I’m a ‘Real Runner’ because…

Identifying as a runner is complicated.

When do you go from being someone who runs to someone who’s a “runner”? Is there a moment, a milestone, a decree? Is this status a personal badge of honor or one that’s attributed to you by someone else who’s a “runner”?  Are you a ‘real runner’ when you splurge for your first running watch? Does your status correlate with how much lingo you know and use correctly? Do you have to race to be a ‘real runner’?

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Contrary to the quote above, an experienced Boston Marathoner once told me, “you’re not a real runner unless you run in the rain”. Well, today I ran 13.1 miles in the intermittent pouring rain. I did the mental work to overcome the mental barricade of running in the rain. I was energized and determined. The weather didn’t inhibit my excitement or derail my determination.

So two hours and eighteen minutes later after completing my fourth half marathon, am I finally a ‘real runner’? Was I not before?

I was.

I know I’m a ‘real runner’ because:

  • I lace up my shoes and fully commit to each run.
  • I trust myself and my abilities by using mindfulness techniques and developing an improved sense of self-awareness during the miles I log on the road.
  • I turn in early week after week so I can wake up for training runs, and I triumphantly complete training plans even though I live with chronic pain.
  • I mentor elementary and high school students (as well as my friends!) to run distances that seem impossible when they first start.
  • I own four pairs of running shoes and I’ll gladly spend money on running gear before business casual attire for work.
  • I pack my running gear when I go on vacation. I think it’s the best way to explore a new city.
  • I often contemplate if I can get somewhere nearby by running instead of driving, and I’ll check the “walking” directions to compare the time.
  • I don’t run for “health” reasons (read: weight loss).
  • I’m part of a larger running community filled with people who “get it” and also love this sport!
  • I nearly lost my mind during taper week because running makes me feel whole.
  • I RUN!

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‘Real runners’ are courageous. They run toward and into their fears instead of away from them. They fervently chase their goals and realize that conquering them takes persistence and dedication. In fact, ‘real runners’ are some of the most dedicated, driven people I know. ‘Real runners’ appreciate each day they get to run and embrace the running process.

‘Real runners’ commit to building a thriving running community! Here’s an example, I was running through the rain today, and I was losing momentum. I hurt my knee, but I was determined to finish the race! An older gentleman came next to me at mile 11 and held my hand. He said, “let’s do this” and ran with me for a bit until I regained my stamina! ‘Real runners’ support each other on and off the course. They know how much of a privilege it is to move with purpose and intention. They know camaraderie and co-misery too!

So, today I ran 13.1 miles in the rain. I hobbled through mile 10, and got energy from my fellow runners on the course in mile 11. I finished smiling, and I’m ready to do it again soon! I almost met my time goals, and I learned a lot in the process! I feel proud!

I am a ‘real runner’!

What attributes do you think resemble a ‘real runner’? Complete the sentence in the comments section: “I’m a ‘real runner’ because…”

 

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What’s Cooking?

“What’s cooking?” Get it? It’s a pun!

As a general rule, I don’t cook. I don’t cook unless I’m preparing a meal for someone or someone else is cooking and I’m watching (usually drinking wine!). In fact, me cooking is such an anomaly that when I do cook, my roommates are genuinely surprised.

However, I recently had a breakthrough! I realized that my go-to, everyday foods (read: safe foods) are all cold (i.e., things I don’t have to “cook”). Well, coffee is hot, but that’s an exception. If I could have it my way, I’d eat the same, cold food every day. I don’t like to think about food and I don’t like to deviate from my routine! I’m working on changing that.

My breakthrough was timely because it’s getting cold out and warm food is (apparently) satisfying and seasonally relevant! In fact, in Melissa A. Fabello‘s recent Beauty School newsletter, she reminded us that in the winter our bodies crave heavier, warmer, and calorie dense foods. All this is great, but what did that mean for me?

This week, I set a nutrition goal that was way out of my comfort zone. I set a goal to have chili as a planned dinner meal to rotate in with my usual tuna wrap and veggies.

Easy right? Wrong!

