while we’re on the subject of vulnerability*

ben_nico_puzzle.jpg
Ben, Nico, dinosaur puzzle, Taken with iPhone

By the look of this photo (or maybe all of my photos lately) you might think things are easy over here. Once in a blue moon, they are! but if I have created any illusions of perfection, if you have ever thought, Well doesn’t she have it easy.. then my apologies truly. I think it’s harder for me to show up to the page at my lower moments. Easier to not say anything at all (or to share a photo of something I am celebrating) than to dwell on what’s hard or seem complainy. But I also learn over and over again, that to appear to have it all together when you don’t, (Who does?) leaves little room for others to connect deeply with you. It is a gift of connection we all miss out on.

Case in point.

Yesterday was a rough parenting day. Ben was sick with a fever so I was home all day by myself with the two boys. For a variety of reasons (exhaustion, baby who won’t sleep, four year old who gets febrile seizures) I was hitting the edges of my parenting. (aka: I was losing it) I vacillated between, What have I done? to I’m not strong enough for this… to When are these kids’ parents going to come pick them up? And then finally, utter shame at how impatient I was being with them both.

I picked up the phone. Who could I call that could just be with me right now? I tentatively dialed a new friend of mine.

Me: (pretending everything was fine) Hey! Happy New Year! How are you?
Friend: Oh my god, so busy! Such a crazy holiday, so much work, I’m just trying to regroup.
In my head: She’s too busy. Why are you bothering her? Why on earth would she want to spend the afternoon with a sick kid and a baby?
Friend: How are you doing?
Me: Well… Actually I’m having one of my lowest parenting days ever! I think I’m at the edge of my mental health. (I try to say this in as light a way as possible so she can gloss over it if she wants)
Friend: Oh no! Do you want me to come over and we can have a low day together?
This is all it took for me to burst into tears.
Me: (sputtery) Yes! That’s exactly what I want, but I was too afraid to ask.
Friend: I’m coming right over.

We had the sweetest afternoon together. In the end, we didn’t even talk about why things were hard. We were simply together and that was enough. We built a unicorn puzzle with Ben, drew and painted silly pictures, catalogued Ben’s favorite foods and chatted about everything and nothing at all. It was total bliss.

We are often isolated in our lives, but especially in our struggles and in our pain. We’re afraid to burden others with our problems so we suffer silently. We’d rather not risk being vulnerable because it feels scary… but often what we need is really simple. Like yesterday. I didn’t need much. I didn’t need a babysitter or a therapist or anyone to fix anything for me. I just needed company… I needed to know I wasn’t alone. And it turns out my friend did too.

For me, life is just sweeter when we’re in it together.

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Hi, I’m Andrea

On this blog you’ll be learning with me how to use our voices, share our creative superpowers and live life in full color.

As an artist, photographer, life coach + mentor, I’m redefining what it means to be a SUPERHERO — ‘cause in my world, it’s got nothing to do with capes, spandex or sidekicks and everything to do with tenderness, intuition & baby steps of bravery.

LEARN MORE ABOUT ME >

90 Comments

  1. Sage

    Oh boy, do I relate to this! I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to ask for help in situations like this. I never seem to recognize that, although it’s easier to suffer alone, it’s not any better. Kudos to you for asking for what you needed, or at least initiating the phone call.

  2. claire

    Oh this is so true, for parents and non-parents alike! Reminds me I should call my friends more often.

  3. Kirstie

    Andrea thank you for sharing this! My friend just had a baby and she’s not the type to ask for help or company. Not being a parent myself I don’t know when company is wanted and I don’t want to intrude but there are moments when I feel like she is overwhelmed. I will listen carefully to what she says ,knowing what you have shared maybe she too could use an afternoon with a friend. I have to say as a friend without kids sometimes it is isolating on the other end of it – I miss my friend and I haven’t quite figured out when I can ask to come over without feeling like I’m intruding.

