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That courage and dedication you so generously share with the world, has inspired me to push myself a little harder, persevere at each task a little longer, dig a little bit deeper to where the answers just “feel” right to both my humanity AND my spirit. Your insights have reinforced my direction and given me additional tools that help me clear my path. I’m wired into my creativity as never before and the new music is pouring out of me faster than I can record and produce it; this is the Un…
Your site has saved my sanity and my life. Maybe even my marriage. I work part time and have two young boys at home, my husband is supportive of me but until recently I thought I was going crazy. … Reading your writing not only inspires me to pick up the pen again, but gives me nourishment in the deepest places. I will fight for balance. Everything you write is spot on… And wellness is so incredibly multifaceted.  I was ready to give up hope, but understanding myself through your words is bring…
your depth of understanding, and talent at sharing it amaze me. Speechless… and for your sharing of it.. Thank you… deeply. *sigh, its like coming back into my body through acceptance….. Sherrie on space2live
I have been dating an introverted man who I am very in love with for almost 2 years.  Reading your posts have helped me to be more supportive and understanding to him especially during the times when he needs space.  I just wanted to thank you for your weekly posts and let you know how helpful they are for someone who is in a relationship with an introvert. C.M. on space2live
Because of your blog, I know that it is possible for me to have the love that I want one day and that I don’t have to be alone.  — Indepthwoman  on space2live
I met Brenda and took the MBTI… I had a fairly good understanding of these types before the meeting but was impressed by the depth of knowledge that Brenda shared with me. She clearly has a passion for this work and a gift in imparting the information. There have been doors opened for me because of our talks… — Alan Hintermeister
Alan Hintermeister
I think I want to print out your articles and hand them out as a sort of relationship waiver form. “You want to be my friend?….You are interesting in going out? Here read this first. Sign here to acknowledge that you have read and understand the enclosed material. Thank you.” Seriously. I think it would work. — Guerin Moorman
Guerin Moorman
During one of the harder times in my life I found Brenda’s website
and reached out to her. To say the least it has been one of the best
decisions I have made. Being an extrovert I never quite understood
what it meant to romantically involved with an introvert. Brenda does
an incredible job listening, giving in the moment feedback, and helped
me understand the how an introvert functions. She helped explain to me
that I am introspective extrovert, and this gave something to identify
with and allowed me t…
Evan H.
You’re so honest in your writing. It’s bold. It’s frank. It’s wonderful. I could definitely see the work you are doing here as a useful book. It could save/make a lot of relationships! — Jimmi Langemo
Jimmi Langemo
For the first time in my life I could truly explain, through your words the way in which I experience life and myself. Brenda… It all fell into place. I had found myself and had such a moment of clarity. It felt like such a big weight was lifted off of my shoulders. Finally I felt like it was ok to be me. I was not the only one. I had found people and a little space where I fit in. … I was at work and crying on the inside. Emotions ran wild inside me. I was ecstatic, sad, confused, motivated, i…

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The Catastrophe of Success: Remove the Struggle, Lose Your Way of Being

I hate to admit it, but one reason my marriage failed was because life was too good. Success was overwhelming and numbing. We had it all —money, big home, healthy kids, personal trainers — and I missed the simplicity of my childhood.  I longed for  meaningful experiences with family, less complexity and the sincere words of passionate friends. I missed poignant living. I missed being me.

The Catastrophe of Success

In, The Catastrophe of Success (New York Times 1947), Tennessee Williams writes of his experience with overnight success after the release of his play, The Glass Menagerie. He claims to have been, snatched out of utter oblivion and thrust into sudden prominence. Upgraded from rented rooms to first-class suites. The life he led prior to Menagerie was one that required endurance, clawing and scratching and holding on tight with raw fingers.  He missed that life and became depressed and disenchanted with his new existence.

I was not aware of how much vital energy had gone into this struggle until the struggle was removed. ~Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams

Immersed in success Williams became indifferent to praise and people.  He felt his friends used insincere voices that lacked kindliness. He stopped calling them.

