"He's remarkable," Greta said to Laurie.
"He's mostly just there," Laurie said. "He doesn't save himself up. You know?"
...Greta thought, That's what I do. I save myself up, most of the time. Careful with Katy, careful with Peter.
- Alice Munro, Dear Life: Stories
. . .
That passage stopped me in my reading tracks. I can identify with the feeling of holding back a bit, reserving a measure of myself. (But for what?) A few years ago I wrote about playing big; I think this is related but also something entirely different. This is about being all in and being willing to be vulnerable in showing all your cards. It's here's who I am, flaws and all. And also I can see you and hear you fully.
Here's Who I Am
Here's the thing: I'm not so good at this. I have developed a keen coping skill of holding back instead of putting myself out there. I have opinions but I probably will not unload them, particularly if you seem to hold a dueling viewpoint. When one of my college friends once called me "Annie the elusive, allusive, but never obtrusive" he was pretty accurate--I can play things close to the vest. Careful. By now the cumulative years of this have sometimes left me feeling misunderstood, unknown and inauthentic. The irony is my favorite people and heroes are those who speak up, stand up, share, and are fully, humbly, embracingly themselves. I want to get on that kind of wavelength. It's time.
I Hear You
I hope my end-of-life reel doesn't include all the moments I absentmindedly repeated a dozen empty "uh huh"s as I sort-of-not-really listened to my kids but really focused on some other fippery: email, cooking, driving, listening the radio, cleaning, reading. If it does, I don't want to contribute to too many more of them.
About a year ago I had an epiphany that I was using my busyness--even my grad school studies in many ways--as conspirators in my holding back, maybe even intentional ones. I can get lost in my thoughts and the siren song of multi-tasking can be pretty alluring. A chock full schedule can be a lovely excuse to avoid moments of vulnerability and instead can tempt me to just chug on through the day, full steam ahead. But then I lose out. I sacrifice that delicious sinking into a moment, looking someone in the eyes, and really listening and participating. I'd hate to miss out on moments of lasting connection in favor of a few minutes' productivity.
I'm working on it. This is why I decided to include openheartedness and wholeheartedness in one of my personal first semester "courses" for 2013.
Here's my reading list so far:
The Anatomy of Peace
Brene Brown's work on authenticity, vulnerability and wholeheartedness
A Blog About Love
The Bonds that Make Us Free
A Heart Like His*
Light in the Wilderness*
*These have a more religious, Christian (sometimes specifically LDS) theme but I think they're approachable for most readers and are well worth a look.