I rarely recommend books but the other day I came across a youtube clip of Dr Brene Brown talking about the difference between sympathy and empathy and it was fascinating and thought provoking. So I went to the large bookshop in Shatin and hunted down one of her books I thought it was just me (but it isn’t).
I love that she says it takes courage to admit our vulnerability and not a sign of weakness, to be avoided at all cost. It reaffirms our fundamental human nature; are we not all vulnerable at certain points in our life? Who can be strong, sorted and keeping it all together all the time? If they appear to be then they are just better at masking their fear and putting on their game face.
I used to think I was fundamentally flawed, over-emotional, irrational, would cry at the drop of a hat, didn’t get on with the in-laws, obviously I was the problem, fell apart with my recurrence rather than being stoic, keep the stiff upper lip and look on the bright side of life, counting my blessings, after all there are people worse off, right? I was a coward, an imposter at work pretending to be a good teacher but soon I’d be found out by Ofsted and exposed, I couldn’t be calm and carry on and take what life had to throw at me.
I didn’t just shrug and took it on the chin when my husband chose to have a mini nervous breakdown when I needed him most during the chemotherapy. Nor when he left me to my devices to sink or swim afterwards when I had struggled with superhuman courage and strength to get better, when I thought we had weathered the storm and things could only get better, He chose that precise moment to excommunicate me from his life, heart and mind. Still gobsmacked how he could just comparmentalise the past, present and future. He announced my position as the devoted spouse was surplus to requirement with immediate effect, no redundancy package, no pay in lieu of notice, nope, zilch, as if he was saying I fancy fish and chips tonight.
I felt it was because of my myriad of faults, weaknesses, merely being me that caused the marriage to fail so dramatically and utterly. I had made his life hell, my recurring depressions, the recurrence led to the demise of the business as he couldn’t focus on turning it round, my social ineptness at getting along with his parents made him piggy in the middle all the time adding further stress … He’d waited all these years for me to change but it is clear I wasn’t going to. I am too stubborn, I could get better, I knew how, God knows I have been advised by enough therapists, psychologists … but I had to do it my way.
I wasn’t tough enough, rational enough, socially skilled, fun enough, chilled enough, in short I just wasn’t good enough. There was something seriously wrong with me.
Dr Brown’s message comes as a great relief, there is nothing fundamentally flawed with me, I am not paranoid, the problem, I am just human, like the rest of the homo sapiens, imperfect and vulnerable. This is the best present Santa could have brought.