Tag Archives: therapy

Daring Greatly or Shaming Slightly

shame-on-youI’ve heard the name of Brene Brown in various Facebook postings and TED talks and etcetera, so curiosity finally got the  better of me and I took “Daring Greatly” out of the library.

I’m so glad I didn’t buy it.

Of course, she did tick me off right away by mentioning how her TED talk went viral  – at least three or four times in the first pages. Then she talks about how everyone is wrong to feel shame or shyness or whatever and that we should all go around showing vulnerability all the time as this would make us happier and healthier, etc, etc, better parents, better people, etc.

I’m not sure about this. I know it wasn’t necessarily a good thing to learn my parents were vulnerable. I preferred thinking of them as invincible. Who else to stand for me against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune? When I realized they were vulnerable, it was heartbreaking and terrifying.

Perhaps my having to tell lies in the Confessional as a kid has hardened me, but shame doesn’t seem to be too much of my makeup, either, though I do know I have failed at a few things and have appropriate cringing behaviour when thinking of that. Failure is never cheering. Without a little shame about my failing, I might well be even more insufferable than I am!

And I’m not fit, I’m overweight. I’m not happy with that, but I’m not shamed by it – I just wish to be mystically healthier. Brown talks about the awfulness of body shame, something that might come better from someone not in the blonde, beautiful and fit category. Of course, fit people can have body shame, but it strikes me as  form of narcissism that is sad and wasteful.

The books goes on to talk about how we shouldn’t be ashamed of how we parent, or of how we can’t buy everything our kids want or feed them only vegetables from contented soil or whatever. Do we need to be told this? If so, we’ve lost sight of a lot of the good things of life, of the value of friendships, of simple pleasure, of responsibility.

In all, the book, a quick skim, made me sad. Sad for the need for such a book, sad for the relief with which its simple messages are greeted.




I met a wise woman the other day.  She was supposed to be a psychic.  I went to her for my annual glimpse of the world ahead – not that I believe people can see the future, but I find the discussions often play on things that are rattling around in my head anyway and help me create the future I want for myself. The psychic says something and it touches a fiber in my brain and makes it resonate like a harp string, playing a note that commands my attention. It’s like cheap therapy, only they don’t usually send me away with homework.

This lass did.  And it’s interesting homework. She suggested that every night when I went to bed, I envision the thousands of strings connecting me to the people around me – the ones who matter, the friends, the enemies, the ones I don’t really care about, the ones I fear. She said I should think of them as a clump of strings, and that I should take big psychic scissors and cut them all away every night.

“All of them?” I asked. “I might want to keep some of them!”

She told me the bundle would be so big I wouldn’t be able to tell which string belonged to which person, so I should cut them all. The ones I wanted, I could reattach the next morning, or the next time we were in contact.

There’s something appealing in that image. How many strings do we all have attached to us that we don’t take on with joy, that we really don’t want any more, that we feel duty-bound rather than inner-led to maintain? And the idea of trimming them all before sleep seems both enchanting, allowing us to float free of the earth in our dreams, and scary, letting us float untethered and alone.  For a moment, thinking of this visualization, I felt a frisson of fear – what if I should die before I wake? With no strings attached to my family and friends, would I be lost?

And yet…

The image resonated with me strongly because it’s one I’ve used myself, in describing how I keep track of my kids, my family.  When they were younger, I almost felt the strings attaching me to their selves, I could feel vibrations along their psyches and knew when they would be worried or sad or whatever. I’d even keep track of the dog that way. Weird. Now that the kids are grown, I rarely get a vibration along their connection strings – they are too far away, too capable of handling things on their own. As they should be. But I intuitively “got” what this psychic woman was telling me.

So every night, I play that scene in my head. And every morning, I attach people again. I notice there are some strings I just leave curled up on the floor. And I see some new ones floating by that I now have time and room to attach. And feel lighter.

Dear Dad….

I don’t have many photos of my dad. He was always the one behind the camera, capturing out smiles and foolishness and big events and small ones. But I can see him in my mind’s eye, alas, all that I have left, since he’s been gone  25 years now and for some reason it still feels fresh. So, I thought, in honour of Father’s Day, I’d write him a wee note. He only wrote me one letter, but I still have it.  I hope wherever he is, he gets this one.


Dear Dad –


Thanks for teaching me that it’s okay to be silly, like all those times you’d hide behind bushes with one finger held out, trying to tempt a bird to alight. Or walk new pants around the store on their hangers to see how they walked. Or drink peppermint schnapps with me to help us get through another party.

Thanks for teaching me that Goethe’s belief that whatever you can dream you should just start isn’t just words. You taught me, us, so much – things you also taught to yourself.  Photography, pottery, canoeing, painting, gardening, drawing, birdwatching, building model boats, creating pendulums (pendulii?), making pyramids, playing the piano and guitar and recorder and clarinet, designing the AWACS systems.  You would think about something, and then make it so. I tried to follow, but your skills outflanked mine so that I’d become discouraged – but the lesson remained.  Now I throw myself into things that I think about and try them, not afraid.  Sometimes they work out better than other times, but at least I don’t hang back. You taught me that, and I love you for it. I’m still recovering from your confident sailing trip, though.  Won’t see me in a sailboat on Lake Washington anytime soon, especially in a gale.

Thanks for teaching me that a sense of humour is a must. From endless punning sessions to jokes around the dinner table or in front of unamused laughing gulls, you made me laugh. I remember short-sheeting your bed as a joke when you and the family came back from camping.  I didn’t know my sister had dropped the camper on your toe and broken it…. After the shouting when you pushed your toe against the folded sheet, you laughed – we laughed together. (I got you a bunch of times. I remember putting the “Sexy Senior Citizen” license plate on the front of the car, replacing the one with crossed Canadian and US flags. You didn’t figure it out til you were bragging about your classy license plate to colleagues and they were singularly unimpressed. )(you got me, too.)

You’d come home with tales of woe, told in sorrowful tones, specifically so we could laugh together. You honed my wit. You made me funny and quick and thoughtful.

Thank you for not dying that first time you almost did. I still need you now, but then, we would all have been shattered even more. You fought, though, taking on doses of chemotherapy that would have “killed a lesser man”.  You were brave beyond imagining. I still will never forgive you for blaming me for driving you and your collapsing spine deliberately over potholes – but I probably deserved it for all the other times I teased you.

Thank you too, for always getting my sister the things I wanted for Christmas. Yes, seems cruel. But by doing that, you taught me to take pleasure in the things that life did give me, to find pleasures and gifts in the everyday, and to be grateful that you knew me well enough to know what I truly needed and wanted. And you made me tough, so that when I didn’t get what I wanted out of life sometimes, I could grin and bear it. And I still get a chuckle at the look on my brother’s face when he realized his present would only work if he gave away something to his younger siblings in trade for something they unwrapped. Ah, Christmas. I’m still in therapy.

I am your daughter, dad. Strangely, though I felt you always liked my siblings best, you became a part of me. Yeah, I’d make myself scarce when you wanted to show me how to fix a toaster – and I still regret that, 14 toasters later! – but I was watching and learning.  As my kids will tell you, some things I learned almost too well. They’re coping.  But we don’t discuss marshmallows much. Don’t ask. I have at least 10 minutes in hell for that one.

Every Father’s Day, I wish I’d had longer with you.  Then I go try something new or paint something or laugh, and I realize you are here always. And that’s the best gift you could give me.  Best thing of all? You gave it to all we kids, each in our own way.  No fighting. Well, not much, anyway.

Love always,