? That it's human? How to fix it?

Deep down I suppose I have to believe there's a certain courage in vulnerability. A humility in admitting catastrophic imperfection, without admitting defeat. That there can be an elegant, thoughtful way to shine a light on the more inelegant, undesirable parts of life.

And I think that's all I need to say right now. How apt that I can't think of a conclusion to end this story, huh?