I was walking around dead in my shoes. ~ Tennessee Williams

Williams took drastic measures to withdraw from the world.  He decided to have another eye surgery.  This allowed him to hide behind gauze and elicit true compassion from his friends.  Once he was back in pain and darkness he felt his friends’ voices regained sincerity.

After surgery, he decided to continue to escape his newly acquired fame by hiding out in Mexico.  There in a foreign land his public self did not exist. He regained his natural being. There he returned to his work where he found reality and satisfaction and wrote a little play called, A Streetcar Named Desire.

But once you fully apprehend the vacuity of a life without struggle, you are equipped with the basic means of salvation.  ~ Tennessee Williams

This is What You Wanted, Right?

The joy and excitement of Jeff’s (ex-husband) grandiose paycheck lasted about a year.  Then we began to pay for our financial windfall.  Jeff’s job became extra stressful (high risks) and the people he worked for were not especially kind or empathic. The boss’s mood, end-of-year bonuses and the car you parked in the lot became gauges for happiness.

I felt obligated to maintain the large complicated house, manage household help, entertain Jeff’s co-workers lavishly, push our kids socially and academically, schedule every minute and act like a conservative. I needed to be a gregarious extrovert.  I wanted to reflect and savor the relationships and experiences we had created. I missed my introverted way of being.

I was doing and doing but getting nowhere. I felt numb, dumb and anxious. I did not feel alive, vibrant or content. Dead in my shoes. There was clawing and striving, but not for anything fulfilling.

What I really wanted to do was test my wings; simplify our lives; befriend household help; let our kids play and discover what they love; have a few casual dinners with close friends; keep our schedules open so we could read, watch movies, talk at the dinner table, listen to music, daydream; and act freely.

How to Get Out of This? Surgery? Run Away? 

I didn’t feel I needed to schedule surgery in order to escape expectations or regain sincere companionship. Although, I do know people who end up sick or incapacitated because they are worn out from the maintenance of perfection and sparkle.

We did employ the escape to a foreign land option. Traveling became the best thing we did as a family.  We were able to get away from the pressure of performing. We could be ourselves and enjoy the fruits of success.

I also took refuge in such foreign places as music school, writing classes and volunteer positions in the city.  In these places I was not a wealthy suburban mom.  I was a woman struggling to learn, create and help. The lack of security made me feel alive and  connected to myself and much more than myself.

Unfortunately, returning to or finding my natural way of being did not bring me closer to my husband.  Energy flowed out of me but not toward him. I often felt I disappointed him by not maintaining a smooth running household.  By not being able to make our kids consistently happy. By not loving him enough for the security he provided.

…the only somebody worth being is the solitary and unseen you that existed from your first breath and which is the sum of your actions and so is constantly in a state of becoming under your own violation…

~ Tennessee Williams

glass menagerie

Please take away from this that life exists in the striving for and possibly the dodging of success. Security is fragile and limiting. That which restores or guides you to your natural state of being is precious and should be treasured.

Have you ever made it to the top to find you were happier at the bottom? What restores you to your natural being? 

If you enjoyed The Catastrophe of Success… then you will love:

Seductive Security: Living Without the Protective Embrace of a Committed Relationship (space2live)

Self-Actualization and the Suburban Mother (space2live)

Newly Divorced Introvert Follows Her Heart for a Change (space2live)

Is It Selfish to Choose Passion and Work Over Family? (space2live)

Steven Tyler and an Introvert: Expanding Through Music, Stillness and the Inner Garden (space2live)

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  1. […] The Catastrophe of Success: Remove the Struggle, Lose Your Way of Being […]

