Friday, January 27, 2012

Cultivativing Laughter, Song, and Dance

If you know me personally, you know that I am a huge fan of Brene Brown, and you have probably been tied down and forced to watch her Ted Talk. If you haven't seen it yet, watch it. It's 20 minutes, and you can listen to it while you're cooking. It. changed. my. life.

Brene is a shame researcher, and to steal from the blurb on the Ted Talk she"studies human connection -- our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share."

I've read all of her books (shocking no one), and actually took an online course on vulnerability that was amazing. There are many aspects of her research that have impacted me, but possibly my favorite has been re-introducing myself to cultivating laughter, song, and dance. Basically, letting go of being cool, and always being in control. (If this topic interests you, I also strongly recommend her book The Gifts of Imperfection, which is not self-helpy in any way).

I used to be someone who was "free" in every sense of the word. If I thought something was funny, I would laugh out loud, and possibly smash my eye into a music stand, causing a black eye for high school graduation (true story). When I played, if I was into the music, I danced around on the stage, even if it was a competition, even when I was getting the stink eye from my loving music teacher. I danced on tables at rest stops (not in a kinky way, just in a full of exuberance way). I sang loudly and poorly. I was connected to my feelings, and I had a rare ability to be an emotional catalyst - if I was "feeling it" the whole room would start to feel the same sense of joyfulness. I was pretty hard to ignore.

*note - in unrelated news, I had horrible teeth, which after 8 years of braces were eventually fixed. Unfortunately, I had pictures of these events, but I destroyed them all because I thought my teeth were ugly. Sigh. So, this is a pictureless post.*

The sad thing is that my superpower emotional catalysm worked just as effectively on the other side of the spectrum. If I was pissed, the hairs on the backs of people's necks would start to stand up. If I was brooding, not only was it totally obvious, but it could get ugly. I went through a rough patch or two, or many. I didn't want to feel the pain of those experiences, so I stopped playing music - my connection to my own emotions. I didn't want to color the atmosphere with my own negativity, so I stopped projecting. I stopped tapping into myself.

Eventually, I got over my rough patches, I found some peace. However, I continued to censor myself. I told myself that my emotions were too powerful, that I was a grown-up now, that people would think I was weird. But the reality was that I was afraid to feel. And by numbing the bad emotions, I was also numbing the good emotions.

Then I watched this Ted Talk, and read this book.

I've spent the last year working on my vulnerability - my willingness to feel in front of the people I care about, and not just in the shower by myself. It's been a remarkable process.

I've reconnected with a friend who I missed dearly by choosing to reach out, to apologize for something that happened 13 years ago, even though I was terrified of being scoffed at, ignored, or derided.

I've been able to establish a great connection with a new friend, who I allowed to enter my personal bubble about 5 years before admission is allowed, normally after rigorous testing, and development of trust. It's been wonderful, and fulfilling.

My hubs and I have been able to talk with complete honesty and openness about huge topics that would change our lives forever, without worry of being judged, deemed unfit, or selfish.

I've worked with a counselor, and been able to work through my relationships with my family, with my sense of self, and my fear of having to solve impossible problems.

I danced, laughed, and sang publicly during a race when everyone around me was suffering, and I know I connected with at least that guy running in the hoola skirt, and the belly dancers. More importantly, I connected with myself.

Do you ever let yourself dance with abandon? Do you sing out loud in the car, even when the people you love are in it? Do you allow yourself to feel the good stuff and the bad stuff?

Seriously, watch the video.


  1. We did used to dance on tables a lot, didn't we? And sob uncontrollably in movie theaters, and laugh so hard that we thought we were going to pee our pants, and do things that were so outrageously dumb without caring what anybody else thought.

    I think that's how you know somebody is a good friend: A regular friend knows that you have a slightly wilder/louder side, but a good friend could blackmail you with the stuff they've seen you do.

  2. Seriously, though, don't blackmail me.