  4. Denise A.

    I was JUST thinking this yesterday…specifically how the one thing no one talks about is just how isolating it is to have a baby at home. It often feels like it is just you, and you alone, trying desperately to stay afloat.
    Hats off to you for seeking out company – and ending up with a much nicer afternoon.
    ~Denise
    (and 9 week old baby William)

  5. Sam

    Oh, oh, oh! Thank you for writing this. I know exactly what you mean about being at the edge of your mental health! This Christmas/New Year’s break has been a few days too long for my 3.5 year old and I – we’ve had a couple of really bad days. Today he went back to playschool and I went to yoga and the treadmill. I know this is exactly what we needed, and I’m having to pray, ask forgiveness (from my son and from myself) try to do better – I really want to be a good mama. I just know that my well was utterly dry.
    I am so grateful your friend came over! Having a new baby is so hard at times, and we need help. And that’s totally okay. Everyone needs help! I know it probably made her week to know she was able to help you and spend some sweet time together.

  6. cath

    Ain’t that the truth!
    Gosh, I just respect and admire you more with each reading.
    You are a a treasure.
    Be well.

  7. Victoria Winters

    Andrea – I don’t know if you remember, but I emailed you a few months ago asking about how you made the decision to have a 2nd child since I was on the fence. Well, I let nature decide and I’m 5.5 months pregnant with our second daughter. I’m excited yet scared. I feel exactly how you felt in this post with only one child to care for and a full-time job! It helps to know that we aren’t alone in our struggles and I’m sure, come May, I’ll be coming back to your site re-reading this post to know I’m not alone.
    Hang in there and good for your for reaching out for companionship in a low moment. I know my tendency is to just suffer alone, but I need to remember to be brave and call for help when I need it too.
    Peace and hugs.
    VW

  8. Sandra

    I wish, wish, wish we could all tell (all) the truths about our lives. Glad you reached out.

  9. GailNHB

    Oh girl. Thank you for being so vulnerable and honest with yourself, with your new friend, and with us in sharing this story.
    I had so many days of thinking the same thing – When will their real parents show up and take these kids to their real home? – when my two children were little. Now that they are 17 and 14 (I am amazed at how fast they have gotten to this age) I find myself still wondering the same thing. How is it that I am responsible for these kids? Who, me???
    Heck, most days I can’t even believe that I’m married, never mind that I have two teenagers living under my roof along with the man who claims to be my husband. This parenting thing is mind-altering – and life-altering too. Who, me???
    Again, thanks for telling your truth and encouraging me to keep asking for help and company when I need them – even through the tears.
    One other thing – your stories and examples of being imperfect and scared and at the edge of sanity, and breaking down in tears only add more proof to what I already know and feel to my core: you are truly, truly, truly one of my superheroes. I’ve got on that silver superhero necklace right now! I will rub and kiss it for you today.

  10. simone

    What struck me about your post is how lovely to have such a great friend! What a nice response! I always feel as if my friends are so busy or far away (because last minute play dates are hard to arrange) but then again, I think I chicken out on calling them more often than not. To Kirstie who isn’t sure if she should intrude on her friend with a baby: intrude! Twenty bucks she needs an adult to talk to or someone to hold the baby while she starts the laundry.

  11. michelle

    I am sorry you had a hard day yesterday but I am so glad you shared it and I am very glad your friend was there to lighten the load and make you smile. I have the most respect in the world for blogs that speak the truth. We are so much more able to celebrate the good and embrace gratitude when we can also experience and share the times that test our strength!
    I hope Ben is feeling better!

  12. Elizabeth

    Thank you for this post….for so many reasons.
    I hope Ben is feeling better and I hope you are feeling
    better too. You are in my thoughts.

  13. Heather

    Thanks so much for sharing this, I feel your pain, some days are just too hard and friends make it so much better

  14. Leah

    I am the worst at this. I had to ask my sister for something today–every single vestige of passive-aggression in my personality comes out around her … I want her to intuit what I want and offer it without her asking. That never happens.

  15. denise

    just love this…yep, we’re all in it together and feel like this-often!! Thanks for sharing….

  16. Sandy

    Perfect and beautiful. I don’t even have kids and I have days like this too where I just need someone to BE here.

  17. melissa

    yes, sweet nectar of life…togetherness. thank you for sharing your beautiful imperfection…so i can share mine more bravely and honestly too.