Before I could make chili, there were several things that needed to happen. Primarily, I needed to find a recipe and gather the ingredients. I decided that Using a Crock-Pot seemed like a good idea because once the ingredients are in the slow cooker there’s not much maintenance. I did a Google search for “easy vegetarian Crock-Pot chili” and after a bit of scouring through recipes, I found a recipe that seemed possible for me.

chili recip

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My Asexuality Archive!

Hey Friends! So, as it turns out, I’ve written a lot about asexuality and what it means to me. Rather than write something new (although there’s plenty bubbling up in my brain!), this Asexual Awareness Week I’m sharing some of my favorite pieces that I’ve written about asexuality!

The first piece I wrote on asexuality answers The Top 4 Questions I’m Asked When I Say I’m Asexual. [Psst! It was also my first piece that I was paid to write!]

In this piece, I answer a big question: “what are the differences between aesthetic and sexual attraction?” [Side note: It’s more than semantics!]

Demisexuality is a common sexual orientation that many people do not know about. I demystify it here and later my article was syndicated on HuffPost!

After a few heated conversations about Aces’ place in the LGBTQ+ alphabet soup, I wrote a piece On Coming Out As Asexual.  I write a lot about belonging in LGBTQ+ spaces and what that means to me. You can read more about my perspectives here, here, and here.

Finally, there are countless resources online that helped me learn more about the incredible diversity of asexual-identifying people, the intricacies of the asexual community, and also more about myself. If you’re looking for more resources on asexuality, here are some of my favorite particularly informative pages:

 

 

Photo Credit: The Trevor Project, 2017

 

When Midrash Comes Alive – Sukkot 5778

I’ve heard the midrash, interpretation used to explain Jewish texts or customs, at least one hundred times. It’s the one where Abraham and Sarah’s tent was open on all four sides to welcome travelers from all directions. In the Torah, Abraham even goes as far as to interrupt G-d at one point to welcomes three approaching strangers, who he later learns are angels, and offers them the generous hospitality of his home (Genisis 18). Abraham simply accepts them. That’s important! The rabbis and the interpretation identify this story as the derivation from which one of Judaism’s values – Hachnasat Orchim  (the virtue of welcoming strangers and offering hospitality)– was originated.

In many ways, Abraham and Sarah’s tent and actions are emblematic of, ideally, how inclusive our communities could be and how enthusiastic we should be about welcoming folks we do not know. This example is the standard to which we can hold our own hospitality and measure our intentions and actions. Ideally, every person would be welcomed in the spaces they want to reside without their identities and their “belongingness” being questioned. Although, lately I’ve recognized that so many communities are more divisive and exclusive than united and inclusive. I’ve observed this both within and across the various communities or identities with which I ascribe and align myself. However, one community I am a part of, a social justice infused Jewish community in Boston, is defying this pattern of fractured, inefficient attempts at unity and oneness. Admittedly, we have a lot of work to do, still, to make sure we are accessible to everyone who wants to share our community, but overall, we’re unique in both our efforts and our effect as it relates to welcoming everyone and being inclusive.

Perhaps I can best exemplify this statement with a story…

One recent Shabbat our community shared Shabbat services and stories. I enjoyed the brief moments of peace – which always feel like time is literally stopping – during our service. We all enjoyed the refreshingness of both the natural light and the breeze from the open windows. It was one of the first nice days in a while. The reprieve from the rain elevated our spirits and our voices. Near the end of the service, a new person in the room shared with us their appreciation. Adam said that he decided to take a detour on his way home and follow the sounds of the birds. His meandering brought him close to our house – to our ruach (energy/spirit) and kavanah (intention) – and he decided to come inside. He shared the he wasn’t Jewish but couldn’t resist exploring the beauty that he heard radiating from the house. And, he mentioned that he was so appreciative to be welcomed into our space. Adam stayed late into the night conversing and sharing more songs and energy. At the end of the night, Adam thanked us for welcoming him. He reiterated how beautiful the singing and the evening was for him, and he even said this was the best night of his life.

