I was a bit busy this week working on the next step in my journey of healing. This is the piece that I’ve buried my head in the sand for so many years. My underlying philosophy has been, “if I don’t see it, it’s not happening.” Not the best motto to live by.


Come on Phoenix, you’ve been an open book Rising out of the Ashes for a couple of years now. What could be so difficult to look at that you haven’t already discussed?




Ohhhhhh…..A wave of understanding washes over the crowd.


As Dave Ramsey would say, I have been “dumb, dumb, dumb” when it comes to my finances and I’ve definitely “made a mess” with my money. Yes, this will be a post for another time.


Needless to say, I missed my Wednesday Share Day Blog this week. There’s no “shame” in that. I’ve missed numerous Wednesday Share Days.


However, I received an email about a special event that was going to air on  Netflix at midnight. I didn’t take a nap and get up at 12 (like my younger daughter does for Riverdale). Instead, I ended up watching this special while at the gym this morning. And, in typical Phoenix fashion, I was taking notes in between sets.


This share can’t wait 5 days, so, I’m sharing it today, Friday!


Happy Fri-Yay!


Brené Brown: A Call to Courage

Official Trailer


Brené Brown has been my inspiration for many years. I’ve read two of her books, Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection and still have yet to read Rising Strong and Dare to Lead. As a researcher, author, and motivational speaker, I devour her words as if they’re candy. I nod my head. I agree with her. I take notes. And then I think, “I still haven’t learned shit because I keep doing what she makes sound so easy not to do.”


I observe at how I’ve ran away from the collapse of my financial house. How I keep avoiding the inevitable hard conversations and the steps that need to be done to finalize my divorce. And how, when triggered, I still do and say the same things to my girls and my wife (not to the extent I was mind you, but I still have my moments).


I ask myself, “will I ever get it?” And then I take the bat and beat myself because I did it again. Evidently, I won’t ever get it.


We all love to wade in the manure of our miserable stories, however, when we step outside them, rinse off the crap clinging to our boots, and observe from the outside, we get a glimpse of what’s truly going on within us. This is when I see what’s irking me.




This is where I get stuck. The source of the fear that paralyzes me is the deep entrenched roots of shame and failure. And the barbs on that weed that prick and stings my hands is judgment.


Today, I will share what resonated with me from Brené’s special, A Call to Courage. I highly recommend taking time to watch the entire show. What I get out of it will most likely be something different that is important for you. For me, a lot of processing came up.


You see, Brené has this uncanny way of making you feel as if she’s sitting talking with you about her life over a cup of coffee and yet at the same time you find yourself ripping open your soul to the deep emotions that you try so hard to avoid and protect.


My hope is that by watching this, you too can find diamonds in the coal of information she hands you.



Brene’s God Moment with Theodore Rosevelt

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” 

~ Theodore Rosevelt (speech of 1910)


“Three things became very clear to me that were really life altering:

  • “I’m going to live in the arena. I’m going to be brave with my life. I’m going to show up. I’m going to take chances….To be brave with your life, you choose to live in the arena, you’re going to get your ass kicked. You’re going to fall. You’re going to fail. You’re going to know heartbreak. It’s a choice. It’s a choice you make every day…Today, I choose courage over comfort. Today, I choose to be brave and I know what that means. It doesn’t mean you are going to risk failure, it means you are going to fail.
  • Vulnerability is not about winning, it’s not about loosing. It’s having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome…Vulnerability is the most accurate way to measure courage. As researchers, we can measure how brave you are by how vulnerable you are willing to be.
  • “If you are not in the arena, getting your ass kicked on occasion because you are being brave, I’m not interest in or open to your feedback about my work. Period.”

~ Brené Brown


That helps a little with the shame I started feeling when I started this blog. At least I’m getting into the arena. Way to go Phoenix!



Brene Brown’s Magic Sentence

The story I’m telling myself. When something hard happens, our brain, which is wired to protect us above all else, wants a story, an understanding story of narrative pattern. It says give me a story so I can understand how to protect you. And it doesn’t want a story that’s like, ‘Well, I’m not sure and…’ That’s not useful. It wants bad guy, good guy, safe, dangerous, against you, for you. And so we make up these stories. 


