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I Blame Brene

Several years ago I vowed to never again expose myself to the stabbing pain of a broken heart or the torture of humiliation. I was going to take control and make sure that I was shielded from any avoidable, uncomfortable or downright painful emotions.

After a series of betrayals by men, friends and family members, I decided that I couldn't...I wouldn't put someone else's feelings and happiness above my own unless they earned it. And I mean really earned it! My theory was, until you prove otherwise, I am going to assume your primary goal is to swindle, hurt or humiliate me. I was going to view everyone as a wolf in sheep's clothing right off the bat. #SelfPreservation

If someone complimented my outfit, I was sure it was because they thought it looked horrible on me and they were secretly snickering behind my back. If someone asked if I'd lost weight, it was because they were sure I'd put on a few pounds. If I was invited to go out for Happy Hour, I was convinced it was only because people were in need of a designated driver.

It sounds crazy and paranoid when I say it. But all of these beliefs were founded on actual situations. Like the church youth group leader who told me that if he was sure a girl had gotten heftier, he would ask her if she had lost weight, just because it was "funny" to see her forced to admit that she'd put on pounds. Or the note handed to me in 6th grade asking me to be the girlfriend of my longtime crush.

For anyone who's never seen a high school movie, I hate to ruin the ending.

But (spoiler alert), the note was written by a group of Mean Girls who burst into laughter when he quickly ran up to me and stated emphatically that the note wasn't from him. So, after more incidents than I can count I decided that if one person felt that way, then everyone felt that way.

Over time everyone became my enemy and I grew hard and angry. I refused to put myself in any avoidable situation that could result in my eventual humiliation.

Of course, we don't live in a vacuum. Random things always happen.

You could be walking down the street on your way to a job interview when a particularly religious pigeon decides to baptize you with guano. You could go through an entire video conference call with upper management with an abnormally large piece of spinach between your teeth.

You could go to take off your shoe at the gym and pull so hard that it flies off and hits you in the face causing a bloody nose. (Well, maybe that's just me.) But, you can also do things to minimize your exposure to these potentially painful or humiliating situations.

Your chances of being targeted by a rogue bird decrease dramatically if you don't leave your house. Nobody will notice the spinach in your teeth during the video call if you don't open your mouth and say anything. So, I checked out of life. I interacted with a few people who I truly trusted and kept everyone else at bay. I kept my social and extra-curricular activities to a minimum.

Then along came COVID-19. Everything was closing down, social gatherings were prohibited, people were avoiding each other. I began seeing articles and posts about how much everyone was suffering due to lack of human contact. Their lives were upside down. They were depressed.

And yet, aside from having to wear a mask when I went out, my life went virtually unchanged. I would get up at 5:00 am and go to work. I would talk to the 5 or 10 co-workers I saw there (although I did my best to even minimize that interaction). Then I would come home and have dinner with my daughter and spend the rest of the evening working around the house or yard with the dogs while she did homework.

Then one quarantine evening I came across a Netflix Brene Brown special. I had heard a few bits and pieces from her over the past year or so and decided to sit down and watch.

For the few of you who haven't heard of her, Brene is a research professor who studies the topics of vulnerability and shame. I know, it sounds insane. She's basically a scientist who wants to measure an emotional state of being! How is that even done?

I watched the special and took a few interesting tidbits from it, but dismissed the rest. Either she was too intellectual and it was all way over my head (highly likely). Or she was full of shit (also, highly likely).

Her words echoed around in my brain for the next few days until I found myself ordering a few of her books online. Then I was watching her TedTalk. Then searching for videos of her being interviewed.

I still didn't buy her view that you had to be vulnerable and risk humiliation and pain in order to be truly happy. But she had some inspirational quotes and soundbites that could serve me well in both my personal and professional life.

So here I am, several quarantine weeks later, ready to break out of my shell and get emotionally naked. (You'd better pray it's only emotional.) Maybe it's my desire to finally participate in life. Maybe, deep down, I'm longing for a deep, personal connection with another member of the human race.

Maybe I'm finally mature enough to let all of those personal insults and injuries go. Then again, maybe it's the fact that I just celebrated my 49th birthday and realized I'm more than half-way to dead.

And if things don't change soon, my tombstone will read something like, "Here lies Catrina. We were pretty sure she was dead when we buried her. But, to be honest, nobody ever saw her do much when she was alive. So...fingers' crossed."

I guess if I'm going to do anything extraordinary with my life, I'd better get crackin'. So, as you scroll through my posts and read about my past traumas, my present challenges and my future adventures, please be kind. I've shed my hard, candy shell and am but a blob of vulnerable milk chocolate risking virtual mastication. And I blame Brene.

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