DEAR JENNI EARLE,

here we are for the Q&A with jenni earle, round two! i only answered two questions this week, because it felt like these two deserved all my attention to answer in detail… hope it is useful.

  • how can I be vulnerable when I’ve been hurt so much? -kari, winston-salem, nc

this is a tough one, kari. i’ve been asked it many times AND i’ve asked it of myself many times… usually at 3am when churning over a fresh new wound. i spiral into ‘never again’s and ‘why did i let myself’s until the sun comes up. then a funny thing happens… the sun, the day, the breeze as i walk out the door, all remind me that WE ARE HERE to connect. and with connection comes big time fear and vulnerability. there’s unfortunately no way around it.

so how do we buckle up and face that fear? how do we patch up our wounds and try again?

by building up confidence in your ability to measure who you should be vulnerable with.

too often we think, being open and willing to form connection means that we have to be “heart on our sleeve”, wide open with everyone we meet. that just isn’t the case. we have the choice to let only certain people into the warm glow of our inner life.

i have been snowed by some crafty assholes in my day, i felt shocked and SO hurt, but when i start really leveling with myself, there were signs. there were behaviors i ignored or excused for one reason or another that showed me that they should never been allowed to get so close to me. i didn’t take responsibility for my boundaries and allowed myself be vulnerable in a dangerous way.

When we go through something traumatic and painful, we tend to ache for protection. I’ve lived years of my life with some tall, impenetrable walls up around me. I let my kids in, obviously, my mother earned her way back in, a very few friends and family members were in and that’s it. i lived like that, thinking i was being smart and strong. but i was isolated…

a friend of mine said, “right now you have one big barrier up and people are either on the inside or the outside. but you can have layers of boundaries.”

what a brilliant observation! layers of boundaries… like a hedge maze or a compatibility quiz! for example, once people show that they aren’t complete, immature idiots (FYI: there’s no time limit on this or any stage) they are allowed to pass through the outermost boundary but immediately face another. they don’t know this is happening, only you do.

next, they have to prove that they are trustworthy and good-hearted, however you define that. maybe this next boundary is where you tell them something embarrassing about yourself to feel out their reaction. if they show you they are non-judgemental and cool about faults (cause newsflash, we are all faulty) let them through to the next layer and so on. + + it’s important too that you see that they are accountable and aware of their own flaws. unwillingness to admit fault/say “i’m sorry” without a huge fight gets someone an immediate new york city bouncer style boot back to the front gate of my vulnerability hedge maze! + +

if they DON’T pass, they don’t have to be banned for life, they can stay at that level. they can be a friend that you do specific activities with or seek out a certain type of music with, but if they don’t continue to earn your trust, keep the boundaries up.

as people move through your barriers by showing you they are worthy of continuing to move closer and closer to your heart, you end up with some golden humans in your circle!

this does not mean that you will never get hurt again, but you will weed out the ones that hurt you just for sport.

as new friends or love interests work their way through the gates, be sure and speak up for yourself and establish the rules for how to treat you. don’t let things offend you and brush it off so as to not rock the boat! you have every right to be honest about your feelings and you deserve to have those feelings respected. Please tell anyone who thinks you are “no fun” or a “debbie downer” for bringing up your feels to FUCK OFF. they aren’t your people.

SO recap: you will look for those warning signs and pay attention when they show themselves, respond immediately! people show you who they are… listen!

You will speak up for yourself and be the example of how others are to treat you.

you will only let those who prove themselves worthy to get close to your beautiful, wild heart. it’s a bonafide special treat to get to that level, make sure they deserve it.

the vulnerability will never stop being scary, but by being selective about who you open up to, you can shift the odds in your favor. good luck out there, y’all.

 

  • what would you tell your 30-year-old self? -bethany, nashville, tn

i would have told her to go back to work after the babies were born. truly. i love my children! but not all women are built for stay at homeness…

oh goodness gracious, y’all… my sweet thirty-year-old self was so idealistic.

i had one baby boy and one toddler boy. i was married to a trauma surgery fellow, meaning i was doing this baby raising pretty much alone. i was living in a cute historic neighborhood in nashville, tennessee. i was sewing pillows and made a little workspace for myself in the house, which i spent rare moments in. i talked myself out of feeling like i wanted to work. i wasn’t supposed to want to work outside the home. i was supposed to feel all lit up and grateful to stay at home with my darling, healthy, blessed children. and part of me did! I did love them, of course, but i also was drowning in them. i slipped further and further from the individual i recognized as an artist and contributor, to a faceless, nameless mom. at the same time, i watched as other moms were genuinely fulfilled by their role, i had a dear friend who called herself “capital MOM”. she was so proud of her motherhood! I felt such awe and aching confusion witnessing this. What was i missing? What was i doing wrong? Why did i feel so lost?

NOW, at 41, after breaking free of the “should”s and allowing myself to be who I am, i know that i wasn’t doing a damn thing wrong!

i needed something different than my small family life. my spirit is curious and needs stimulation. i need to make and create to feel fulfilled.

if i could go back and do anything differently, bethany, it would be to maintain my adult life more fiercely. i would maintain a separateness from my partner and the children, give myself real time to be a real, adult human outside of my motherhood and marriage. point proven, it is only now, by reclaiming my individuality and my work, that I have finally become the mother that i always wanted to be. and my boys get to know the woman i always wanted to be!

i would have liked to have known earlier that there are no rules to what it means to be an adult southern woman and mother. These old-fashioned, unkind, rigid ideals of women need to be burned and scattered to the wind. We ALL have the choice to be whomever we want to be. I would tell her to not ignore the whispering of her art or work, not push it aside to be a dutiful wife/daughter/sister. to push FOR the art!

be dutiful to yourself!

it is not selfish to be driven. don’t let ANYONE ever tell you that! like, EVER.

 

please keep sending me your questions and i’ll answer them next month! i love y’all!! hope things are going well in your worlds. as always, i’m right here rootin’ for ya!!!

be brave,

be authentic,

jenni earle

 

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