“Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.”

~Brené Brown

I like to think I’m good at “preaching” about the power and strength of empathy and vulnerability in building a healthy world. I even talk about how empathy and vulnerability are foundational to the healing and restorative work at My Refuge House. Sometimes, I like to pretend that my “preaching” has somehow inspired Brené Brown. If you don’t know her work, please take three minutes to watch this short on Empathy.

It turns out that I have more work to do on my own vulnerability skills. I have lately had some difficult and direct reminders about this fact.

I am having surgery on July 28th. In the grand scheme of things, it’s relatively minor and routine surgery. The doctor says I’ll feel significantly better and should be able to drive within two weeks. When I first started thinking about surgery, my thoughts and planning revolved around how to maintain momentum with My Refuge House. My solution was basically that I wouldn’t really need to take time off because “I’m sure I’ll feel up to phone calls and emails within a couple days.” My solution was focused on everything “I” was going to do.

At this point, I encourage you to read my other blog and Facebook posts. Count the number of times I say “I”…you will see that my general disposition is much more about “We” than “I”. It turns out that I’m much better at saying “we” when talking about supporting other people and not so good at “we” when inviting someone to support what feels like my own individual journey.

But I don’t really believe that any of us have individual journeys…I believe all of our journeys are connected.

Luckily, we had an MRH Board meeting soon after my surgery was scheduled. One of our very astute board members challenged me to take some time after surgery, focus on fully restoring my own health, and return with more energy and fewer complications.

In this moment, the vulnerability pie smacked me in the face. 

Like our girls…like many of us, I don’t always enjoy feeling vulnerable. I don’t always enjoy owning the fact that I need other people. I can talk about that with ease, but actually opening myself to the fact and reaching out is more difficult.

This lesson has become somewhat comical as I’ve come to terms with it. You see, I have often claimed that my biggest soapbox is the importance of “practicing what we preach”. In other words, I’m constantly encouraging our directors and staff to model for our girls what we hope for them to do….it’s very inspired by Ghandi’s philosophy to “be the change you wish to see in the world.” I often talk about how we have the opportunity to model for our girls that it’s not just possible, but life-giving to open up…to share feelings and experiences…to ask for support…to tell our stories…these are some of the most important ingredients of health and restoration.

  • Being vulnerable opens the door of empathy
  • Being empathic opens the door of presence.
  • Being present isn’t limited to being present for others.
  • Being truly present mandates that we be present for others…AND ourselves.
  • Being present for ourselves opens the door for others to be present with us, too.
  • Being present with each other is where moments and stories of growth and resilience are fueled and inspired.

So, here’s my new plan…Practice what I preach.

Please keep telling the stories of our girls while I do so. Please keep telling the stories of how their stories have inspired you. I’m thankful for all of you. I’m thankful for your energy and momentum while I’m out. Thank you in advance for your positive energy and prayers for quick and full healing after my surgery.

Heather Bland is the CEO of My Refuge House. She loves to tell stories and talk about strengths. Feel free to email for more [email protected]

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