  18. laura

    Before the internet… home with four boys making art or trying to find a career in my home studio ~ alone.
    I still remember how crazy I sometimes felt. I felt de-valued by my friends who had “normal” jobs. I felt lonely.
    Somedays I felt crazy and scared. Crazy from being in the midst of so much chaos and scared that I was not really an artist and not being a good mother.. and just not enough.
    I felt like the world was passing me by.
    I saw younger artists, making their name, making their way in the world and thought maybe there was no room for artists who are moms. Maybe I was dreaming but couldn’t really do it.
    Finally, the internet helped me start connecting with other writers and artists.. I started going to retreats, and I find my tribe.
    I found out I could do both. I could be a mom and an artist.
    I just couldn’t do them at the exact same time!
    I am glad you reached out, you are certainly not alone.

  19. Meghan

    Thank you for this post. So true and so authentic. I resonate with the need for connection. Isn’t that what we all want?

  20. Life in Eden {amy}

    “We’re afraid to burden others …”
    I so get that one. I spent a year living in a strange city with 2 preemie twins, and I never really asked for help. It wasn’t exactly the smartest plan. I’m learning to accept help more, and getting ready to start asking for it. It isn’t easy, especially for me since I chose to stay at home and sometimes feel like that means I should be able to handle it all.
    Thanks for being real and honest, it means a lot.

  21. seth

    have you read anne lamott’s “operating instructions”? if not, verily, you should.
    also, you might appreciate this interview with her: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhP5GmybvPM wherein she talks about the “1000 pound telephone” and how helpful it is to have someone just come over. and bring a cake.
    your boys are beautiful.

  22. lene

    Love, love, love your blog and your honesty!!
    It gives me hope of my own ability to be a good mum for the baby in my belly!

  23. Jennifer

    I adore this post. It is so true…sometimes we just need someone else there with us. I am so glad that you decided to pick up the phone and say exactly what you needed to say ~ even if it was in a light and airy fashion. What a valuable lesson to all of us.
    xoxo

  24. dana

    Thanks for being so real! I especially needed to read this as I’m having a down-in-the-dumps kind of day today too. Cheers.

  25. Lucia

    Thank you for this post. And I love the pic. x

  26. Kristen Fischer

    I think it’s GREAT that you reached out, Andrea:)

  27. Paula

    love this, Andrea! I love it when others ask for help, but am not always good about asking myself. It’s been a slow process to get better at asking for the help I need.
    I am a huge fan of the late Randy Pausch and his philosophy of just ask. Might not always get the result you want, but it can’t hurt to ask. And the asking seems to open things up.
    All the best,
    Paula

  28. Yulia

    Thanks for posting this, Andrea! (And thank you for opening up the vulnerability topic :)) Just what I needed to hear today… And thank you for your fearlessness and wisdom on deep connections.
    Most importantly – you are doing so beautifully with two little ones. From the perspective of mommyhood of a two year old and a three and a half year old – what a true rollercoaster 🙂

  29. W. Lotus

    I think I need to learn to just be there with some people, rather than stressing myself out trying to fix what is wrong in their lives. Thank you for this.

  30. stefanie renee

    ya! for being brave enough to call and really ask for what you want. thank you for sharing my friend ~ xoxo

  31. Trish

    Love you……….

  32. kateherself

    Thank you for sharing your truth.

  33. kristy

    Ah, just perfect. Thank you so much for SHARING Andrea.

  34. daphne

    I read this and was so happy for you that you had this new-friend resource. It made me sad for my chronically ill partner who is frequently at the end of her rope, has lost all her friends because she can’t get out to do things with them, and can’t leave the house to make new ones. So I guess just a quick reminder — if you are in an OK frame of mind yourself, check in on a friend who you think might be having a hard time. Your attention could be the brightest thing in their day.

  35. jill

    You are an amazing gift to this world…

  36. Jeanne

    Big hugs

  37. Trisha

    SO much love, Andrea! Thank you for reaching out! 🙂

  38. jen v

    You always keep it real and that is why I love to visit here.
    Good for you for calling your friend.
    I probably should do that too.
    xoxo

  39. Julia

    I have just discovered your blog and I love this post. I celebrate you for admitting that life is sometimes unbearable when you are own looking after small children however much you love them.
    You are so right in saying that sanity can just be a phone call away – now I just need to remember this sage advice on my next bad day.

