I listened to episode one of Brene Brown’s podcast, Unlocking Us, yesterday.
It has taken me - literally, exactly - three months to click play. (The episode is dated 20th March.)
I knew it was going to be good. I have read several of Brene’s books (and watched her TED talks and netflix documentary) and I don’t speak lightly when I say they have contributed to changing my life. (It’s extremely rare if not impossible for any one thing to truly change our lives: it’s always the combination of many things, with one repeated pattern, which results in change.)
Because of what I’ve taken in from what she shares, I’m more comfortable with vulnerability and real honesty. (A little. Working on it.) My business is better and I lead it better. (That’s hard to say, but the team tell me it’s true and I trust them.)
Best of all, I have more tools in my toolbox than I did before. Tools for dealing with emotions, relationships, problems, fears, change, concerns, and even pandemics.
So I knew listening to her podcast would be amazing. Inspiring. Encouraging.
I knew I would like it, I knew I would be a better person for it, and I knew I wanted to listen to it.
But I didn’t listen to it until yesterday.
It was, indeed, all those things I expected. After the episode finished, I texted one of the PF team (she’s a Brene fan too, and that’s putting it lightly), and I literally typed this: “FUCK, brene, how do you do this. How do you be so legendary and yet I don’t hate you. How do I feel like crying and am grateful for it. How do you lead well and I’m not playing the comparison game. These are my thoughts on episode one.”
Most of you know I don’t swear often. I’m not overly bothered with it in general, although I’m not a fan of the really crude ones, and I have a full stop on taking Jesus or God’s name in vain. Super short version, Jesus is important to me, He exists, and His name matters, a lot. So throwing it round casually or angrily isn’t okay by me, although I completely get that most people who do it just haven’t thought about it much. I still love you and Jesus does too. (Side note: those ‘karen’ memes have given me a tiny indication of what it means to “take someone’s name in vain”. I’m not saying I know how God feels, but...wow. So much hatred for me and they don’t even know me. Anyway.)
If I do swear, I tend to do it with people I trust. People who I know won’t judge me or be shocked or horrified or wonder if I’ve stopped being a Christian or something. And I tend to pull out the big guns when I feel really overwhelmed. Like I can’t find the words. Like there’s no words strong enough to get across how I feel.
I’ve probably sworn more during this pandemic than any other time in my life.
It’s like….what even is happening. I don’t know. I don’t have the words. This is so new and confusing. Everyone is confused. People are dying. Or are they? We can’t trust anyone. I feel this and that and the other thing. I’m doing better! I’m having a great day. This day sucks. This week sucks. WTF, 2020. Wow my business is doing so well. That’s good. Covid isn’t good but new business is good. I love helping people. Oh my word I’m so exhausted. The team are amazing. I can’t do this. I am doing this. What is even happening?
And that’s in the space of a day, or maybe five minutes.
When I went to click on the first podcast episode, I noticed it had the little “E” next to it, for “Explicit”. It almost made me laugh. Brene, the quiet calm soothing helpful encouraging honest researcher, with the explicit episode?
But I know Brene by now. I know how she talks about a “Shitty First Draft” (SFD), but also calls it a Stormy First Draft for those who want to go cautiously with swearing for the sake of their children, or for any other reason. And she did this, too, with the ‘Fucking First Time” (FFT), which you can also call the Terrible First Time (TFT) if you want.
The point she was sharing was, this is an FFT for all of us. We’ve never been through a global pandemic before. And there are a lot of other FFT’s we’ve got to work through - in our businesses and relationships and churches and feelings and all the things.
So if the podcast is so great (and it is, I highly recommend this particular episode), why did it take me three months to get to it? Why didn’t I see it had launched and go “ooooh, Brene, she’s amazing, I will have new tools for my toolbox, I’ll listen today?”
I didn’t know at the time, and I didn’t even really think about it. I just thought “that will be amazing, I will listen sometime”, and went on with my day and my life and the things I had before me.
But I thought about it this morning, and I thought about how I tend to approach things. I thought about how many years I lived with M.E. (also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and how much of that was connected to emotional issues and trauma I had gone through. I thought about how when things are super hard, I pull in like a turtle first, before I start poking my head out and looking around and confirming it’s safe enough to start inching out.
Not everyone is like this. Some people power ahead, instantly. Some people go into over-work mode or over-sharing mode. Some talk it out, some go silent and say nothing. Some think a lot and some try not to think at all.
And, as I mentioned in a previous post, playing the comparison game doesn’t work. No one ever wins at that game, because we’re not supposed to match other people. We’re supposed to be the best versions of ourselves, not more like someone else we think is amazing for whatever reason.
I take time to get going on big things, particularly those which require change. Thinking differently, creating new products or apps for my business, changing churches, drawing boundaries, hard conversations… it takes me a while. I pull in a bit and think of nothing at first, then I let some of the ideas float around a little, then some of it starts to settle, then I take a little action, then I take some more, and then I consistently press on with it day after day. It’s just how I do things. And (mind blowing concept) that is okay.
It doesn’t mean I think I’m perfect the way I am. I want to change, and I want to be okay with change. But when I realise it might take me three months to get to the starting line (and someone else was there ages ago), then I put less pressure on myself and can actually enjoy the process. Maybe next time, or for something else, it will take two months. Or two weeks. Or three days. It depends on the ‘thing’.
So I loved the podcast, and I’m glad I listened. But even more importantly, the 3 months it took me to think “Yea, I’ll listen to this today”, have taught me something too. I’ve gotten just a tiny bit more comfortable with who I actually am, and why I take time with things. Especially first things, and FFT’s.
You take YOUR time, too. Whatever that time looks like.
And we’ll all get there. In time.