While the hangovers of too much food, too many people, too much to do, too much family, too much holiday, is still lingering, I thought it would be a good time to share a recent realization turned epiphany experience with change.
As I’ve shared so many times before 2018 has been a steep learning curve, but the lessons have been both widespread and deep to the bone. I’m still trying to articulate much of it, and will share as the clarity and the words reach me. But this recent one I know, I know to the bone. I’ve danced with it many times in my life, flirted with it, and even had a passing relationship with it at one point… at least on an intellectual level. Ah, but this year that all changed. Hammered home with an exclamation point and wrapped up with a bow in the last couple of weeks.
Driving to the store last week to pick up sushi for my weekly yoga and sushi night, I was feeling upbeat, Christmas-y, and pondering the nature of the universe and growth from this year. It occurred to me the strength and bad-assness required to be vulnerable… to really embrace it and be wholly there. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem standing up for myself, setting boundaries, removing people and/or situations from my life as needed, or myself if required. I have no problem taking someone off at the knees, if all else fails… whether to protect me or someone I care about. But there is a power and a strength in being fully vulnerable that no warrior princess inside of me can match. Or at least that is what I’ve learned in this last year.
A little more about this… according to the dictionary vulnerable means “1.) capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon. 2.) open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc. 3.) (of a place) open to assault; difficult to defend.” Ok, so to be vulnerable means that I can be hurt. In other words, that I am mortal and a human being.
Well, isn’t that frickin’ interesting? Especially because we now live in a society that mostly wants to pretend that none of this applies! We want to believe that we are all seeing (cameras everywhere!) all knowing (Google anyone?) our lives are perfect (check social media) and if they aren’t that’s ok, we got this, I am stronger, tougher, and nothing is going to get me down. When was the last time you heard someone say “I was wrong”? Or looked you in the eye and said “I hurt, I’m sad, I’m lonely, I’m sacred, I’m anything but okay!”? Or admitted that they didn’t know, or didn’t have it all together, or didn’t at least have a plan, idea or direction? Somehow, we have forgotten.
Forgotten that life is what happens when we are busy making other plans. That we are not in control. That we don’t know how everything is supposed to happen. That our lives are not just a series of planned events, decisions, and milestones until we die on the day of our choosing. And THAT is what scares the hell out of most of the population (whether they’ll admit it or not.) That is our vulnerability. That is the one single thing that we all have in common. That is what makes us human.
So, there’s our issue… I know you’re thinking, “She has finally lost her mind… where is the strength in that??” Trust me, as I was living through this, many times, I thought the same thing too. Yes, being vulnerable very much sounds like our weakness… but in that very place is the alchemy that makes it our biggest power. And I don’t mean in knowing where and how to best protect ourselves, much like Achilles’ heel. But in knowing, again, that we all share the humanness, the same frailties, the same emotions, the same needs. All of this came standard in every make and model of us that ever came off the lot. (Despite what so many want to claim.) Even the ones with damage, or training, or trauma, or lives, or whatever, that made us install after-market workarounds to try to avoid many of these things. But the truth of the matter is, if I cut you, you will bleed. If I hurt you, you will cry. (And let’s not waste time splitting hairs here about how much hurt anyone can or cannot take… that’s completely missing the point.)
Now, back to the power of this. When I fully own this about myself, and I am willing and able to share it with you… not only can I see the same thing in you, but we meet at a completely different level in a completely different space. Admittedly, not that this is always comfortable for one, or both parties. But I’ve learned (as usual, the hard way) that when I am willing and I learn to become comfortable in that space, I have peace, contentment, and freedom. I lose all fear. I open up to possibilities that I cannot even comprehend on my own. I feel drawn to my path, rather than driven to make things happen. I no longer have to have the answers, or even understand the questions. All I have to do is just be.
As I was pondering all of the lessons, chances to practice this, and the examples in my life this last year, my phone rang… and it was the one person that could test me about putting my money where my mouth is on every bit of this. But of course, right?
Friends have asked in disbelief how I could even consider answering. Telling me that I would just be setting myself up for more pain and destruction. And sure, that is one path. Cutting off and cutting out, like a cancer, anyone that ever hurts me. Building a fortress and walling myself off from the dangers of the heart and of life. Fortifying my position and trying to stave off any point of… yes, you guessed it… vulnerability.
But I don’t want to live my life that way. I don’t want to waste my love that way. My path does not go through that way. If I loved you, I don’t have to hate you to save me. That love is mine, and I get to keep it… even if I gave it to you and you squandered it, or didn’t want it, or didn’t know what to do with it. I can still love you, but that doesn’t mean I have to continue to grant you access to it. But I don’t have to smother it like an unwanted puppy or something… I won’t, I refuse. So yes, I took the call. I honored the droplets of vulnerability he was capable of. When asked about my pain, my hurt, my truth… I shared the waterfalls of my vulnerability that I have come to know, understand, and embrace with every fiber of my being. And we talked… for hours.
No, there was no resolution. No fix, no amends, no answers…. I’m not sure there ever will be. And that’s okay. If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, there is nothing I haven’t said… no regrets about needing to speak my truth. I have said everything I needed to say at this point. I’m not sure I would say the same for him, but that is his to wrestle with, not mine.
The power of our vulnerability is being able to look into another human being’s eyes, and even if our voice is quaking, being able to say “this is who I am, this is what I feel, and this is what I need.” Because then, and only then, do we even have the possibility of having any of that met and responded to by another. Until I can say “I love you,” I have no hope of being loved. Until I can say “I am scared,” I have no hope of hearing “I’m here for you.” Until I can say “I am lonely,” I have no hope of hearing “you are not alone.” Until I can own me… everything that I am, and everything that I am not, everything I do right, and everything I do wrong… there is no hope of being or doing anything different. That is the power of being vulnerable.