Protecting the Tender Heart

Photo by Greg Markway

I don’t want to dare greatly*.

I don’t want to speak dangerously*.

I don’t want to tell my story*.

When I wrote my last post, Busy Be Gone, I thought I had turned a corner in my self-compassion project. I was loosening the connection between my self-worth and being productive. But I think I jinxed myself. I soon lapsed into a cynical malaise where I didn’t care about anything (well, I still enjoyed Ben and Jerry’s ice cream). I found pretty pictures and inspirational sayings on Facebook annoying. The usual blogs I read sounded sappy. I couldn’t pick up a pen to write. I worried, maybe I’m doomed to feel “tortured” as I described in my post on January 1st. Maybe that’s just my personality. Is there going to be a tortured personality disorder in the new DSM-V?

I thought to myself tonight, if I don’t write something soon, it will be over. This blog will follow the fate of many blogs before–it will wither away and die. And I really don’t want that to happen. So I picked up my pen and spiral notebook, my Kindle loaded up with my favorite books, a bottle of water, and sat out on the patio with my beloved Bichons, birds, and a few annoying bugs.

After skimming through some things, I found a section of Pema Chodron’s book, Comfortable with Uncertainty, that seemed to describe what I was experiencing. She says it is normal that when we start letting go of our defenses, and when our old ways of coping don’t work anymore, we can get even more neurotic. (Oh my, that does not sound good.) But she reassuringly says that this is okay. This is when we need need to develop “compassionate inquiry” into our moods, our emotions, our thoughts. We need to be curious about our “personal myths” and the way we are “divided against ourselves, always resisting our own energy.” She describes it as an ongoing process that takes years (Okay, so my year-long “project” may not be just a year…Somehow, I already knew this.) And I especially love this part, which jumped right off the page screen: “With precision and gentleness, we surrender our cherished ways of regarding ourselves and others, our cherished ways of holding it all together, our cherished ways of blocking our tender heart.”

Yes! I have been blocking–protecting–my tender heart. I have been afraid. I’m not sure of what, but I sense that fear is behind all this.

That’s all. It’s just fear. It’s not that I’m doomed to be tortured for the rest of my life. It’s not that I’m going to quit writing. It’s not that I’m never going to speak dangerously, dare greatly or tell my story. I’m just letting go of defenses and having a momentary, even predictable lapse, into old patterns of self-protection.

My heart feels so much better now.


*Daring Greatly is the title of Brene´ Brown’s forthcoming book, which of course, I’ll buy and love.

*Speaking Dangerously is a reference to Susan Cain’s best-selling book Quiet, and her “Year of Speaking Dangerously”. Susan is an inspiration to me.

*Telling Your Story (or Your Story Matters) is something I see frequently, but I mostly attribute it to Kelly Rae Roberts. If you follow this blog, you know I’m obsessed with her work.

11 thoughts on “Protecting the Tender Heart

  1. Through your words, you’ve done something amazing and that’s connect with, and inspire, a total stranger. Thank you!

  2. Hi Barb
    Just came across your blog from an RT by Susan Cain (or should I say the amazing Susan Cain, which how I tend to think of her). I’ve read the launch post and will now have to go through and read the last six months of your project.
    This is really resonating with me because I started a year long personal development project last November, as a way of marking my 40th year on the planet. Mine is not a singularly focused as yours, it is a Year of TED ( and is being done as a series of 30 day activities based on amazing TED talks that have inspired me over the years.
    I think that there is certainly something that I will be able to learn from your activity though, the initial descriptor you gave in the launch post really resonated with me. And I will have to check out the Shyness Project as well.
    Good luck with the next six months, Kylie

    • Hi Kylie,

      I tried to comment on your blog today but some glitch happened and it erased it. I will go back and redo. I have a dog named Lily, too! Your idea of a blog based on TED talks is so great. (I wish I’d thought of that!)

      Thanks for letting me know Susan Cain–yes the amazing Susan–retweeted me. It didn’t show up yet on Twitter, so I am happy to know that so I can thank her. She is very down-to-earth and very brave!

      Brittany doesn’t blog much anymore on The Shyness Project. She got over her shyness and is off living a college-girl’s life. It was a great one-year project.

      Hope to get to know you better!

  3. I think we are often our own worst enemy. We overlook the flaws of others because we love them — but we don’t offer the same compassion to ourselves. I’m trying to eliminate (or at least minimize) the negative self-talk that I do. As you say, it’s a process — sometimes a long one!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Susan. Yes, why can we be so forgiving of others “flaws”, and not extend that same kindness to ourselves? I’m trying to be patient with the process…

  4. My heart feels better now too. There is such healing power in your words Barb. They are shared from your tender space of love and wisdom. it’s so easy to shut down. I hear you on that.Our connection to the fullness of who we are is honouring the process and knowing that we’re not alone. I read your words and i hear my own truth. We’re all in this together. No one is a stranger right, so write when you’re feeling Light. And let it be ok when you’re not. thank you for sharing as always, for feeding people. oh! and beloved Ani Pema too. missed you!xo

  5. “I soon lapsed into a cynical malaise where I didn’t care about anything… I found pretty pictures and inspirational sayings on Facebook annoying. The usual blogs I read sounded sappy. I couldn’t pick up a pen to write. I worried, maybe I’m doomed to feel “tortured.”

    Your hook left me with a vibrant sonorousness that I couldn’t shake. I felt it hard and fast, but even your resolute compassion escaped me–not because of any lack of comfort radiating from your words–but I think I am still stuck in that place.

    I revere Pema Chodron and read her and others with honest intentions, but somehow I feel flat and uninspired. I’m a cynic and I can’t seem to shake it. Sometimes I think it’s genetic–completely out of my control, but I am, of course, skeptical of this ignorant notion.

    I tell myself that it’s the chronic pain that really keeps me down, but is it? How to get out; that is the question, especially when words of encouragement fall on the deaf ears of my toxic perception. I suppose the first step is wanting to change, right?

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