As part of my new journey into post-motherhood self-discovery and in search of making bacon, I boldly decided to attend my first BlogHer all by myself. I’m a novice blogger –and while I knew of many of the attendees and speakers, I was known by no one. Newbie.Virgin. Wanna-Be. It is what we all fear, right? I’ve been asking and asking myself whether there is room in this space for another voice. Is my voice worthy? Will people care? Will they snicker or judge?
While my main objective of the conference was to be an active learner about this brave new world, I promised myself that I was going to put myself out there. I’m not a natural networker. I’m what you might consider an introverted extrovert or a shy socialite. I love people and once I get to know you I will open up – eventually I can even become quite obnoxious. Unless I am doing research, I am not good at opening the door nor with the chit-chat that goes along with new encounters. So I needed all the help I could glean from the universe to help me be brave.
I set forth on my journey via automobile intentionally– which might sound crazy for anyone other than a mother of two small children. To clarify, I was traveling ALL ALONE in my car. I longed for the hours of forced reflection time the five-hour drive would afford me. To make my journey complete, I searched and searched for the perfect audio book companion. I stumbled upon The Art of Vulnerability by Brené Brown and knew in an instant that this might be the perfect dose of intellectual courage I needed. I loved her TED talk and had purchased her book Daring Greatly (which had been calling out to me unread on my “to read” shelf for quite some time). This audio book is remarkable and it will be a driving force in this messy journey of self and sanity. It also set the stage perfectly for my weekend with some of the most inspired, creative and brave women I have had the pleasure to play and learn with. It will take me weeks to digest all of the material from the audio book and the conference. I will be digesting and writing and digesting even more – I am sure of it. There was just so much inspired “stuff” to reflect on. All that being said, my greatest take away from the weekend is this – there is power in owning our stories. However messy they might be. More importantly because they are messy and flawed and beautifully imperfect. They are not the manufactured voices of the media. The pictures and dreams that have been perfectly crafted. The ones that make us feel so othered – so flawed.
In The Art of Vulnerability, Brown talks about the process of building shame resilience in our lives to boost creativity and to ultimately become more vulnerable (or true to our authentic selves) in our lives. Ultimately shame is the threat of being unlovable. It is the paralyzer of creativity and risk. According to Brown shame is THE poison of our world. The key to shame resilience is nurturing vulnerability. True belonging comes when we are true to ourselves. Brown argues that we all must walk into our stories and own them. If we orphan our stories and let others write them we become mere characters. But when we own our stories we become the narrator and ultimately have the power to write the end. This came to life for me during the BlogHer conference in so many ways. I was moved and motivated by all the brave truth telling. Brown also talks about how, when we see vulnerability in others, we see courage but when we think about vulnerability in our own lives, fear and the threat of weakness takes hold. We fear the critics and the cynics – the people ruling our world right now. I love this quote that Brown uses throughout her work.
At BlogHer, I was grateful for the kind and loving faces that made being a newbie easy. I enjoyed the exhibition hall – especially The Mrs. booth that celebrated our worthiness. I was inspired by the keynote speakers. I was educated by the 10x10s and the breakout sessions. It was all pure magic. But no one could have prepared me for the Voices of the Year speeches. Note to the BlogHer organizers – tissues on the tables would be a good addition. I was rocked to my core by the messy honesty that each of the presenters honored in their words. They dared greatly. They own their stories and we are better for it. I invite you to read their stories here for the words speak for themselves. Sadly you will miss the added vulnerability and passion that comes about through live readings and spoken word. Open your mind to their truth telling, even if it might not be your own. Especially if the truth collides with your own. Listen. Reflect. Several of these pieces took me on a journey that dramatically changed my position on several fronts – specifically addiction, recovery, belonging and racism. I am forever changed by my time spent with all of you BlogHer14 storytellers. I now know the answer to my question – is there enough space for new stories? The answer is a resounding yes.
HUMOR: “Leisure Suits, Braces and Beanies: My Life as a Dodgeball Target,” by Parri Sontag
HEART: “More Than Words, by Kristin Vanderhey Shaw
HUMOR: “First Reason Not to Get a Tattoo: Your Mom Probably Has One,” by Tammy Soong
OP-ED: “America’s Not Here for Us,” by A’Driane Nieves
HUMOR: “7 Awesome Things About Having a Physical Disability,” by Meredith Bland
OP-ED: “We don’t start with needles in our arm,” by Janelle Hanchett
OP-ED: “Sometimes, I Still Wish I Was White,” by Phyllis Myung
EXPLORATION: “It’s All One Life,” by Ashley Garrett
HEART: “My Big Brindle Heart: A Love Story,” by August McLaughlin
EXPLORATION: “Letting the stupid little ni**er go,” by Grace Sandra
EXPLORATION: “The View From Here,” by Lisa Page Rosenberg