How Brené Brown is Getting Through the Pandemic
Understanding the power of vulnerability
The week we lost the world we knew, Brené Brown held church. Wearing a floral blouse and hoop earrings, she settled into her home office, in Houston, in front of a bookcase with spines arranged by color: cerulean blue and daffodil yellow and blush pink. She livestreamed a fifteen-minute service, Brené Brown–style: There was a prayer, yes, but also a Beatles sing-along. There was God talk but also cussing. And there was a sermon about offering grace to anyone you might like to punch in the face.
This was March 15, the first Sunday after churches across the country had closed their doors over fears of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The past few days had been rough on Brown. She and her husband, Steve, had busted her mom and stepdad out of an assisted-living facility and moved them into their home. Their 20-year-old daughter, Ellen, had also taken up residence there after her college campus shuttered, and their 14-year-old son, Charlie, was reckoning with the prospect of finishing his middle school years online. It was a full house. On her newly launched podcast, Unlocking Us, Brown would say she felt like she’d climbed into the mouth of a tuba and hid there while someone kicked her down a hill and into a lake.
Brown longed for a kind of communion, and she knew she wasn’t alone. As someone who studies human connection, she understood the steep psychic cost of isolation. She’d spent two decades away from organized religion, but in recent years she’d started attending Episcopalian services. She liked singing, passing the peace, standing alongside those whose politics she might detest. She likes to paraphrase the philosopher Martin Buber: “God is the energy that flows through us when we’re in authentic connection.”
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