I can’t stop thinking about this experience. Perhaps it’s because in this space it’s so intuitive for us to welcome people, and it’s something I’ve always felt was so special about our community that I hadn’t seen as explicitly until now. Perhaps it’s because often people do not share, initially, how the feeling of being welcomed impacts them – it’s an incredible feeling. Perhaps it’s because in so many other places, this type of acceptance and irrevocable, unquestionable, immediate inclusion is just not salient or attainable for everyone. Perhaps it’s because it’s so inherently “Jewish” and the best example I’ve experienced of how to embody the values of the midrash about Abraham and Sarah’s tent and the values of Sukkot.

Themes of hospitality reoccur in Judaism throughout our rituals and texts (e.g., at Sukkot and during the Passover seder). Fundamentally, Hachnasat Orchim is a mitzvah (commandment), and therefore could even be considered an obligation of Jewish people.  Therefore, it’s undeniable that welcoming all people, welcoming guests, is a Jewish value that imperatively needs to be capitalized on.  To me, this mitzvah is more significant and relevant now more than ever! We must continue to critically evaluate our spaces both to recognize how we are impacting and including others and where we can continue to improve. Importantly, as we strive to welcome newcomers in our community let us always reflect on whether we’re opening both our doors and our hearts. 

On this Sukkot, I urge you to welcome something or someone new into spaces within which you dwell – your home and your heart.

What is my intention with fasting on Yom Kippur?

Yom Kippur is threatening to smash open the Gates of Heaven and let them crash loudly behind us before we’re even ready. For many of us, there’s a lot of important work that we’ve done to get ready for this moment. Personally, I spent the month of Elul preparing for the High Holidays. I coordinated events and rituals for my community and did some really necessary self-work and reflection in anticipation of the Jewish new year – Rosh Hashana.

For example, I wrote several kavanot, intentions, for myself and my community this past month as I reflected on where I’ve been and what I need. When I started writing, I used the phrase “May you…” as the stem for each line. I tried to separate the “you” from “me” (I felt a little preachy honestly) and then, about halfway through the “you” felt more like I was writing to myself rather than writing to create distance from myself. I started feeling “May you…” a lot during these reflective days both in the imperative sense and in the sense of allowing myself to do what’s best for me.  Through daily writing, I discovered themes in my own ways of being that are holding me back in or advancing my personal growth and relationships. I agreed to let go of things that were weighing me down and make space for moments or experiences where I can be fully present. It was a pretty palpable area of growth!

Even so, as we get closer and closer to Yom Kippur and the Days of Awe dwindle, it undoubtedly feels like there’s never enough time to reconcile all I’ve done that’s been misguided and all the self-work I wanted to accomplish in the last several weeks.

Speaking of which, in some communities that I’m a part of we’re having one specific conversation related to teshuva, repentance, and self-work. Many folks are asking, “What do you do when your grievances with yourself (the things you cast away during Tashlich) are around disordered eating and exercise?” This is because on Yom Kippur, one of the customary rituals for the holiest day of the year, the act of fasting often conceptualized as your last chance to repent, may be misaligned with the important self-work folks who are recovering from eating disorders prioritize daily.

If you Google “Yom Kippur and eating disorders” you will come up with 43,100 results in 0.52 seconds. You can read a lot of interesting articles and personal narratives about how fasting isn’t teshuva when you have an eating disorder, the strange correlation between Orthodox Jewish women and the prevalence of eating disorders, and how you cannot fast (even for religious reasons) if it will threaten your life. One widely-referenced article says, ” For individuals who suffer, or are in recovery from, an eating disorder, eating on Yom Kippur is a holy act. Rather than finding “purity” or “spiritual growth” through denying themselves food, the act of eating itself is an act of teshuva.” And regardless of Google’s consensus or what a rabbi tells you, every person needs to make their own decision about what’s best for their body and their recovery – ideally, with the help of a team of medical and mental health professionals.

I will be fasting this year. One thing that I found that was particularly helpful for me in making this decision was intention setting. Many articles suggest that people who have a history of disordered eating might find it helpful to ask themselves, “What is my intention with fasting on Yom Kippur and can it be achieved some other way?” You could also ask, “What part of me is making the decision if I’m choosing to fast?” Examining your intentions is a good way to judge if it’s a responsible idea to fast and if your rationale is guided by spiritual motivation or disordered eating.

