day 2: stuck in the middle

by christie shumate mcelwee

I discovered Brene Brown a few years ago when I was drowning in a mire of self-doubt, grief, and oodles of regrets. I dove deep into her trilogy of books: The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, and Rising Strong. Her words about fear, vulnerability, shame, courage, and doing the damn work saved my life. I often refer her books to friends who are struggling with similar circumstances. 

Yesterday on my walk around the neighborhood I decided to forgo my usual political podcast boys and instead listen to Brene introduce the second season of her show. In thirty minutes she broke down and named what it is to live during these times. She calls it Day 2.

If you’ve ever attended a multi-day conference or seminar, you can relate to Day 2. On the first day, everyone is excited about the possibilities. There are name tags and introductions. Everything is fresh. Day 2, though, is difficult. It’s exhausting. We often find ways to resist. Day 2 can be painful. We ask ourselves, “How long will this all last? Who’s really in charge here? When’s lunch? A break?” We discover that Day 2 asks us to really delve into difficult subjects. Day 2 is messy; we can’t wait until Day 3, which often brings revelations and “Ah ha” moments.

Right now we are squarely in the middle of Day 2. We can’t turn back, yet we don’t know where we are going. Brene compared it to Space Mountain at Disney World, a roller coaster that whips you around in the dark. We’re on that ride now. We can’t get off and we can’t see what is coming. All we know is that we are moving forward.

Day 2 is the muddled part, but it is also an opportunity to learn and grow. Right now we are in the middle of the story. You can’t skip the middle, even though we’d love to find out the ending. The middle is the meat of the narrative. It’s the journey where our hero learns through heartache and mistakes and vulnerability how to solve the problem. Only then does she find redemption. This retired English teacher loves a good storytelling analogy, by the way!

Once we put a name to our story, it is easier to navigate. Dreaming about a vaccine, sitting down to crowded holiday tables, and planning family reunions can give us hope, but we need to face Day 2. Day 2, according to Brene Brown, is when we learn the hard shit. It is how we handle that shit that determines our fate. In order to steer Day 2, we must reach out and learn with grace. Yes, we will stumble, but there are hands to grab along the way. It is the “Messy Middle.”

Brene’s prediction is that fall (Day 2) will be the “long haul.” Yup. Along with the pandemic, there’s a contentious election, a racial reckoning, and a rocky economy. Day 2 sucks, my friends. Yet….we know Day 3 beckons. Day 3 is the last act of a story. It’s the resolution. It’s when questions are answered and the protagonist learns something about herself. But we can’t skip Day 2. Day 2 is where we “own the truth of our story.”

Join me on Day 2. It may be uncomfortable, but it is where the magic happens. I’m willing to take that ride. Are you?

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” ~Joseph Campbell

Brene referred to this quote in her podcast. We all have been gifted this “opportunity to stitch a new garment.” Day 2 is when we discover a new pattern, pin up the pieces, and begin to sew.

Brown, Brene. “Brene on Day 2.” Unlocking Us with Brene Brown. Podcast. 2 September 2020.

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