To me, it’s about allowing myself to be seen, which is the most freeing feeling in the world—that sort of effortless expression of self: this is me and I am not in hiding, I am not in wanting, I am simply exposed and bright and open.
It feels amazing—it feels like I was put here to figure out how to access my vulnerability.
But sometimes, in order for me to access my vulnerability, I have to walk across a pitch-black basement to find the light switch—and I know once I get the lights on, the basement will turn into a place I really want to be in—but when the basement is pitch-black, I freak out because I feel like it’s covered in puddles of stagnant water, and debris that will stub the shit out of my toes, and questionable noises from the ceiling will threaten to unleash two-by-fours or ample nests of spiders on my head.
More than the fear of what will happen on the walk from the basement door to the light switch, it just seems like a whole lotta work, which sounds really uninteresting after long days of over-crammed scheduling, too many conversations, and more than enough, “sure, I can take care of that for you”s.
I have to allow myself to be seen—or else what am I doing here?
An Eagles’ song:
“I’ve been trying to get down
To the heart of the matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness,
My entire life has been about vicarious exposure (read: cop-out vulnerability): growing up, music and theatre became my modes of expression—the panacea to all my problems, and the emotional vessel through which I could say, “go ahead, it’s okay to look at me now.”
Because growing up is fucking hard—we all come from houses that are nuanced in too many specific and complicated ways to fully articulate to our fifth grade friends and our eighth grade crushes and our high school nemeses.
And our fifth grade friends and our eighth grade crushes and our high school nemeses have an entire universe of personal exposition going on in their own lives making it nearly impossible to offer any sort of real support (as if I offered them any real support either…).
And things become…isolated.
And isolation to a 13-year-old turns into, “I don’t like being here,” which turns into, “I hate my life,” which turns into, “I want to kill myself.”
For years, the feeling of being me started in my intestines—like rusty pliers, maybe four sets of them, were gripping and twisting various flesh around, bruising and contorting my insides. The temperature would raise and my organs would swell until I could no longer breathe below the chest. No space.
The feeling would rise into my heart and grab hold, like a gloved hand, and squeeze to test endurance, until there was enough momentum to reach my throat where all of the heat and twist and energy and suffocation needed escape.
So I acted. And I sang. And I played my flute. And I felt so…good.
And vulnerability became something I could only embrace in disguise.
“But I think it’s about forgiveness
For so long, my panaceas took me out of all the ways it’s felt to be me: being twelve and mortified by my own naked body; 13 and hungry after denying myself food for three days; 14 and taking a knife into my room repeating to myself, “this is the way out”; 17 and feeling like death was already upon me and that purgatory was my past, present and future; 18 and having had more drinks in one week than classes; 19 and finding myself waking up in too many beds that were not my own.
My panaceas have always been the things that saved me, because they were always the things that let me remove myself from my feeling of…being me.
“It’s about forgiveness”
And then one day, the feeling of being me was not that of pliers wrenching my insides out; the feeling of being me was more like perfectly-warmed coasting waves in my chest sending messages laced with, “I am safe in this body, I am safe in this heart, I am safe in this mind.”
At 25, I feel so removed from the person I identified as “me” for most of my life. I feel gratitude and love and compassion and joy and curiosity in quantities I didn’t know existed.
And here’s the other thing: I’m not sure how that happened.
I’m not sure how it happened except that I have woken up every single day and have simply just showed up to the task of living.
And showing up to my life means that I’ve found things I didn’t know I wanted. I’ve found relationships that are so glorious and so specific that I feel like these people have been built just for my enjoyment; I’ve found a yoga practice that builds new strength in every heartbeat that radiates into my emotional life, my cognitive life and every muscle fiber that engages to my Garudasana, Eagle pose; I have my old panaceas that have guided my life into what it is now, which makes my theatrical and musical expressions timeless and so special; I have a disposition that allows me to open my eyes everyday and think, “thank God I’m me today.”
I started this whole thing with the concept of vulnerability. Let’s return.
Today, walking across my dark basement floor—which feels like miles of uncharted terrain—means walking across a floor peppered with all the remnants of former selves, and all the ways I’ve allowed myself to feel tortured throughout the years.
And because it’s dark in there, I can’t really figure out what exactly (if anything) is scattered on the floor. I can only make assumptions and the assumption is what scares me.
But I know that once I get that light switch on, nothing is scary because everything is illuminated.
And that is the place of vulnerability I want to live in.
Maybe I don’t have to walk across the basement floor. Maybe instead of limiting myself to my feet, I can ride on the wind of The Eagles singing to me about forgiveness, until I reach the switch and find myself illumined.
And like the mythical Garuda, who cannot fly but learns to coast on the winds of change, I can become light and empty and join The Eagles as I hum the tune of forgiveness.
This forgiveness is forgiveness of myself—the feeling that everything is perfect exactly the way it has unfolded, and the belief that life will continue to unfold in a cosmically orchestrated tapestry of perfection.
“I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the Heart of the Matter
Because the flesh will get weak
And the ashes will scatter
So I’m thinkin’ about forgiveness
This is the only way I want to live. (I can’t believe I get to say that…)
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Ed: Bryonie Wise