  40. Abigail

    thanks for this. new years was a low moment for me and I cried on some dear friends’ shoulders. their responses were good reminders that letting them see this side of me was actually a gift, of a sort, to them. or that’s how they made me feel, anyway.
    parenting is hard, and parenting two looks crazy hard (I’m not there yet…). thanks for being honest about it.

  41. Kate

    thank you for this. I was having a low parenting day today and actually thought of your blog, among other things, and how it looked so easy for other parents. thank you so much for reminding me that it is not. and for the inspiration to reach out, even (especially) when I’m feeling most vulnerable.

  42. Jennifer

    I’m not a parent myself so I can’t understand that perspective that you’re going through, but in the middle of reading this post, I got a phone call from a fellow early 40 something girlfriend who finally decided that she really needed to ask for a little assistance on something…bottom line is I think we like to think of ourselves as tough, independant individuals, and we are, but ultimately, it seems to be easier to offer help than it is to accept it. Much less ask for it.

  43. catina jane

    i really really needed to read this. i’ve been in a major funk where every thought becomes a worry and money is crazy and all i see is the tough stuff.. but this comforts my heart.. thank you for being real and letting me see that i am not alone.

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  45. Doug Zachary

    Thank you. I don’t know how I came upon this, but it really made my day. I am 61 year old grandfather who stays at home with his nine month grandson. I have never done anything that is even close to this in terms of the deepest satisfaction. But … today! So, tank you Mommy.

  46. Kyra

    Thank you for this post. It made me cry. We’ve recently moved to a new town, I’m a work-at-home mom to a beautiful 10 month old girl, and sometimes I feel so isolated. It’s comforting to see that we all go through this as parents, especially as a parent at home with their child(ren) all day. Thank you again for sharing. Now, I need to find some new friends!

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  48. Fern

    yes. yes. yes.
    I’m crying, but yes.
    Thank you.

  49. cjm

    As Baby #1 is due in 18 days and I’m currently swinging from freaking-the-heck-out to sorta-being-almost-ready, THANK YOU FOR THIS. And I love your boys. I want to squeeze them. Hope you have a better day!

  50. Puanani

    Oh, sweet girl. I was in your place 17 years ago. Newborn, 3 year old who had febrile seizures. Every time she got a fever, I was on pins and needles. My love, the time passes and all of these days will help you become the mother they glance at when they are twenty. Now, that is a special thing. I am glad you asked for help…Xoxo.
    Ben and his brother Nico. There they are!

  51. Kristin

    I think you are so right about the connection we miss out on when we don’t talk about our problems and trials. It seems so many people want to present a perfect face to the world, and I often feel isolated with my troubles, assuming that everyone else has it more together than I do and feeling like a complainer if I talk about them. If we admitted the truth more, we would see that we are all lost and stumbling through this life together.

  52. marilee pittman

    I do so love your honesty! I had a day like that yesterday and it had to do with a sick dog, puking everywhere….. I didn’t have the presence of mind to call a friend. I should have….

  53. kerilyn

    Wow awesome posting! Such a great reminder that all we all have times where we feel alone and at the edge of our rope…thats when we need reach out. Bravo to you for trusting your gut and reaching out!!!! Inspiring!

  54. Doug Zachary

    Some say that vulnerability is the new (and old, old) strength and it is the force that will lead us from the captivity of patriarchy.

  55. Robyn Moore

    you are so honest and authentic. this made me tear up a little. i never thought about how ‘keeping up appearances’ creates a disconnect with our village.
    i love reading your words. they are such a gift. blessings.
    robyn

  56. Robyn Moore

    you are so honest and authentic. this made me tear up a little. i never thought about how ‘keeping up appearances’ creates a disconnect with our village.
    i love reading your words. they are such a gift. blessings.
    robyn

  57. Kat

    Ans that’s why you are one of my all-time favourite people in the universe, Andrea! You are so REAL and unafraid to share your full self, including the messy parts.
    By reading this post, I felt less alone.
    Thank you for everything that you are and all that you do.
    Them’s two lucky boys, to have you for a mama.
    xxx

