Wednesday Book Conversation: Rising Strong: Brave and Brokenhearted

Welcome to the weekly book discussion. My hope is that it starts a conversation, as if we were sitting in a coffee shop discussing over lattes. As such, it’s not intended to be a review or critique. So, please read, share, and join the discussion! This week is our seventh week reading Brené Brown’s most recent book Rising Strong.

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This chapter is grab-bag of sorts. The title gives it all away: “The Brave and Brokenhearted: Rumbling with expectations, disappointment, resentment, heartbreak, connection, grief, forgiveness, compassion and empathy. Whew! That’s a lot of stuff to rumble with.  Probably, depending on the season of your life, one or more of these jump out at you while others, not so much. Here are some of the thoughts and ideas that got my attention:

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“I’ve never met a single person who hasn’t had to rumble with expectations, disappointment, and resentment. It’s a standing rumble for most of us.” (loc. 2105)

I’ve said before how important this book has been to me, right? It’s what’s I’ve needed at this particular season of my life, and mostly because of that sentence. Expectations, disappointment and resentment are my daily sparring partners.

If you ask me about my mental health, I’ll tell you that I actively try to curb my expectations of myself, my family, my friends, my church, the Cubs, nearly everything, but the truth is, I don’t really know how to do it. I’m a driven dreamer, so I can easily dream up expectations for every moment, every encounter. But as Anne Lamott said, “Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.” (By the way, in case you’re wondering, my estimate is that more than 1/2 of the arguments in most marriages have to do with unspoken, unmet expectations.)

So this really hit home. Trying to devoid myself of expectations in any given situation is a battle. You can’t even imagine how much this is true. If you have ideas for how to empty expectations, please, let’s have coffee. Seriously.

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When I hear “heartbreak,” I immediately picture a teen girl pining for the “love of her life,” who got away. Cue eye roll.

But I’m so on board with the concept as Brené describes it here. My most significant heartbreaks haven’t been about romantic relationships (one advantage of marrying your high school sweetheart). My most significant heartbreaks have been about unfulfilled dreams, lost friendships, broken lives and death.

Brene says it so well, I don’t know what else to add:

“There are two reasons why most of us are slow to acknowledge that what we’re feeling is heartbreak. The first is that we normally associate heartbreak with romantic love. This limiting idea keeps us from fully owning our stories. The greatest heartbreaks of my life include the loss of what I knew as my family after my parents’ divorce, watching my mom’s pain after my uncle was killed, loving someone struggling with trauma and addiction issues, and losing my grandmother – first to Alzheimer’s and then to death. The second reason we don’t acknowledge heartbreak is its association with one of the most difficult emotions in the human experience: grief. If what I’m experiencing is heartbreak, then grieving is inevitable.

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On to forgiveness. Brené says lots of good things about forgiveness, but this one was particularly thought-provoking: she says that part of forgiveness means putting something to death in us. (For example, to forgive we have to kill our desire for revenge). In her own story, Brene talks about how, in her journey of forgiving her own parents, she had to kill her idealized versions of her parents that she had created in her own mind.

“The death of the idealized versions of our parents, teachers, and mentors – a stage in the hero’s journey – is always scary because it means that we’re now responsible for our own learning and growth. That death is also beautiful because it makes room for new relationships – more honest connections between authentic adults who are doing the best they can.” (loc. 2311)

I think this is a thought-provoking rumble for many of us: what do I need to kill in myself in order to move towards forgiveness?

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So many good things in this chapter; I hope at least some of you are still reading at this point! HA! I’ll end where Brene ends, with a quotation from C.S. Lewis:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

 

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