If you’re struggling with food I encourage you to take some time to revisit and evaluate your intentions around fasting on Yom Kippur. For some people “because it’s what we do” isn’t safe or enough of a justification to condone fasting on Yom Kippur.

This year, I’ve done this work for myself and I’d like to offer two intentions that I am holding with me as I anticipate and participate in the Yom Kippur Fast:

Tisha B’Av:

Tisha B’Av is one of the saddest days of the year. It’s the day that we mourn the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Babylonian Talmud tells us,

To not mourn at all is impossible, as the decree was already issued and the Temple has been destroyed. But to mourn excessively as you are doing is also impossible, as the Sages do not issue a decree upon the public unless a majority of the public is able to abide by it.” (Tractate Bava Batra 60b). 

I’m interpreting this to mean that we mourn the destruction of the Temple at certain time periods that are designated for mourning, such as Tisha B’Av. The sorrow we feel on Tisha B’av must necessarily be time-limited – temporary.  However, if we don’t make space to feel the weight of this sadness, our persistent, always present joy risks feeling false or inauthentic. Similarly, an article from Aish mentions, “The point of the [Tisha B’Av] is not to wallow in pointless grief or melancholy. Judaism guides us to always live with a sense of purpose. Take the sadness and use it as a catalyst to rebuild. Replace destructive emotions with constructive actions. Resolve that today will bring us [the] opportunity to realize our spiritual potential.”

Just as we cannot bear the weight of immense sorrow every day, so too we cannot sustain ourselves by fasting interminably. The spiritual intention of fasting on Yom Kippur is time-limited and can be used as a tool to guide our choices in the year ahead. And, since one day of atonement doesn’t feel like nearly enough to rectify all our wrongdoings, we make time each day (e.g., through daily prayer or though apologizing) to be aware of our actions and how others experience us. This one day, Yom Kippur, is symbolic. This one practice, fasting, isn’t meant to be interminable just as the sadness we feel on Tisha B’Av isn’t always weighing us down.

Fully inhabiting your body:

I recently learned with Rabbi Jane Kanarek, PhD at a Sleichot service. Her teaching followed a series of Jewish texts which narrated all the ways (financial and otherwise) that our bodies matter and have worth. With this sentiment at the forefront, she proposed that we reimagine fasting on Yom Kippur in this way: fasting allows us to, momentarily, fully inhabit our body and experience all that it can do in its most depleted state and all that it needs to be its strongest. Only when we’ve understood the full worth of our bodies and realized that we can do so much more if we are dedicated to taking care of them can we do the work of teshuva.  She implied that you must mentally inhabit your empty (uninhabited) body to bring enlightenment and awareness to all that you need to feel strong and whole. This theme of wholeness and returning inward is essential to the High Holidays rhetoric, but in terms of fasting, the wholeness comes from when the fast is broken and you do what’s essential, replenish and fill yourself, to put your best self forward in the year ahead. Your intimate awareness with yourself and your needs demonstrates why this fast is time-limited and why the real teshuva occurs when we move beyond the symbolism of fasting and emerge from behind the Gates of Heaven prepared for whatever our bodies encounter next.

I wonder if any of you can relate to the difficulty of prioritizing this necessary self-work and awareness during the High Holidays when there’s so much to hold and coordinate on behalf of your community, work, family, and friends too. This tension, or rather sentiment, has me thinking a lot about Pirkei Avot 2:16, “you are not expected to complete the work, but neither are you free to avoid it.” That’s how I’m approaching teshuva this year. That’s how I’m facing the seemingly insurmountable task of introspection and yearning for wholeness. It’s also how I’m approaching the necessity to do both community and self-work. They’re inextricably linked and neither can be completed or thrive in isolation – we need our whole self and our whole community now, through the High Holidays, and beyond to be our strongest and to even have a shot at achieving our goals. In fact, the responsibilities are too big for one person to expect to complete on their own. What do you think?

The Media Coverage of Chronic Pain is Oversimplified

The Washington Post recently published an article about CRPS titled “The Strange Pain that can Overcome Kids, Especially High-achieving Teenage Girls.” The article was shared with me by someone who has never experienced a chronic, physical illness and believes that you can actually have unlimited spoons. The premise for sharing this article was simply, “I thought it could be interesting”.

