Book Review of Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown
I have been bothered for some time by the way we are speaking to one another, especially about politics. I lean toward the left. I guess this won’t surprise anyone who reads my blog. A student I’ve never told about my political leanings accused me of liberalism the other day. Maybe it’s stamped on my forehead. Maybe I just fit the profile.
But regardless of my leanings, I don’t fit all of the mold for what a liberal is supposed to believe. I’m betting that you don’t fit a mold either. In fact, I’m betting that none of us do. My very conservative Ronald Reagan-loving father believed strongly in gun laws. I have a friend who is so far left, she is almost socialist, but she cannot abide Roe v Wade.
This is one reason why I shudder when I hear us shaming each other. Or worse dehumanizing others to the point of violence. I went to an event recently where a kind-looking grandmother told me she had a t-shirt offering lobotomies to Republicans. It made my heart ache, and I wish I could tell you I called her on it and told her I love many generous people who vote Republican rather than smiling painfully and backing away slowly.
I have been looking for help. My wise cousin introduced me to some theories about levels of consciousness and our development as a civilization. (Warning! This is extremely intellectual. You may grow some brain cells reading about Integral Theory.)
Theorist Ken Wilbur helped me to understand what’s going on and why I am so disturbed, but his prose doesn’t have enough solid examples of how I can stand up to grannies as well as the kid at school who makes cracks about racism as if it were all a joke. And stand up to them while still being proud of myself and even opening myself to a connection with others who think differently. That is the super-nifty impossible trick I am so hungry to learn or at least start practicing.
I write all this today to say that I found someone. Brené Brown has been on my radar for a while. The researcher and social scientist popped up on my feed when the clashes in Charlottesville blew up not long after my trip to the South.
In the video, Brown explains why we need so desperately to stand up to the Nazi marchers without resorting to making them into monsters but rather holding them accountable for their actions. She talks of the real racism she encountered because of her name and why it’s so important to keep doing this work in a civil way.
Months later, I am finally listening to Brown read aloud her newest book Braving the Wilderness. Her stories are personal and powerful. She cusses in her Texan accent, talks about responsible gun ownership, social media, and her own guilty moments of pushing BS. And she does it all using solid evidence from her social research and experiences with amazing spiritual leaders and teachers.
Here are the chapter titles to intrigue you:
Everywhere and Nowhere
The Quest for True Belonging
High Lonesome: A Spiritual Crisis
People are Hard to Hate Close Up. Move In
Speak Truth to Bullshit. Be Civil.
Hold Hands. With Strangers.
Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart.
In case you haven’t guessed, I’m writing this in hopes you will read it, too, friends. Standing up for what I believe, standing alone in the wilderness at times–this is going to take guts. I’d sure love to know there are others out there with me braving the wilderness and not just researchers in Texas but people even in Puyallup and Tacoma, Washington.
I finished a revision of my middle-grade novel set in 1930s Tacoma along with a query I like and a synopsis that needs plenty of work. It feels spectacular like finishing a 10 K trail run and also like my chest is being squeezed the way it does right before I go on stage and everyone is staring at me. I’m going to let it cool off and then rework it one last time before sending it off to agents in the spring with the help of my superstar book coach. She’s already given me lists of agents that make me feel like this could really be real.
(If you write and want to know about book coaches, ask me. I will sing their praises.)
This December, I’m shaping up a short story I wrote on high school bands, Chinese lanterns, cute trumpet players, and a girl learning to get over the loss of a friend who’s left her. I’ll post that here before the new year. Stay tuned!