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day 85: to s

April 27, 2011

Careening toward the end of my 90 day experiment in giving, Day 85 found me thinking again about vulnerability.

A lifetime ago, on Day 12, I wrote about Brené Brown, the University of Houston research professor and writer who studies shame, authenticity, and vulnerability.  I read and gave away her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, and because of it I think about the revolutionary power of genuineness every single day.

This is, of course, because I’ve shown up here — flawed, imperfect, eager — every day for the last 85.

As challenging as this wake-up call to authenticity has been for someone who wears mascara to the grocery store and triple-checks her emails for typos, it has also been redeeming.  I’ve risked before my small but loyal band of readers, and I’m still here.  Absent the structure of this “a gift a day” experiment, I never would have mailed clothing to near-strangers, written letters to long-lost mentors, or labored over lovingly disfigured craft projects.  Exercising both my giving and my writing muscles has left me, near the end of this project, standing stronger.

On Day 85, I considered that little children don’t really understand vulnerability.  I’m aware of this when preschoolers I’ve never met approach me on the playground, asking, “What’s your name?” or “Wanna see my loose tooth?”  We are born wide open and spend lifetimes sewing ourselves back up.  In many ways this is functional — we’ve all known people with a destructive lack of emotional boundaries — but it also feels like a shame.  It’s what prevents us from starting a conversation with a stranger or extending support when our intuition urges us to help.  In the past, I’ve frequently talked myself out of helping.

I’m often comforted by my own catastrophic thinking.  Considering a situation’s absolute worst possible outcome reminds me of that outcome’s implausibility.  When I play “Worst Case Scenario” in my head, making myself vulnerable through giving only warrants a “they might think I’m weird if I give this gift/write this note/extend that invitation.”  Since I’m not afraid of weird, giving’s worst case scenario doesn’t look too bad after all.

On Day 85, I considered all of the above as I approached the next recipient on my list of “Nieces Who (Like It Or Not) Will Receive My Treasured Hand-Me-Downs.”  S is four years old, but I haven’t seen her in three years, when her parents stopped by our home for a visit during a long car trip.  Mostly what I know of S smiles out of beach photos posted by her beautiful mother on Facebook.  I also know she is growing up a Manhattanite, which indicates she is already far too chic for any of my stuff (unless it’s worn ironically, a la hipsters sporting Tom Selleck mustaches).  For S I had to dig deep, both figuratively (how do I send a gift to a child — a family — I barely know?) and literally (what item of mine could she possibly appreciate?).

This necklace is made of some luminescent stone (agate?) that is flat and cool to the touch.  My husband’s very fashionable stepmother gave it to me for my birthday a few years ago, and every time I wear it I get compliments.  I figure these two facts must signify its stylishness, right?

Anyway, I love it.  I hope she does, too.  I will write her parents a note explaining my project, and I’ll wish the necklace well on its city adventure.  I’ll then abandon any feelings of weirdness after having done so.

I hope your day is weird in a good way.  Thank you so much for showing up.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Deb Cayer permalink
    April 27, 2011 8:06 am

    Anne, did you know that “weird” comes from the Old English “wouvre” which is a word that used to describe the places on the earth where people could feel energy, sometimes through dowsing? So “weird” is a word originally about sacred power. How interesting that it’s come to mean “marginal.”

    Your post today reminds me of an experience I had once in NYC, of standing on a street, feeling the tremendous energy of the city all around me, including under my feet. I don’t know if it was physical or intuitive, but the world took on a shine in those moments that I’ve always held close.

    I hope your niece grows up knowing the sacredness of her world, and is encouraged to contribute to it. I’m glad you took the risk of reaching out to her through her parents. I think it was an act of “wouvre” (or what ever it’s proper conjugated form would be :-). Blessings, Deb

    • April 27, 2011 7:59 pm

      Deb, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I absolutely love “wouvre,” and will forever appreciate its meaning, thanks to you.

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