“How many of you get the three dots on text and then it goes away? And then you make up a story?”

~ Brené Brown


Uh Oh! Here comes that little Shame Demon again. I have heard this said in so many ways. My therapist, our couple counselor, books, and even two blogs I wrote last year: The Lies We Tell Ourselves and Perspective: The Key to Healing. For some reason, it is still so difficult to stop the stories that I make up.


Following Brené Brown’s example (you have to listen to the special to hear her talk about the miscommunication between her husband and herself), in order to Dare Greatly and to Be Brave, I still need to learn to step out of the fear and shame of when I make up a story, having the courage to find out if that story is true or not.


What happens is I either try to change the story, meditate hoping that will make the story (or thoughts) dissipate, or talk to someone about about the emotions that have been stirred up by my made-up story, instead of being brave and vulnerable and asking the person the story is about what their story is.


My therapist used to tell me that I don’t like rocking the boat. In reality, I rock the boat more by trying the manage the emotions that come up due to the faulty story I allowed myself to believe.



The Shame Dance

When you think about feminine norms, what’s the number one shame trigger? Appearance and body image. And for masculine norms, it’s don’t be perceived as weak. Here we [Brene’s husband and her] are in this complete shame lockdown…”

~ Brené Brown


An interesting observation came to me when I heard this. Many arguments and fights between my wife and I were because both of us were in a shame triggered state. Many times my daughters are angry or when I end up engaging with them is because we are in a shame state. In fact, “my shame” due to how I feel I’m perceived because of “their actions,” causes me to try to take control of the situation, further bringing us into this shame dance.


Imagine how freeing it would be if we could recognize when the people we are closest to are feeling shame and we could give them empathy, compassion, and comfort, instead of getting triggered into our own shame and attacking out of defense.


What would it look like if we were able to recognize our own shame and felt safe to express it instead of defending, deflecting, and attacking the one we love?


It takes awareness, practice, and two people who are willing to both be brave and be vulnerable to learn how dance instead of becoming locked in battle.


“You show me a woman who can sit with a man in real shame and fear and vulnerability, and just be with him, I’ll show you a woman who’s done her work and doesn’t derive her status or power from that guy.


You show me a guy who can sit with a woman in real shame and fear and vulnerability and not fix anything, but just listen, I’ll show you a guy, who’s done his work, and does not derive his power and status from being Oz, the fixer of all things.”

~ Brené Brown


Oh wow! The emotions that came up with those comments. When I heard this at the gym, I paused the show, placed my weights back on the rack, and sat down. My body went into shut down mode as I felt shame envelope me like the fog rolling in from the ocean.


I listen better than I ever have and yet, I still try to fix. It’s like in my DNA or something.  Those bad habits are still a part of my being. And here I start to Shame Dance with myself, a very dangerous place to be.


The Rafiki in my Head speaks to me:


“How old are you?” Rafiki asks.


“I’m going to be 50 this year,” I mumble.


“And how long have you really been trying to learn how to listen without fixing?”


“Just over two years. When I started writing.”


“You have 50 years of habits you’re trying to change. You’re trying to break what is coded in your DNA as a man. You are going against every message society give us about what a man is supposed to be like.” Rafiki pauses for a second. “Phoenix, you’re swimming upstream. Dont take the bat and start hitting yourself because you aren’t perfect.


Listen to Brene, Phoenix. You are showing up. You’re being vulnerable. And you’re making an effort to change. Celebrate how far you’ve come and remember what she said. You’re going to fall. You’re going to fail. And you’re going to get your ass kicked.”


“We usually reserve, using people’s vulnerability against them, for the people we love the most. Why? I wasn’t raised by a father who modeled what vulnerability looked like in guys. And it scares me. That’s why. We’re scared when we see vulnerability in other people. To be honest with you, we’re just scared….


“How many of you want more love, intimacy, joy in your lives? You can’t have that if you don’t let yourself be seen. How can you let yourself be loved if you can’t be seen?

~ Brené Brown


Vulnerability is the path back to each other, but we’re so afraid to get on it. And we end up hurting each other a lot…We want it so bad, but we’re so afraid to let ourselves be seen. And we’re so afraid to see people. But again, it’s the only way back.”