Here’s the thing about living with CRPS: it’s not interesting, it is excruciating. 

This article wasn’t an easy read for a person who lives with this condition or in general. The story was raw and real in its recollection of the girl’s suicidality and deep despair. I know that feeling. I could understand.

I shared this articles with several of my RSD sisters, and for those of us who have experienced programs like the ones described in the article, by the end of reading this piece we were feeling like we were fifteen again and meeting our parents by the PT gym at the end of the day. We too easily remembered our own puffy, red faces that were damp from crying, sweating, and working incredibly hard all day. We could feel our legs as wobbly as Jell-O from pounding the concrete stairs for “just thirty more seconds” over and over again. I was transported back to the days where I convinced myself I could do anything for thirty seconds. Later, this notion was expanded to “I can do anything for the length of one song” – just as long as it’s not Stairway to Heaven! As I was reading this article I could actually feel the roughness of a towel rubbing on my leg. I pictured the shaker machine – a machine meant to desensitize our bodies to vibration – and felt the heaviness of dread in my throat and chest. Honestly, it makes me shudder.

The truth is, this disease is horrific and the treatment isn’t glamorous or complacent. In fact, I remember coming home from the hospital after weeks of treatment protesting and boasting that my physical therapy regimen was more difficult than the gymnastics conditioning I complained about during every workout. I worked so hard for my recovery! I was thrilled to get back into my sport, but the emotional toll and trauma of this condition and the various treatments weighted heavily on me as I progressed through the rest of my life. I became one of those people who would do things “in spite of” my pain and to prove everyone wrong. During my physical recovery, I unlearned healthy limits and pushed my body too hard too often both out of fear of relapsing and losing everything I worked so hard to regain and out of sheer persistence – I had to prove to everyone and to myself that my pain wouldn’t stop me. I will never unlearn “doing too much” and I will always have a hard time differentiating between “good pain” and “bad pain”. Doing too much has been my emotional defense mechanism and my brick wall that has separated and protected me from the world ever since I was able to move freely, yet not pain free, again.

The problem with articles like this is that they present only one story and they’re oversimplified. First of all, the characterization of this illness as something that is common in high achieving girls makes it seem like we did this to ourselves. Or worse our parents’ ambitions for us got us into this mess. The article goes as far as to describe Type A overachievers as “one stone’s throw away from being a pain kid”. This simplification absolutely dismisses the severity and rareness of our lived experiences. For some of us, our bodies cope with stress in maladaptive ways – i.e., pain. For many of us, our capability to hone our Type A strengths is what helped us to overcome this debilitating out condition. We were taught to push through the pain. The mantra “If it hurts to do something, that’s what you should do” is how we learned to regain and reclaim our functionality. Discipline and commitment were the mechanisms by which we executed each day. Consistency is how we maintain our gains and continue to grow stronger. Those Type A characteristics saved my life.

In this intense program, we were taught to ignore the pain and prioritize functioning. It was the epitome of “fake it til you make it”. One person I talked to told me, “It was engraved in your mind as a kid that you have to act like it’s all fine but no one fully understands… that you’re not fine”. As I read this article I felt like my 3D, actual living body was squished into some 1000+ basic words on a page. A huge chapter in my life was minimized to a single story of one person’s “strange pain” that others might find “interesting” – my life and (my) pain became click bait. “Strange” is pathologizing language – one step away from “crazy” – that makes us feel less believed and like we’re making it up. This actual, legitimate pain is sometimes inexplicable and definitely described and experienced differently by each person, but regardless it’s tangible and all too familiar to me.

