I could feel the tinge of anxiety as I got ready to go back to my yoga class after a two-month hiatus because of emergency abdominal surgery. Even though I am on the mend and all is well, I wondered how the twists and turns of yoga would show me how my body had changed. Would there be challenges in new areas? Would the process reveal after effects of the surgery in a new way? Would I be able to do it at all? I noticed and honored how I was feeling and moved through it to get my mat and a fill up a bottle of water. I also grabbed my always available friend, a book.
In this case, it was Brené Brown's book, I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't). It's been a fascinating (and challenging) read, going deep into learning about the web of shame. It is true that I usually have a book with me, to go grab a tea, before a yoga class, while I wait in line. But never have I felt worried about someone seeing what I was reading. Reading this book on vulnerability was making me feel vulnerable. Exposed to the world by way of book cover. I typically sit on a bench outside of my yoga class and read until class begins. I sat down and thought, I sure do hope no one asks me what I am reading.
I secured my spot in the yoga room by laying down my mat and put my keys in the little cubby yoga studios typically provide for you. I took my perch on my reading bench. Legs tucked in, bare feet planted. The calm of a good read.
"What are you reading?" a sweet voice asks. Oh no, it's happening. I am going to have to talk to a stranger about shame! No!, one voice in my head screams. Another voice counters, Kelli, this is an opportunity. You are okay. Share. See what happens.
"Oh, Brené Brown." I answered. See what I did there, shared the author not the title? Pretty clever. "I just listened to her audio book." She shared. "Daring Greatly?" I asked. "No, um, something about strength? Oh, Rising Strong? Yep, that's it. What did you think?"
And so it went. I had a perfectly lovely conversation with a fellow yogi named Ariel in the hallway, on my reading bench, outside of the yoga class which we were about to take separately but together. We talked about shame and vulnerability and how nobody (sans Brené Brown) really wants to talk about those kinds of things. I shared how I was usually the one to call out that type of process, just to bring them to light, to share and address it, to be together in it. And I shared that I have noticed that that does not always go over so well. People really do not want to talk about such things. It was an effortless flow and a really beautiful unexpected (and initially feared) connection.
Part of what am I learning about shame resilience is that we need to share our struggles with people in our connection network. We need to create more connection to combat the isolation shame can create. Although Ariel and I didn't have a tell-all in the yoga studio hallway, we did have a small moment of truth, of sharing and connection. All the anxiety I was feeling earlier faded away. She didn't judge me for reading about judgement, she connected with me. It's amazing how what we fear can prevent us from getting what we need most. During that yoga class, I made a decision. I needed to have a relationship with shame. One that was open to being exposed. Not a secret, I-will-work-on-you-in-the-privacy-of-my-own-home kind of relationship. The kind that I carry with me when that feels right and share when that feels appropriate and wear as a badge of honor and not as a cloak of fear.
I decided the first step in my relationship with shame was to do again what I was afraid of earlier. Go back out into the world and read my book with the cover that makes me feel vulnerable and if somebody asks what I am reading, share and connect. A combination that is rare today.
So, I got all gussied up, grabbed my book, headed out to take shame to dinner and proudly proclaimed, "Come on Shame, let's go out. You never know who we might meet."