Your desire to change must be greater than your desire to stay the same.
I have been thinking a lot about the word vulnerability the last five months. It is a scary word but one full of possibilities. I love reading or hearing anything by Brené Brown on the subject and at the same time it challenges me so much all I want to do is turn my phone or computer off as I read it. Vulnerability is hard because, well, it is. The sheer definition of it is to lay your actual self out there. Not your pretend self. Not your made up self. Not even the self you hope to be. Just you. Your fears. Your dreams. Your past hurts. Your current wounds. Your joys. Your self.
My husband and I have gone through ebbs and flows of vulnerability. Marriage really is navigating the messy pasts and parts of your family of origin, your hurts, your secret dreams, your ugly self and your desires, needs and wants all the while taking out the trash, giving baths, doing laundry, making dinner and driving the taxi that you call your car. Vulnerability is what makes those things moments in your relationship not the sum total of your relationship. If in our house all of life was just these lists of tasks it would suck the life out of me. In fact that is how I know when connection and vulnerability is lacking, I begin to feel run down, irritable, annoyed and just plain bratty to my family. Vulnerability makes those tasks a shared journey with the ones that you love. I hate cooking. Don’t enjoy it at all, but some how when I am connected to my husband it makes it just a little less annoying because I am cooking dinner with or for my friend that is walking a hard road right now or my friend that is just trying to make it or sacrificing everything for his dream. The task is still annoying but my heart is different while I do the task. But here is the catch, you must be vulnerable with one another so they know those parts of your heart, the parts that make you you, the parts that feel down right petrifying to share. Then and only then can it even began to transform the menial task into a sacred encounter or at the very least change your heart as you carry that task out. When we don’t risk being vulnerable we don’t hear the people around us champion us, sure we might not get laughed at or hurt but we also won’t get encouraged or known and accepted.
It takes courage to be vulnerable, I don’t do it well. I hide the parts of me that fear others words. I hides dreams so no one can burst my bubble. I hide myself so no one has ammunition on me. It takes a lot for me to be vulnerable. A friend years ago said to me I was real but not vulnerable. I was so irritated. Ten years on I have to admit he was exactly right.
Vulnerability is a process. I can easily overshare and pat myself on the back for being vulnerable then feel awful for the backlash or lack of emotion I longed for that comes after. I can protect myself so much that I miss out on relationship and love. It is a tight rope of tension and beauty for me. I love when I figure it out and hate when I mess it up. Vulnerability is learning when and where and why and how.
So I am learning to walk that right rope. I am not vulnerable with everyone. In fact there are those in my life that wish I was more vulnerable. I spent years feeling guilty over that and self assessing myself to death, reality is though that not everyone is trust worthy with our real ugly beautiful mess of a self. There is a definite power in being vulnerable and okay enough to not care what others think or say to you or others. I have loved those half a dozen moments I have had in my life where I simply didn’t care what others thought or said. Truly I think there might only be about six. I am working on being okay with being who I am enough to not care what others think. I loved a talk I heard recently by Brené Brown that reminded me to allow those people (or their words/opinions) that scare you a place in your arena of life. They may be family or internet trollers or friends or co workers or they might simply be a fear. Fear of failure. Fear of abandonment. Fear of humiliation. Let’s be honest those people or fears (or both) show up in our arena of life no matter how hard we try to keep them out. So instead of protecting yourself against them and shutting them out allow them their seat and then with power, respect and love remind them, sometimes in words and sometimes just in the quiet recesses of your mind, that they have a spot in your life but you choose not to listen or value their opinion on your vulnerability. For me it helped get my mind wrapped around the reality that I cannot just hide from all the people that I don’t like or that say mean things. It gave me a tangible way to deal with them and still be me. The flip side of that, Brown reminded her listeners, was to not belittle the ones that are your cheerleaders and champions in your arena. Don’t dismiss them because they have to cheer for you, they have to love your vulnerable self, or because they love you so of course they cheer for you because the truth of the matter is they don’t have to champion you. I chatted to a friend the last three days about life and family and difficulties. She was real. I was real. She cheered for me. I empathized with her. It is easy for me to listen to the ones that call out all my weak areas and not listen to the ones that scream and cheer for me inspite of my weak areas.
The tight rope of vulnerability is inviting us on, it’s scary. It’s exhilarating. It’s worth it. Most things in life that are worth it come with those two duelling elements: fear and exhilaration. I want to be in control of what I fear and how I act. I’m continuing to train on the tension filled tight rope. Life’s to short to have it any other way.