"Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change" - Brené BrownI adore Brené Brown. If you aren't familiar with who she is, you should take a look at this TED talk she gave back in 2010. I learned about her from one of my professors when I was studying to be a LCSW back in 2011. Did you know that about me? That's right, I'm a college drop out. Not once, but twice. I don't particularly like that about myself. It dredges up old memories of feeling like I'm not smart enough. For the record, I dropped out of college in 2012 with a 4.0 GPA. Still, the girl who overcame a learning disability and went back to college with 2 special needs monkeys at home felt like a failure. Ridiculous. At the time, my husband was taking a job in Germany, and I'd used the break between semesters to write this book called The Final Piece. It was a transitional time to say the least. I thought I'd take the fall semester off, publish my book, and then register for classes in the spring of 2013. I never expected the reception The Final Piece received. I certainly never imagined myself signing a book deal as a result. I didn't go back to school, but I'd been given an opportunity to reach people in a way I never could as a LCSW. Pretty cool, right? It was amazing, and still I couldn't shake the feeling that I wasn't good enough. At that point, I had to sit myself down and say "Mags, what gives? What more do you possibly have to prove and to whom?" Therein lies the real question "Why does it matter?" I've always known the answer - Because they told me I wasn't good enough. Now, don't boo-hoo for me, this is no sob story, we've all been rejected in some form or fashion in our lives. My particular brand of rejection came when I was fired from my position at the church I attended and subsequently ostracized by the community I'd been apart of for three years. Ouchie.
Once upon a crowded Panera in Greensboro, North Carolina I was sat down and told that I wasn't good enough by an elder from my church and his secretary. They told me I was damaged, and needed therapy (to which I still say "who isn't?" and "who doesn't?"). The specifics of that day are subject to perception, and no one knows exactly what transpired except Andy, Kathy, and myself. I will say that they acted unilaterally behind the backs of the other elders and our church. It was a heartless and humiliating thing to do to someone, and if it had ended there, the shame I felt would've lasted me ten lifetimes. Instead, the elder tried to convince my husband his actions were my fault, that I was so hopelessly broken and in need of therapy that he had no choice but to toss church policy in the toilet and act on his own. Makes sense, right? Caution: narcissism causes delusions. In case you're wondering, my husband's response was something along the lines of "You're so high on power you wouldn't know your own ass from a hole in the ground." I'm fairly certain "egomaniacal asshole" was tossed in there somewhere, too. Also, my therapist assures me that there's nothing irrevocably damaged or broken about me. Joking.
The truly fascinating thing about this quote is the sum of all these things is exactly what those people tried to take from me by shaming me, telling me I wasn't lovable, that I didn't belong, and then taking away my purpose at our church. Coincidence? I think not. The last thing Andy ever said to me was "I hope this doesn't affect your relationship with Jesus." Wow...he really thought a lot of himself. Luckily, my faith is not rooted in humanity. I adhere to my grandmother's wise words - going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to McDonald's makes you a cheeseburger. A community I believed I belonged to humiliated me and shunned me. That has nothing to with God, and everything to do with deeply flawed people.
So, like water off a duck's ass, I did my best to let their hypocrisy roll right off. There was no way I was going to let them get the best of me. I went back to school to get my LCSW to prove...my worthiness? My intelligence? My mental competency? Who knows, I just know I was seeking to fill all of the holes in my self confidence. I worked really hard in school and at keeping people at arm's length. The only way I know how to be is open, I'm not built for mystery. I'm a wears-her-heart-on-her-sleeve kind of girl, and trying to be less than that really took a toll on me. The only place I felt safe being vulnerable enough to be myself was in my writing, and that's how The Final Piece began. So vulnerability really is the place we innovate, create and change. I know I did.
I didn't look back, I went on with my life and didn't give my old church a single thought until just recently. You can't outrun a past you're unwilling to deal with. I know that better than anyone, and yet I couldn't bring myself to face how I still felt - ashamed. The morning of the Author/ Reader brunch at Penned Con, I got a PM on Twitter from someone in my old congregation "What ever happened to you? You just disappeared." I was overcome with fury. I didn't go anywhere, I was asked to leave so I did. How dare they impose themselves back into my life. I almost didn't go to the brunch, because who would want to sit with the crazy girl who got kicked out of her church? I was no longer Maggi Myers: Fiction Writer. Monkey Wrangler. It didn't matter that I'm a published author or that I'd touched many lives with my heroines Beth and Caroline, or that I'm a fearless mama bear, devoted wife, sister, daughter... None of it mattered, because all I could think was how ashamed I was of the way those people treated me. Let me tell you, it pissed me off! Anger can be a powerful motivator, and it's the only thing that got me to that brunch and gave me the courage to walk up to a table full of strangers and say "hi." They didn't know that my hands were shaking, or that I was terrified of not having anything to talk to them about. Casual conversation for me is about Cameron's seizure counts, IEPs, 504s, and med changes. I was petrified. So petrified that when the gentleman next to me asked "So, what did you think of Ang Lee's Hulk?" I froze. Then I thought "Did he just ask me what I thought of *Onfi's results?" It took me a few seconds to realize I was wearing my Incredible Hulk t-shirt and this poor guy was waiting for me to weigh in on the age old dilemma - Ang Lee's or Louis Leterrier's Hulk?
"Shame works like the zoom lens on a camera. When we are feeling shame, the camera is zoomed in tight and all we see is our flawed selves, alone and struggling." - Brené BrownMy zoom lens was focused on a Panera booth 700 miles away. It wasn't focused on the kindness of the man next to me, or the other women at my table. When I finally realized the flaw in my own thinking, I was able to introduce myself to Terry Maggert, MS Stratton, Evelyn Stone, and MC Cerny. They reminded me that most people aren't like the people I left behind. I belong to different tribe now, a writing community filled with people just like me - broken in some places, damaged in others, but perfect as is. No therapy needed.
"You either walk inside your story and own it, or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness." ~Brené BrownSo here's another piece of my story. I hope it connects with those who've felt small because of someone else's carelessness. You aren't alone and you are enough.
|I took this photo of myself in the Panera booth. I went back, sat there and wrote the last chapter of The Final Piece. Take that and smoke it in your pipe.|
*Onfi is an anti-seizure medication for sufferers of Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome