If you feel like your friendships have been lagging and you're finding yourself feeling lonelier than usual, Laura Tremaine is here to save the day. Her new book, Share Your Stuff. I'll Go First., is a lovely guide for creating deeper, more authentic connections with the people in your life. It's part-memoir, part-guidebook—which is the best combination for self-help and inspirational nonfiction, if you ask me.
In the age of social media and oversharing, most of us are talking to (or, more realistically, at) hundreds of people about basic, vapid things, but not much of substance to many people—if any at all. Tremaine wants to break that. She writes about how she thought mommy blogs were absurd until she started writing one herself. Is it weird to have your diary entries posted on the internet? It sounds like it, but in reality, Tremaine found that by sharing the nitty-gritty daily nuisances of her life, she made deeper connections with people across the country.
Ten is the magic number in this book: Each of the 10 chapters is a question to get to know someone better. She goes first, answering each question and telling stories about her life, her mental health struggles, her childhood, her shifts in faith, her marriage to a Hollywood movie director...the whole she-bang. Then she offers guidance and reflective questions that will get you thinking differently about your own stories. And then there's a list of 10 things related to each story—10 things I learned from my sister, 10 pieces of unsolicited advice, 10 ways to journal. It is the perfect recipe for opening yourself up to vulnerability.
This book is seriously so full of brilliant advice about being a human and being friends with humans. Here are a few of my favorite lessons learned from Share Your Stuff. I'll Go First.
Naming a fear takes away some of its power
"Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself," says Albus Dumbledore (or Hermione Granger, if you only saw the movies), and so says I. By acknowledging a fear's existence, you can tamp it down and get a handle on it. Plus, if you talk openly with someone about your fears, they might be able to talk you into the unlikelihood of the fear manifesting in real life. Win-win.
Pick your moment for divulging the dark stuff
This sounds easy, but I'm saying it anyway, because I'm guilty of dropping my trauma in the middle of a Christmas party. Don't do that. Don't do it at girls' night out or the playground or at a funeral. It'll make people uncomfortable, first of all, but also there are far too many distractions around, and if you want a meaningful conversation to take place, you need to be in the right environment for that.
Make sure you're listening
This is the hardest one for me. Sometimes just being in the presence of someone awesome who's telling me their story gets me all fired up and ready to shout any time they take a breath. But that's not what listening looks like. Focus on the speaker, take in what they're saying and how they're saying it. And don't mentally prepare what you're going to say next while they're still speaking.
Your journal entries can be only a sentence a day
Really! It's your journal! If the thought of settling in to write pages upon pages of all your thoughts and feelings from the day is too overwhelming for you, then don't do it. You can just write a simple sentence to get the day out of your head and onto paper. Woke up early, saw a cute dog on my morning walk around the neighborhood, ate chicken nuggets and mac n cheese for lunch, finished reading an amazing book that taught me so many new things. Easy-peasy!
For these and so many more life lessons about friendship and vulnerability, be sure to check out Laura Tremaine's Share Your Stuff. I'll Go First.