~ Brené Brown



Why Do you Want  Me to be Vulnerable?

“Vulnerability is the like the gooey center of hard emotions: shame, fear, grief, scarcity. Why should I do that? Why should I feel them and why should I let other people see them? I don’t want to be vulnerable. I want to armor up. I want to stay protected. 


“Here’s the problem with the armor. The problem with the armor is, yeah, vulnerability is totally the center of these, but it’s also the birthplace of love, belonging, and joy.”

~ Brené Brown


“How many of you love someone? Are you 100% sure that person will always love you back? Will never leave? Will never get sick? How many of you have ever buried someone you love? How many of you have lost someone you loved?”

~ Brené Brown


I had to pause the video here. I proceed toward the locker room. I needed a moment to myself.


My childhood belief due to my parents divorce and the disappearance of my biological father followed by the emotional distance of my mother when she remarried, the belief that was further validated the first decade of 2000 when I my three parents, my grandparents, and my great aunt passed away, and the belief that caused me to hold onto my marriage until I still ended up suffocating and killing it, slammed me to the ground.


Here I am listening about vulnerability and I now I’m overwhelmed with grief and sorrow. The story that played out in my head was the familiar, “Everybody I love will eventually leave me.” I took a few deep calming breaths, wiped the tears from my cheek, and then hit play.


To love is to be vulnerable. To give someone your heart and say, ‘I know this could hurt so bad, but I’m willing to do it. I’m willing to be vulnerable and love you. And there is an increasing number of people in the world today that are not willing to take that risk. They’d rather never know love than to know hurt. Or grief. That’s a huge price to pay. Belonging. We’re wired for love. We’re wired for belonging. It’s in our DNA.”

~ Brené Brown


I never really thought of love as being vulnerable. Being vulnerable means being brave. The idea that I have been brave, that I do have courage, brings me some peace. My body starts to come back to ground and I head back to the workout area.



Myths Of Vulnerability

I won’t go through the myths Brené talks about. I’ll let you watch the episode yourself. Although, this USA Today article: The 5 Takeaways On Vulnerability is available just in case you wanted a sneak peak.



About Boundaries: Revisiting the Shame Dance

I had one other challenging time listening to Brené Brown. In fact, this time I had to sit down and take notes as I played out the battle going on in my mind. Once again, it was Rafiki, it was Jiminy Cricket, it was my conscious having a conversation with my stubborn ego.


Hmmm…USA Today missed this one! This was number six on her list of myths.


“Last. Vulnerability is disclosure. This goes back to the boundary thing. Live tweeting your bikini wax…not vulnerability. Sharing the intimate details of your divorce and your pain on Facebook, for your kids to read who are reeling as well, not vulnerability. Again, vulnerability minus boundaries is not vulnerability. And you don’t measure vulnerability by the amount of disclosure. You measure it by the amount of courage to show up and be seen when you can’t control the outcome.”

~ Brené Brown


The minute I heard this the fear about this blog, about all my writing, about starting Together We Can Heal in the first place, and disclosing all my pain for the world to see punched me in the gut. I kept repeating in my head, “you don’t measure vulnerability by the amount of disclosure you give.”


I hit that shame dance hard. I was on a downward spiral until I sat down on the workout bench, pulled out my phone and started asking the questions Rafiki would have asked me.


“Phoenix, slow down a minute. Deep breaths. Let’s see how true this is.” I imagine Rafiki trying to get my full attention. “Why did you create Together We Can Heal?”


“To create a community of people to help one another heal from the struggles of life; initially divorce, addiction, and recovery.”


“What did you find when you started that journey?”


“I realized that “Together” for me meant more than a community. It meant learning how to parent our wounded inner child. To learn how to love and nurture ourselves because as children we were never taught how.”


“Are you on Facebook?”


“Phoenix has an account, yes.”


“Is that account connected to your close friends and family?”


“No. That account is separate.”


“Isn’t Phoenix a pseudonym?”


“Yes. I have not yet disclosed my true identity.”


“Have you kept your blog a secret from your wife? Does she have access to it if she chooses?”