This isn’t the first time mainstream media has failed to adequately capture the lived experience of someone with RSD. In 2013, Dance Moms featured Nia’s experience with chronic pain. Nia’s mom says, “Nia says she has the pain but when she’s not thinking about stress… she’s fine… I think it’s in her head that something’s wrong with her feet… she has to tell her brain to shut off the pain signals”. This 2:20 segment of TV did not do Nia or our community justice. This mentality practically implies that we are choosing to live in pain. If it was that easy to just shut off our brains and decide that we are not hurting, then by that same logic many of us wouldn’t also have depression or anxiety. It is important to note that the comorbidity of these conditions is exceedingly high. The bottom line is: this is a real illness. We cannot shut it off. This simplification which occurred on a show that likely has a large audience of “high-achieving teenage girls” was a missed opportunity. Put another way, the public perception of this illness doesn’t align with how it manifests for everyone – with all our realities – and that’s harmful to us.

I realized this article and these “media moments” aren’t made for “us”. This Washington Post article wasn’t written for people whose doctors didn’t believe them, who have spent years warping their own experiences in their mind so relentlessly that they have convinced themselves they were faking it or that when they were feeling their worst it wasn’t really “that bad”, who felt like their pain and neediness tore their families apart and ruined their friendships. This article wasn’t written for people who know what it’s like to “lose what you are and what you love” and have to fight like hell to get some semblance of the life you knew back or worse, accept your new reality and deal with the implications or that – “even if – and especially if – it hurts”.  I finally realized this article was never going to be interesting to “us”.  And, it was interesting to “them” the same way a “freak show” is interesting at the circus. It’s othering and othering doesn’t take ever take the form empathy or compassion. It rarely even resembles pity.  It feels like on a smaller scale this article evoked the same thoughtlessness and naivety that “13 Reasons Why” did when it appealed to a privileged, untroubled audience, and “To the Bone” did for people who do not have explicit experience with eating disorders. Representing shock value at the expense or representation is irresponsible.

My painful disease reminds me daily that I don’t have control over my body and I will hurt physically and mentally sometimes just because the wind blows. However, I do have control over the choices I make each day about the life I lead and the way I love myself and my ambitions – fiercely. The article got one thing correct: “It is not as simple as “come for three weeks and now your life is all better.””

After all this ranting, I am left feeling energized by the possibility of a different conversation about “us”. My condition and my experiences living with chronic pain have shaped who I am today. I am hopeful to one day hear sentences like this, “this article was interesting to me because of what you shared about your experience. I want to understand you better. How do you relate to this article?” I will look forward to conversations that are powered by the curiosity to better understand my story and a willingness set aside expectations in order to make space for surprise, ambiguity, and maybe even genuine understanding.

What questions do you have? Let’s talk!

 

Who has earned the right to hear my story?

My list of things to write about is filled with topics that seem simultaneously too immense to tackle and too irrelevant to warrant attention. I want to write about counting – what counts, who counts, what do we count up, what do we count down?  I want to write a passive aggressive piece about the biggest occupational hazard of being a writer – exposure. I want to write about the relationship between trust and vulnerability. Let’s see if I can do it all by answering a question inspired by Brene Brown, “Who has earned the right to hear my story?”.

Counting

Brene Brown said,  “Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: “Who has earned the right to hear my story?” If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky. If we have a friend, or small group of friends, or family who embraces our imperfections, vulnerabilities, and power, and fills us with a sense of belonging, we are incredibly lucky.”

I can count on one hand the number of people to whom I’ve spoken my story aloud. Those are the people in my life who “count”. They’re the ones I’ve learned to let in and have earned the right to hear my story. They are the ones who “mesh with my messy” and keep hanging in there and hanging on – no matter what.  I have learned to count on these people. I count down until I can see them. I count up the memories we have together and the anniversaries of our friendships. Earning a place in my life where you “count” doesn’t come naturally or even easily. It comes with time spent, loyalties exchanged, and a whole lot of patience. I’m a tough one to crack – a slow burn as one friend describes it. However, once someone “counts” and I count on them, my fierce loyalty and dependability means they’re in it for the long haul.

So if you want to “count”, you have to be willing to hang and hold on tight.

