Brené Brown is everything we want her to be.
Recently, I had the pleasure of sharing my day together with 1,400 other people at a local spiritual church, listening to Brené Brown talk about her newest book, Rising Strong, in a day-long workshop called, “Rising Strong as a Spiritual Practice.”
If you’re not familiar with her, I encourage you to search more about this amazing woman.
She is a researcher and storyteller. Her best-selling books and viral TEDTalks focus on her research topics, including vulnerability, courage, shame, and empathy, and she shares her research findings using the art of storytelling.
And what a gifted storyteller she is.
She’s self-deprecating and authentic, and oh-so-good at owning her sh*t, sharing it with all of us, and then making us laugh about our own sh*t, because she shares hers so openly and honestly.
It was such a great day, but the only thing that kept “hooking” me (as she put it in her talk), was my aloneness.
I wasn’t necessarily feeling alone in the auditorium, because I was there with 1,400 other people.
But the whole day, I felt like I was the only one there without their person. Their tribe. Even if it was just a tribe of one other person, besides myself.
At one point during the day, Brené mentioned the need for us to examine our feelings when we feel ourselves getting hooked. She described how most people can only identify about three different emotions they ever feel (happiness, sadness, and anger), but how we need a vocabulary of about 30 emotions to be able to name them, feel them sufficiently, and move through them effectively.
I recognized the feeling of getting hooked right away when it happened—as it often does to me when I attend events like this alone—and I spent our lunch break allowing myself to sit with that feeling, and then really digging into it.
As I watched large groups of women walk by, laughing and chatting…
As I watched couples stroll off to lunch together hand-in-hand…
As I observed smaller groups of two or three scattered on the grounds, enjoying picnic lunches together…
I realized something important.
I realized that the feeling that was hooking me wasn’t loneliness.
I love being in my own company and feeling connected to things in life that are important to me—like coming to hear this speaker, in this place.
And I also knew it wasn’t loneliness that was hooking me because these were all my people.
I felt a shared sense of purpose and mission and values with every single one of the 1,400 people there, because not only were we all there to see this same incredible person speak, but we were all doing it together at a spiritual place that meant a lot to me.
If I were lonely for company, my husband would have been happy to come along with me—but it wouldn’t have been the same. As supportive as he is, he simply isn’t as interested in these kinds of topics as I am and for that matter, not on the same spiritual path that I am. So I am afraid I would have still been “alone” with him, or anyone else, who wouldn’t have felt as moved as I was by the stories Brené Brown was sharing.
No, it wasn’t loneliness.
It definitely felt like jealousy or envy.
I was feeling so envious of all these people who had found their tribe.
Whether it was the group of girlfriends who carpooled together because of their love of the speaker, or just two friends that would ooh and ahh over all the malas and Buddhas in the gift shop during lunch break, or the couple I overheard talking to each other in a very conscious way about how much they loved and felt connected to each other that day.
I was envious.
Envious not just of a connection—because I have that with some very special people in my life. But envious of a deep, conscious, mindful, spiritual connection that I have yet to experience in relationship—romantic or platonic.
I have deep connections, for sure. Girlfriends and family that I would step in front of a truck for without even batting an eye.
And a sister and cousin who, thankfully, I can talk to about all my spiritual undertakings, but who are also thousands of miles away.
This kind of deep, soulful, spiritual connection? On a Saturday? At a suburban, spiritual church?
I am not only envious of it at events like this…I long for it in my daily life.
I long for it during school carpool and at the grocery store.
I want it in between the logistics-planning of middle school dances and playdates.
I even long for it while researching policies, writing newsletters, and reviewing resumes for work.
Maybe that’s why I write…to feel that kind of connection, even if it only ends up “in the cloud.”
Maybe my longing will make its way out into the universe and strike a chord with one of you. And maybe we will both feel connected.
Even if, just for a moment.
Because if I can reach even one person like Brené Brown reached me, then that will be worth every disconnected moment I have ever felt.
“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
~ Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection.
Author: Christy Williams
Apprentice Editor: Michelle Hardie; Editor: Travis May