I’m good at the shine: the big ideas, the showing up, the flash, and the working of a room. It’s the follow-through I know I need help with.
I used to think it was just because the follow-through was boring. The shiny night of an event moved people, touched people, motivated and inspired people. The day after the event? The emails that need to be sent? The papers that need to be filed? The thank you cards that should probably be written? The phone calls that need to be made? The checks that need to be written? BORING! Tedious! All of it. Blech.
But uncovering more layers of shame, I’ve also recently realized, I’m not so good at the follow-through because after the big shine, I ache with shame.
If I talk to you at a dinner party – even if we talk all night long and have a grand time – the next day, I will play our conversation over and over and over in my head, I will see your face again and again – a slight wince when I said this, a looking away as I was talking about that. What did all of that mean? Did you secretly hate me? Find me awful? Wish I would shut up? Are you someone I can really trust? Should I have spoken to you all night? Are you one of those people that seem one way one night and then act a different way on a different day? Do you like me? Are you somewhere thinking about how stupid I am?
You probably are.
And that’s it. ESPECIALLY if there has been vulnerability. We connected deeply over something or other. It wasn’t a dinner party, but an open mic poetry reading I MC’ed where an incredibly diverse group of people bared their souls to one another and promised to keep the light of poetry burning together. Or it was... a group discussion about sexual assault on campus where many of us divulged the nature of our survivorship. Or it was... a sermon I delivered in a Unitarian Universalist church in front of ALL THOSE PEOPLE. Or it was... a particularly surprising teachable moment that arose in my classroom where we broke through the BS and actually connected on an important level. Or it was... a reading of my own poetry where I left it all on the stage (something I have only done once or twice in my entire life because I can't handle the aftershocks of all of that vulnerability). ALL of these moments shine BECAUSE of the vulnerability. But the day after, I have what Brene Brown, calls a “Shame Hangover.”
When I used to drink alcohol, especially before I had children, shame hangovers were often accompanied by regular hangovers. The first thought I’d wake up with was, “what did I do?” and a deep sense of shame would overwhelm me until I had called every single person I had seen the night before to see if I needed to apologize or not (This, kids, is what they call “a problem.”) Even though the Shame Hangover after a shining event is a better – more righteous – one than the kind of shame hangover that came with an alcohol-induced hangover, it still sucks. It still prevents me from the follow-through.
Every email I have to send, every form I have to file, every phone call that needs to be made is a reminder that during that shining event, I made myself vulnerable. I showed everyone a side of myself, a piece of myself I don’t always leave out in full view. And I come from a world (we all do, really) that tells me I have no right to do that… I should be ashamed of myself.
The annoying AF thing about all of this is that the inability to follow through has hampered my professional life. I mean, I do okay. I’ve done alright. But if I could get over this shit, I could freakin’ SOAR. I could be a seriously amazing badass… whatever it is that I am. This lack of follow-through has also hampered some of my relationships. I mean… we connected but remember… you’re probably just somewhere thinking I’m stupid now, right? So… no follow through. Again. I’ve done okay. I’ve got some friends. I think it’s possible that SOME people don’t mind having me around. But, could those connections be more solid? Could I be a better friend to the people I’m “friends” with? Um… yep! If I wasn’t embarrassed of the follow-through, that’s for certain.
It’s good. It’s good to know what you’re doing wrong. It’s good to know why. And it’s also very good to know how to fix it. So, that’s what I’m going to do now.
Follow Through with Love, Teamies.