“There are no secrets and, yes, she can see what I write whenever she’d like. I’m not sure if she does, but she has access.”


“You have a lot of posts that don’t disclose the struggles in your life. However, the posts that you do disclose the intimate details of what’s going on, do you only talk about the pain and the challenges, or through your writing have you found a way to get out of the story you’ve made up, see your issues from a new set of eyes, and show empathy for your wife, yourself, and others?”


“I grow through my writing.”


“Are you complaining or showing progress?”


“Ha!” I exclaim pretending to snap my fingers. “I got you there Rafiki! I don’t feel as if I’ve shown progress. I still keep making the same mistakes. And in that realm, all I’m doing is just complaining.”


Rafiki ignores me and asks, “Have you stayed stuck or have you grown from your posts?”


I lower my head, “I’ve grown.”


Rafiki is relentless. “Do you continue to look inside of you or are you blaming looking for others to rescue you?”


“I feel tired. Can we stop this relentless questioning?”


Without a pause Rafiki asks, “Did you not spend over 20 hours this week doing exercises from Financial Recovery: Developing a Healthy Relationship with Money so you could dig deep into the roadblocks to money, spending, and debt that continue to plague you? Did we not spend a few hours discussing all that you learned?”


“It has been a draining week. How much more?” I’m done with this.


Rafiki pauses a moment. He takes a deep breath and puts his hand on my shoulder. He looks me in the eye, “Phoenix, the vision you have for Together We Can Heal is to bring others together so they can become vulnerable with one another to help each other heal their inner childhood wounding. You’re creating a network of vulnerable people supporting one another, together helping one another. To allow others to open up and be vulnerable, one person has to start the dialogue. That’s what you’re doing Phoenix.


“Brené says the only way to be brave is to get into the arena? Phoenix, you’re in the arena. It’s when you aren’t being perfect is when you want out of the game. Remember Brené said, ‘You’re going to fall, you’re going to fail, you’re going to know heartbreak.’ Phoenix, that’s the rules of the game. This is the game you’ve been willing to share.


“You have been open and transparent with your wife. You have created anonymity to protect your family. Yes, you have disclosed a lot about your personal life and struggles. Yet you are sharing the growth that you have gone through. These past two years has been a process. And what an amazing journey you’ve been on!


“Sometimes winning is not coming in first. Sometimes winning is doing the really brave thing. Maybe winning for you is just coming off the block and getting wet. Maybe that’s winning for you. Maybe that’s what winning looks like.”

~ Brené Brown



Phoenix, You Are A Winner

“Phoenix, you are a winner. You have never stopped fighting. You have never stopped putting yourself out there. You have never stopped allowing me to challenge you. You believe I have all the answers. What you haven’t seen is that I have learned so much from watching you grow. From your willingness to push outside your limits.


Be careful about getting into that Shame Dance with yourself. For when you continue to dance with shame, you’ll always lose. Embrace the truth that you are one of the most vulnerable and bravest man that I have the honor of calling my friend.”


It’s at this moment, as I look into the mirror above the free weights and see my unshaven face staring back at me that I have a new realization. The Rafiki in my Head, the self-talk I now have with myself when I’m struggling, is my adult who has finally learned how to take care of Little Phoenix. Little Phoenix is the scared child, the shameful kid who worries about being vulnerable and tries so hard to be perfect.


I have learned the key to self-love. That key is not only being vulnerable to others, but being vulnerable to oneself.


I have heard the Call to Courage and I will continue to Dare Greatly and be courageous.


Thank you Brené for yet another amazing presentation! Who would have thought so much could come out of an hour and 15 minute talk?


Please, I recommend all my Fledglings to spend the time to watch this video. I make up that there’s sure to be something different that will resonate with you. Open yourself to comments below about what you took out of the presentation. Let’s start together on the journey of healing and growth.


Together We Can Heal


And if you enjoyed this show, then make sure you check out these other videos as well.


On Empathy

~ Brené Brown



The Power of Vulnerability

~ Brené Brown



Listening to Shame

~ Brené Brown



Transcending Failure and Rising Strong

~ Brené Brown on SuperSoul Sunday


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