  58. Leia

    Andrea! Thank you so much for writing this!! Here we are w/ two boys almost the exact same age each and we are going through some of the same pains and I wish we lived closer. I took Sam and Noah to the park yesterday, it was so cold and there was not another family or person in sight. It was lonely but at least we got outside and Sam could run and climb and luckily Noah was sleeping in his warm car seat/stroller duo. A few minutes in another mini van showed up and out popped a frazzled looking woman w/ another 4 yr old, a 2 yr old and a 4 week old baby! We kept looking at each other from across the park until finally I said; “It sure is cold today”. She only had a hoodie on and her 4 yr old, no coat. I could tell she ran out of the house and grabbed what she could. I know those days. Go while the kids are agreeable to it and take what you can! She looked she was going to cry and she asked how old my baby is.
    Me; Three months! and my son here is 4 yrs. Her; My baby is *4 weeks*, son is 4 yrs, daughter is 2 yrs! Me; Gasp! Wow. Her; “I also have a six year old at school that we have to go pick up. Me; Whoa! How are you doing?? Her; “(pause) I can’t even think about it, if I think . . . I might (pause). Me; I listened and looked w/ empathy. “Do you have any help during the day?” Her; “one night a week my family helps”. Then she said her dishwasher just broke and her husband just started a new job. “I could barely empty it when it worked!”, She said. “Paper plates and paper cups!” I exclaimed.
    It seemed as we spoke both our moods lightened and we were just glad for the company. Then my son said; “Mommy!! I really have to pee!” I offered to take him to the rest room but he cried about how he really only wanted to be at home on his potty because he might need to poop. The woman and I desperately wanted to keep talking but my son, almost in tears, said he had to “make it” at home and the alternative, I knew, was not pretty. As we parted (dictated by the fact that our lives are not really our own) we were shouting to each other our names across the play ground and the streets we lived on and when we might be back at that play ground again. We waved good bye (w/ knowing or understanding looks) after I got the boys in the car. I so felt for her! After I shared this story w/ my husband he joked that it sounded almost like a war story. It’s just a time in life where it can be really hard and reaching out to one another w/ acceptance and empathy can mean the difference between a really lonely, dark day and a day w/ some camaraderie and light. I’ve made so many good friends over the last four years at the park;) Thank you for your honesty Andrea! It always makes me open up and feel not so alone.
    xo -Leia

  59. Leia

    Oh and I said to her as I left to please remember in the darkest/ hardest moments that it is only temporary and it gets better! I knew she knew this and she’s way more use to all of this then I am as she is on baby #4 but I also think that no matter how much you “know it” sometimes it helps to hear someone else say it when you are *in it*! I think I was saying it as much for her as for myself. I wanted to be there for her longer though. I wanted to be each other’s company and let our boys play longer but my boys had other plans as Noah started to cry to be nursed just as we piled in the car. I don’t feel like I am complaining either but we all need to commiserate or give each other company and understanding. I’m generally too afraid to ask. Afraid I’ll be unfairly judged or called selfish or criticized in some way. It just makes such a difference to share the hard times as well as the good times w/ others who understand!

  60. dunski

    so so true. thank you.

  61. beth

    Oh how I love this. love.

  62. Jen

    Simply wonderful. Just what I needed to hear as I have been on both sides of that conversation and feel totally blessed to be able to be present and receive such experiences. Thank you so much for posting this Andrea.

  63. Sandra

    My mom sent me the link to this blog.
    I actually got teary reading this. I feel very alone where I live. I have yet to find friends (and particularly other moms.) I know exactly the conversation you have had in your head. It does feel better to know that I’m not just being dramatic and that other moms aren’t perfect either. Some days are just hard. Thanks for writing about that.

  64. Alex

    A post and photo for my ages!!

  65. Laura

    Amen, Andrea, Amen. Here’s to reaching out more for the connection that’s so fundamental to our souls. Thinking of you and your tribe and sending you: the joy of cracking a smile and feeling the tiredness melt a little, the pleasure of being with a kindred spirit, the balance that comes with knowing ‘this too shall pass’ and the ticklish delight that greets us when we appreciate the small things.
    Take care,
    Laura

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  68. Kjersten

    What a beautiful post. Thank you.

  69. Tina

    Ah yes! Why are vulnerable and real are so hard? I’m grateful to you for turning me on to Brene Brown. Loooving her.

  70. Oz

    Oh, so true. Thanks for sharing this.

