When Brené Brown Strikes

Like a thief hunting through my bank of emotions, Dr. Brené Brown did it again.

If you read my blog, you know this is not the first time Dr. Brown has pushed me into some heavy self-reflection. Specifically, and to no surprise, she spoke a bit of truth this past week when she visited Sixth & I while on her book tour.

“If you make the decision to lead a brave life, you’re going to get hurt.”
-Dr. Brené Brown

Okay, I know. I should have prepared you for that.

If you make the decision to lead a brave life, you’re going to get hurt.

Powerful stuff. I’m still processing.

While I would love to go on and on with a play-by-play of the learning that occurred, I’m going to pause here for a moment as the nuggets continue to marinate.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle of their own” (or some variation of this)? This assertion exists in the form of thousands of memes on Pinterest and beyond, and I experienced it as a living reality while traveling on the Metro yesterday.

I boarded a sweaty Metro car full of people headed every which way, and ended up sitting next to a woman who was curled up closely to the window, holding her arm which was heavily wrapped and held by a sling.

We sat in silence for around thirty seconds when a man shouted from across the train, “You wanna have a staring contest, lady? Let’s do this!”

The guy was in his early-30s, and accompanied by 2-3 friends who were as equally obnoxious as he. Sitting in a handicap-reserved seat positioned right by the door of the Metro car, he was staring and shouting at the woman next to me.

The woman stared back at him, and with tears welling up in her eyes, yelled back, “Are you kidding me? How is this okay?”

At this point, the entire Metro car was tuned in, and the man coughed a line to his friends to provoke a bit of laughter. The woman next to me looked back out the window with emerging tears and continued frustration.

Without joining in on the confrontation (and history reminds us that I’m not the best at thinking on my feet in these kinds of situations), I leaned over to my seat-neighbor, and whispered, “People suck. I’m so sorry you experienced that.”

With tears still occupying her eyes, she looked at me and said, “I’m just tired of it. It happens all the time. And he wouldn’t even give me that seat when I couldn’t hold my bag and stand up [on the train].” She was visibly and audibly rattled.

In attempts to calm her down, I asked her how she hurt her arm. Amidst the deep breaths, she shared a scattered explanation of her dog’s leash and an encounter with a neighbor’s dog’s leash. I could feel her calming down with each sentence.

The train neared my stop and I looked over to her and said, “Be kind to yourself.”

Of course, I walked out of the Metro station feeling very unsettled. That woman was so brave to stand up to that dude on the Metro. People do suck.

Bravery is hard.

And often, the enigmas of people sucking and the provocation of bravery intersect in a heavy and raw manner – sometimes they emerge in the most confusing and unsettling depictions. People suck. Bravery is hard. And, there’s no predicting when either of these circumstances will materialize.

So much of Brené Brown’s sentiment was drenched in the challenge of pausing, and as I walked home that night from the Metro station, I couldn’t help but think that this woman was so much more than a passerby on the train – she was a coworker, a family member, a friend, a bystander, a frustrated citizen.

If you make the decision to lead a brave life, you’re going to get hurt.

Still powerful. Still resonating.

What does bravery look like as we enter each new day? And new year?

What does bravery look like for you (for us, me, others)?

Is it in you?

While Brené Brown may be paying her annual visit to my head and heart, the conundrum still remains: Am I brave enough? Do I have the courage to honor curiosity, and even at the risk of getting hurt? Am I worthy?

Fully aware. Alarmingly vulnerable. Pausing patiently. Still.

Will you be brave today?

Onward,

Michael

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Check out my other Dr. Brené Brown-inspired posts:

That one time I hung out with Brené Brown (and a few thousand others)…

“Stop dress-rehearsing tragedy.”

When “vulnerability” is no longer relevant, and you just start living your truth.

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