Friday, December 7, 2012

Sometimes The Universe Smiles

Please read to the end of this. There is a song you HAVE to hear. Plus this is kind of a cool story.

I have written several times about how much I adore Brene (pronounced "Bren-nay") Brown's writing and speaking, and how it has changed my life.

No joke.

Her TedX Houston talk went viral in 2010, when my blog was still in its infancy.  Watching this video was transformative for me, because I knew that writing vulnerably was helping me heal, and there was clear response from readers telling me it was helping them, too.

At that time I was writing about alcoholism and recovery, and I had no idea what was coming down the road: a weight loss journey of over 65 lbs that caused me to take a hard look at myself in uncomfortable ways, the sudden death of my father, and a tonsil cancer diagnosis.

I cannot put into words how cultivating the ability to try to be vulnerable and open about these difficult periods of my life saved me.  I truly trace it back to watching that video of Brene Brown bravely standing out in front of what she though would be a few hundred Houstonians, and ended up being the whole. entire. world.  She's a researcher - a PhD, not cut from the cloth of your average "inspirational speaker", and I don't  believe it was her intention to be inspiring.  She was simply sharing her experiences in a way she found interesting from a data perspective, and more importantly how it impacted her personally.

I identified with that, strongly.  I didn't set out on this blog to inspire anyone. It helped me to write about it, and if my words helped others that was a by-product, not an intention.

I had no idea where it would all lead, which I'm discovering is kind of the point. Trust your gut, talk to trusted friends, pray or meditate about it, do the next right thing and let go of the outcome. Pry your white-knuckled fingers off the damn steering wheel and take it moment by moment.  Most of the time it won't go where you planned, and that's likely a good thing.

Yesterday I went with my Mom to the MA Conference for Women, which was full of incredible speakers, including Deepak Chopra, Kristin Chenoweth, Arianna Huffington, Brene Brown and many more inspiring women.

There were also incredible round tables, and I got to sit and absorb advice from someone I admire greatly, who I'm getting to know as a friend, too,  Morra Aarons-Mele from the Mission List and Women Online. I admire her drive, heart and spirit so much, and she has a LOT to offer women everywhere.

I wrote recently how my mother wanted me to give a copy of my new book Let Me Get This Straight, to Brene Brown at the conference.  First of all, I thought she was out of her ever-loving mind, because how was I going to just "run into" Brene and shove my book in her face?  Not my style.  It felt arrogant and self-promotion-y and I'm so star-crossed about Brene I wasn't sure I'd get two words out of my mouth without crying or laughing like a lunatic, or something.

My Mom's response was "you just made me read this book Daring Greatly by Brene and now you won't do it?"

I knew she was right, but still didn't bring a copy of my book with me to the conference because I'm a big. fat. chicken.

My Mom, however, brought a copy, so when Brene sat down to sign books there I was about 10th in line with a copy of her book to sign for me, and my own little Charlie Brown book clutched in my hand (with an inscription by me telling her how much her work means to me).  Even as she signed a copy of her book for me I had no idea that the words, "And, if it's appropriate, can I give you a copy of my book?  It exists because you taught me how to be vulnerable, to Dare Greatly, and I'm eternally grateful".

Here's the thing about Brene Brown:  she is so totally not full of shit.  She gave me the most genuine smile, looked me dead in the eye, and said "I'd love a copy.  Thank you."

And then my Mom snapped a pic of one of the best moments of my life.  No joke:

Brene Brown holding my book! I'm giddy with Fan-Girl-Ness!

To me, this is the power of women coming together to support each other- even if she never reads it - she made me feel so good, and honored how much courage it took me to overcome feelings of inadequacy and rampant "who do I think I am's".   I will always be grateful to her for that.

At a wonderful cancer support group I go to called Women Moving Through Cancer (for people in remission) we talked this week about our dreams. Where do we want to take our lives? How do we want to make our mark?  I instantly though of Brene Brown. I think a LOT of us want to be Brene Brown.   I just want to embody her genuine spirit, her bravery, her willingness to share pieces of herself to help us all be a little braver, a little vulnerable, and share our experiences - no matter what they are - so we all know we're not alone.

Then the group leader asked us where we were in achieving our dream, our footprint in life.  It hit me that I'm  actually there, right now, and I don't have to be a world famous speaker or have a million readers (or any readers) to make that kind of impact.

Neither do you.

If we all come together as women (and men) and honor each other's vulnerability, bravery, truths and experiences, we're making the world a much less competitive, fast-paced, winner-takes-all kind of place.

Thank you, Brene, for planting this seed in me.  I'm having fun watching it grow - it has very little do to with me and everything to do with doing the next right thing and letting go of the outcome.

Beautiful things happen that way.  And sometimes?  Sometimes the Universe smiles.

The conference ended with a performance of "I Was Here" by Kristin Chenoweth of this gorgeous song.  I insist you listen to it. Please. It left me (and my Mom) in tears.  The good kind.



  1. I have had a similar transition thanks to the depth of Brene's insights. I am "little girl shrieking" for you, for this moment. I have been a follower of both blogs for a while, and I am so grateful for your vulnerability, and for your courage to live wholeheartedly.


  2. This is beautiful and so very inspiring, Ellie! You're amazing!!

  3. "I had no idea where it would all lead, which I'm discovering is kind of the point. Trust your gut, talk to trusted friends, pray or meditate about it, do the next right thing and let go of the outcome. Pry you white-knuckled fingers off the damn steering wheel and take it moment by moment. Most of the time it won't go where you planned, and that's likely a good thing."

    I love this paragraph. I needed to read it today.

  4. Ellie,
    thank you for doing the next right /write thing and continuing to share your journey of vulnerability with us. I feel so grateful to you for your words expressing your spectrum of emotions as a sober woman-mother-wife-daughter-professional-author-business owner-human.
    I am humbled by your humility and your willingness to help me through your written and spoken word (I am enjoying the podcasts!).

  5. Hearing her sing ANYTHING live would bring me to tears, but at this conference? Whoa. Incredible.

    Ellie, you're a force to behold right now. And I'm loving it.

  6. Ellie, I'm sorry but I need a list!:

    1) The Bubble Hour - it's great! I love the focus on early sobriety, that's where I am right now and I like the way you're deconstructing different people's experiences so I can see the mechanics of it. Everyone's story is different but there are some common themes that we can all relate to. Please keep it up!

    2) Truthful Tuesdays - each time I read one of these posts I can relate, can offer a similar or parallel story of my own; it's made me wonder about how much closer we might be to one another if we were a little more honest with one another, and offered each other friendship without judgment more readily.

    3) Congratulations on your book. I can't wait to read it (am ordering for christmas!).

    Keep up the good work, I so admire what you've done here and it's helped me so much.