  2. lshultin September 22, 2012 at 11:40 am - Reply

    I must have missed this blog when you first posted it, Brenna. Loved it. I could particularly relate to these two phrases: “worn out from the maintenance of perfection and sparkle” and “life exists in the striving for and possibly the dodging of success.” I can certainly relate to the state of exhaustion that results from trying to be “perfect” and present a sparkling facade to the rest of the world. We all put on “faces” for the external world and there is danger in doing so, as you point out. We lose ourselves and who we really are and we lose the sense of what is truly meaningful in our lives. And I agree with you that striving for things – constantly – is what life is all about. There is no perfect “success”, regardless of how rich, famous or accomplished someone is. You see this all the time with people who claim they “have it all” or have “reached the top”…very often, they wonder once they have supposedly reached that place why they feel so empty – particularly if material wealth has been their goal. Keep working. Keep striving. Never be satisfied. Your words are wise and beautifully written.

    • brennagee September 22, 2012 at 10:38 pm - Reply

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. That high class perfection and sparkle can make one rather weary. You’re supposed to “have it all” so you should look and feel like a million bucks.;) After a while the expectations and material items seem to own you.
      My exhusband used to say he felt like he ran the marathon, crossed the finish line and then didn’t know what to do. He’d made it, but there wasn’t the happiness he’d expected after making it to the top of his profession. He’d actually enjoyed the run more than the finish.

  3. Jenny September 15, 2012 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    Reading your blog, my sweet friend, sometimes is like standing naked in public. I find your writing so poignant…. you really have talent!! Some things I can relate to and others… we are polar opposite! While I have traveled some of your road, I’ve taken different paths as well, so I really enjoy reading your blog because I never know what you’re going to post next!
    I came from nothing, and hated it – always striving to get out of my old life of not having the “things” and “experiences” and “help” that I wanted, working 3 jobs until I was 31 years old; paying student loans until I was 37…. When I finally “made it” and landed my job at bh&g, and relocated to MN…. I was so relieved! I could finally REST!!! And do something I enjoyed, and have a hobby or two, and friends to hang out with, and have evenings and weekends off… I loved it… The polar opposite emotion you felt!
    Thanks for sharing your experience, Brenda – xoxo. It’s quite a journey, this life, isn’t it??? xoxo

    • brennagee September 15, 2012 at 7:46 pm - Reply

      Jenny we have similar beginnings. I also worked all through high school and had 2 jobs in college. I also had student loans and longed for a safety net and security. I totally understand the desire to rest and stop struggling. Your comment made me think. When Jeff and I were first married and started having children we were comfortable but working hard. We hadn’t hit “the jackpot” yet. My most poignant and lovely memories come from my childhood/working-girl/new wife-mother days. I can see, feel and even smell those times of working toward something. Perhaps it’s the level of success achieved that makes a difference.

      I’m back to working toward something and struggling a little. I’ve never been more excited about life.:)

      Thanks for commenting and being so supportive. I truly appreciate it sweet friend.

  4. Dominique Santos September 15, 2012 at 5:56 pm - Reply

    Loved this… really moving, and thought provoking about the conditions in which humans are most creative and satisfied. Stunning writing! xxx

    • brennagee September 15, 2012 at 7:33 pm - Reply

      Thank you Dominique! I love digging into the human psyche, especially if it involves what makes us creative or what helps us evolve. So glad you stopped by to read and comment.:)

  5. David Kanigan September 15, 2012 at 5:15 am - Reply

    Candor. Human. Profound. Loved it.

    • brennagee September 15, 2012 at 3:13 pm - Reply

      Thank you for taking the time to read my post David. Always appreciate your feedback. I’m definitely imperfectly human.;) Thank goodness that’s what strikes a chord with readers.

  6. 3D Eye September 14, 2012 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    As ever, total admiration for the honesty and purity of your thoughts and your writing. So much to learn from your insights and observations.

    • brennagee September 15, 2012 at 3:02 pm - Reply

      Thank you Gary. I assure you I am learning just as much from your writing. We both like to see different angles of experiences. So happy we can share our insights and passions via cyberspace and across the pond.

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