  71. Mary

    Oh wow – what a beautiful post! It is so very true. I find I tend to quickly change the subject when I’m having a bad day, just trying to make it through. What I really need most of the time is just somebody to talk to. Thanks so much…

  72. Victoria

    Hi. Found you via Design Mum. Read this post and realised how many many times I’ve felt like you. I wish my very best friend was nearby to help me on down days. Good for you to call your new friend – she sounds like she’s a keeper for sure! Hope you’re feeling good this weekend.

  73. Lauire

    I have tears reading this. Well said.

  74. Shannon Taylor

    At least once I day I have to remind myself not to compare my insides to someone else’s outsides. Glad I found you via Design Mom.

  75. Steph at Modern Parents Messy Kids

    Found you via Design Mom too.
    I swear, just one good mom friend is all we really need to make it through! I have mine but she’s moving away this summer and this post makes me want to cry (in a bittersweet good way).
    Thanks for sharing!

  76. Linnea

    just discovered you through Design Mom – thank you for being so honest and frank about your parenting struggles. We all fall apart a bit sometimes, and we need each other! Glad you had someone to call.

  77. marymary

    Thank you for this.
    I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to ever pick up the phone and call anyone besides my husband or sister. I don’t think I’m afraid of showing my weakness or being vulnerable — I just hate to “bother” people. But this is such a great reminder to me. I’m going to try to make myself reach out to a new friend more often.

  78. Melissa

    (I just discovered this post via design mom) And I’m so glad I did…I know I don’t know you, but as I read your blog post, I felt like you were blogging about how I feel sometimes. I think a lot of people can relate to that. I struggle with looking around at a lot of women I know who have more children than me, yet seem to have it all together; and seem so much more accomplished than I could ever be…And I think to myself “they can never ever understand how I feel”. Some days feeling like I need a shrink on speed dial, or wondering if any other mommies out there have as much anxiety as I do wondering if I’m doing this parenting thing right. I’ve had more days than I care to admit where I scroll through my contact list wondering who would really understand how I feel, let alone have the time to listen. Like so many other moms, I struggle with not wanting to “bother” someone with my problems. I think you’re singing the theme song of mothers everywhere, and I think this post gets to the heart of what we’ve all felt. So thank you from the bottom of mine-and please know how much I admire you for picking up the phone that day, as well as for your refreshing honesty in sharing your experience with us all 🙂

  79. Katie

    this was so perfect. i can completely relate, and i so appreciate your ability to put those overwhelming feelings into words i can digest.
    good job! and good luck! we’re all in this together, right?

  80. Michelle Glauser

    Don’t you love friends like that? Or even better, when you can be a friend like that?

  81. Amy

    I’m so glad that I stumbled across this post. As a new mom I’m quickly realizing how lonely and hard some days can feel. Such a good reminder that everyone has days like this. Calling or making plans with a friend always seems to do the trick for me. Thanks for so honestly sharing your thoughts.

  82. Sunny

    I am so happy that one of those rough parenting days we all have turned into such a special time!
    Carolyn told us about Ben’s fever etc. So scary and trying. Thinking of you all!
    Nico just gets cuter and cuter! I love those pics of him you posted the other day!

  83. cate Bruce-Low

    amen, sis! why is it so hard to be vulnerable? pretty sure all of us human beings have been in this situation, and when you are a parent, sometimes it seems like even more is at stake since you are responsible for another little person or people.
    thank you so much for this post… i will hold it close to my heart for help the next time i’m having one of these days myself. hugs!

  84. Emily

    Thank you for sharing this. I appreciate the honesty of your post and the reminder that we are not alone. Hang in there.

  85. accidentally, kle

    I could say so many things but the words won’t sort themselves out, so suffice to say: THANK YOU for writing this x

  86. Marie

    There are days when I feel just like this and I wish I had someone I could call just to talk or to have come over. I don’t really and that makes things harder at times, but boy can I relate to your post!

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CSP #48: The Language of Emotions with Karla McLaren

CSP #48: The Language of Emotions with Karla McLaren

Karla McLaren, M.Ed. is an award-winning author, social science researcher, and empathy pioneer. Her lifelong work focuses on her grand unified theory of emotions, which revalues even the most “negative” emotions and opens startling new pathways into self-awareness,...

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