The Occupational Hazard of Being a Writer

Practically daily, Brene Brown reminds me of about the power of vulnerability and choosing authenticity.  Her work reminds me that being seen and owning my story is courageous. In fact, she says, “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” This sentiment is one of the reasons I write. However, the hazard of being vulnerable is so unbearable to consider and the consequences feel multifaceted. It can lead to misconception and immense exposure. As a writer, certain aspects of my life are more public than private. I feel like sometimes when people read my writing think they know me better than they actually do. What’s challenging is that my writing is often editorialized to make money (or generate web traffic) and the choices I make regarding how to convey emotion, which phrases or formatting are more attractive to readers, and which examples to expand on based on what may be salient to or resonate with readers are only relatively representative of my lived experience. I cannot control the fact that people make inferences with the information they have (hey – we don’t know what we don’t know) and that’s hard for me to tolerate. Conversely, I don’t have the energy or obligation to “explain” myself to everyone in my life whom I feel has misunderstood my story by only learning of certain aspects of my life by reading my writing.

However, the hazard of being vulnerable is so unbearable to consider and the consequences feel multifaceted. It can lead to misconception and immense exposure. As a writer, certain aspects of my life are more public than private. Consequently, I feel like sometimes when people read my writing think they know me better than they actually do. What’s challenging is that my writing is often editorialized to make money (or generate web traffic) and the choices I make regarding how to convey emotion, which phrases or formatting are more attractive to readers, and which examples to expand on based on what may be salient to or resonate with readers are only relatively representative of my lived experience. I cannot control the fact that people make inferences with the information they have (hey – we don’t know what we don’t know) and that’s hard for me to tolerate. Conversely, I don’t have the energy or obligation to “explain” myself to everyone in my life whom I feel has misunderstood my story by only learning of certain aspects of my life by reading my writing.

So there’s a tension. I want to be understood and yet I’m hesitant to share about my life. At the same time, I’m anxious about the anticipation of being misperceived (something I cannot control – I realize) because the representation of myself via my writing feels raw and heavy.

The thing is for every 1200 words in a post, there are thousands more I decide not to share. The things I don’t share via writing are the details in my story, the nuances, that explain “me”. They are things like how I communicate, that I’m an introvert, that I hate being taken care of, and that when people push too hard, too fast I pull away. They’re the fact that sometimes my life is scary and sometimes I want to run, but I can’t escape it. And it’s the idea that regardless of all I’ve experienced, I don’t live my life from a place of being a victim. In fact, most people who know me don’t learn about all the things I’ve experienced – my story- for a long long time.

Except, via my writing, I do share parts of my story with the world. Here’s why:

Brene says, “We’re all grateful for people who write and speak in ways that help us remember that we’re not alone.”  After I press “publish” my writing is left in the heads, hands, and hearts of whoever stumbles upon my words. Being a writer helps me own my experiences and when I put my words out there my truth radiates. I learn I’m not alone. Which is terrifying and exciting.

The Relationship Between Trust and Vulnerability is Linear

Brene Brown argues that “Trust is a product of vulnerability that grows over time and requires work, attention, and full engagement.” I tend to agree, yet I believe that as trust grows so too does the inclination to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is scary and painful. It’s the kind of unwelcome discomfort that sits right on top of the fence wavering relentlessly between I need this and I cannot tolerate this. However, when you trust someone and you know they’re not going anywhere it’s easier to be vulnerable. Conversely, as trust decreases, so too does the inclination to be vulnerable. As a result disengagement and disconnection emerge. Two qualities that hinder the capacity to be open to receiving my story. The presence of enduring trust answers the question, “who has earned the right to hear my story”. Sharing my story is one way I can be vulnerable, and if I do not have a foundation of trust, then the privilege of learning my story isn’t accessible.

Conversely, as trust decreases, so too does the inclination to be vulnerable. As a result disengagement and disconnection emerge. Two qualities that hinder the capacity to be open to receiving my story. The presence of enduring trust answers the question, “who has earned the right to hear my story”. Sharing my story is one way I can be vulnerable, and if I do not have a foundation of trust, then the privilege of learning my story isn’t accessible.

Glennon Dyole Melton reminds us in Love Warrior, that “we can do hard things”. I interpret that to mean we can choose our adventures, make mistakes, acquire accolades and achievements, and overcome life’s challenges. Writing allows me to be the author and narrator of my “hard things”. I write because it helps me make sense of my story.  When I’m writing, I choose how the chapter ends and what the message is. This – writing – is hard. It takes courage to confront hard things and be seen.