“…to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen, to love with our whole hearts even though there’s no guarantee, to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of kind of terror when we’re wondering, can I love you this much, can I believe in this this passionately, can I be this fierce about this? Just to be able to stop and instead of catastrophizing what might happen—just say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable, means I’m alive.” ~ Brene Brown
Some days I don’t know if I can “dare greatly,” “live my vulnerability” and “choose authenticity.” I think I’ve failed miserably today at this thing I am calling my new, vulnerable, wholehearted life.
In fact, I think I fail at it quite a bit.
And if that shame-vulnerability goddess, Brene Brown, had been within range today… well, let’s just say it would not have been pretty.
I went into fear this morning over an email, got right again quickly with the person who had sent the email—oversight, humor error, totally understandable and forgivable, but then spent most of the day beating myself up that I had gone so easily and quickly into fear and doubt over a bloody email.
Where is my trust and faith? Where is the “center” I speak of so self-confidently (so arrogantly?) when all is well, when I have not just allowed a simple email to peel me back to the quick? Have I learned nothing, then?
Where are my head and heart?
Why, when things come at me seemingly sideways, do I still assume the worst? It’s one more item on the list of things I like least about myself.
I sat there, carefully reading the email over and over, wondering how I should interpret it, trying to read the very best into it, make excuses, reasons—and finally ended up just flat out failing, just giving in to the pain it provoked. I sat at my computer and cried.
I am embarrassed to say that at that moment I did not want to address that email at all. I did not want to do my usual and attempt to speak not from my fear but try and find a kinder and more polite place from which to ask for clarification.
Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Go directly to—anywhere but here—just go!
I simply wanted to do a quick, well-executed about-face, flip the sign on the door to my heart to “
Closed Out of business” and run—run right out the back door and not stop—ever.
And I can still see the view out that back door. That door opens out onto a depressing, wide, flat, dry plain of land with a sunset oranging and pinking its way to sleep. There are single, spaced, lonely highline poles with one thick cable suspended, scalloping off into the distance across that plain, the poles growing shorter and skinnier and finally merging with the blinding orange somewhere unseen, way off near the arc of the Earth.
I wanted to be on my way to that beckoning arc, a small, dark indecipherable speck from here in all that flat orange glow. I’m pretty sure my mad sprint to reach that illusive, ever-retreating, seductive arc could continue the rest of my life if I let it.
I didn’t want to be at the mercy of someone else so easily—nor at the mercy of my own, willingly open, heart. Wanted not to be so easily bruised. Wanted to not be so vulnerable as to be available for such abrasions.
I found myself thinking things like, “Why am I doing this to myself? Why?! Isn’t it easier to just close off and not be openhearted, not put myself in this position?”
Because sure, to dare greatly and be authentic and open is to be available for great love and depth from others and the world in general, but holy fuck(!), it also means we risk the possibility of great pain too.
To live so openly, so close to the bone, so vulnerably is a mighty risky. It is not for the faint-hearted, that’s for sure. Most days I’m not sure I can conjure the strength, the courage (the foolhardiness!), to get up and do it all over again.
I want to get it right. I really do.
I am beginning to think, however, that I’m never going to “arrive.” And I’m getting old, so I’m running out of time. The best I can do, I guess, is to continue to stumble my way ’round, accidentally backing into stuff, into people, with the usual startled jump and yelp—and apologize a lot.
I could try and go back to the old self I was before I started this journey a couple of years ago—closed off, unavailable, solitary, withdrawn—safe, maybe, but also miserable.
As much as I hate the vulnerable, tearful, fear-relief hangover I’m squatting in right now writing this, I’m also pretty sure I’m ruined now for the old me, pretty sure I’d always be looking over my shoulder in that lonely, never-ending marathon to the horizon, always wondering what I’d missed out on, who and what I’d given up, what I could have had.
So I think that means (thank gawd the math is simple, at least) for better or worse: I’m in.
“I know vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness. But it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love…”
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Grace Cooley
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: mysza321 at Flickr Commons