Authentic Friendship in the COVID-19 Era

For about a year, I have dreamed of taking Brene Brown’s ten principles of wholehearted living and blogging about them based on how well they fit into my ultraconservative Christian mindset. There are aspects of them that turn me alive and help me to recognize how the Holy Spirit leads us to repentance through kindness. Brown compiled a list of ten aspects, so I can pick one for each day based on matching integers between the dates and list. Yesterday was April 1st, and I would have started with number 1-authenticity.

I planned to pop online yesterday and give a mood-boosting talk on authenticity, and living from the reality of who you are, in front of people. Only rarely do I struggle with living a big fat bold version of myself on blast. Only rarely does it hit me that people I care about could have reasons to hate my motivations. COVID-19 has hit our world this year, though, and I’m beginning to see that there are choices I have to make about being a republican with a disabled child, and having my own disability. I thought I lived well, loved well, held moderate viewpoints and was excellent at helping people get along.

I have had a terrible time getting my disability people to admit any negative potential effects of prolonging the current world shutdown, though. If I weren’t disabled, I would rail about their pessimistic views to my very conservative charismatic friends. Charismatics, though, while empowered by opportunities to choose faith, often gloss over the process of overcoming faithlessness… something I have to wrestle with daily while my daughter and I retain our disabilities. I have a lot of diverse and fascinating friends on Facebook. I’ve been “protecting” all these people who care about me from the aspects of myself that disappoint them, and the weight has been crushing me for several months. Most all my friends aspire to valiant goals I want to sink my teeth into- why can’t we talk more deeply??

Shame feeding on the isolation brought about by social distancing could be deadly. I was doing so well for the first week of the stay at home order (even though Bryan was working) and happily shared my techniques for homeschooling, and danced while doing the dishes for my friends. I thought I was going to single-handedly support everyone on Facebook as a perfect example of a disability-fighting, prophetically minded, devotee to social distancing who would fight back this stupid disease monster by becoming exposed and immune early in order to get opportunities to support vulnerable people in the community.

Until I realized that having my daughter’s ABA therapy implementation in home meant I needed to have more than one shirt I can be seen in by non-family, and had to go to Sam’s Club for clothes- a non food item- because our tax return FIIIIIINALLY came in

Until it was harder than I expected to get enough food for a family of six under the current purchasing restrictions of two items
I realized that I needed a refresher course on what authenticity was, and looked for a good explanation of the exact hows and why’s of authenticity. Brown talks about people who deserve to see our shame story, and having people with whom we are most vulnerable. She says we should have… max… one friend with whom we go deeply.

My heart sank, and I had that familiar, “I’m the type of person that only my mother could love that way!” kind of feeling about the following limitations on friends worth being vulnerable with. Do you have a friend who:

-won’t point out how valid your shame is?
-finds your mistakes relatable, based on empathy, instead of pitiful, based on sympathy?
-doesn’t rely on your support so much that she needs you to be perfect?
-wouldn’t find your failure shocking or surprising- as in, “how did you let that happen?”
-won’t pretend you are better than you are to make herself more comfortable?
-isn’t driven to compare your vulnerability to her own for self-validation?

(paraphrased from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8Pp7QB6GrE according to my own understanding.) I felt deeply moved by Oprah’s comments about how easily we get violated–because I am often open on all levels, with all people, not just superficial levels–when she said to consider the aspects of casting pearls before swine

I am glad that Oprah used that terminology, so that I could relate it to the scriptures that are infallible in the safety they provide for me, rather than just the possibility of emotional comfort from being protected. Protection, as it were, sound lovely, but I don’t believe I deserve it for many things when Jesus gave so much for me.

I did my own heart search for a friend local to me that I could trust on that level, and realized friend after friend who couldn’t respond to the needs I hold most deeply in this season.

I am thankful for a God, who, when I left to clean my house, reminded me of something my husband’s best friend’s wife did to make me laugh. And I remembered what safe was, and how safe feeds my ability to learn about and trust God. So I called her, and we talked until it was 4 am my time or so (though 1 where she lives) and then I went to bed. I woke up happy today.

Tomorrow? or tonight, considering it’s already the 2nd… self-compassion is in order!

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