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There’s something precious to be said about being able to be vulnerable with someone.
And not vulnerable in a way that you tell someone things that you’ve been through to just get to know someone on a scratching-the-surface level. But the kind of vulnerability that makes you feel like you’ve gone to the hospital and they’ve used spreaders on your rib cage so that they can expose your heart on a level unattainable in any other way.
That kind of vulnerability is terrifying.
If you don’t know personally, well, good. But, also, take it from someone who’s never been able to be rib-spreader level vulnerable in his entire life until recently. Sure, I’ve shared intimate details about things with people before, but never with a partner. It was deep enough to be meaningful, but not in a way that would leave me feeling so naked and exposed to someone who held at least part of my heart.
I’ve had trust issues my entire life. Sure, I have people in my life whom I trust with things deeper than most know. But my past relationships just confirmed that it’s safer to not trust for pretty much the entirety of my dating life. Compound that with trust issues from things that happened when I was growing up and it’s a recipe for someone who gets close enough to be close, but not close enough to really get hurt.
I didn’t have a bad childhood. Not at all. My parents are great people and always made sure I had everything I needed and most things I wanted. But, like everyone else, there are things from childhood that I carried into adulthood and through relationships. So, without getting too deep into that, that’s what I mean when I say trust issues from growing up. Nothing terrible—just things.
I never wanted to be vulnerable either. The thought of it is nice, of course, because it seems like Hollywood makes it so that being vulnerable is what gets us closer to having the relationship of our dreams. Kind of a pathway to happily ever after, of sorts. What they don’t show us is how many tears we shed when we realize we’ve been vulnerable. They don’t show the anxiety and the slight panic at waiting for that to be turned around on us.
They don’t show us that we have to practice vulnerability over and over again until we figure out that it can be the most beautiful and freeing experience of our life.
Let me take it back.
Almost eight years ago, I found myself in the hospital literally fighting for my life. Everything that I had become accustomed to in my life at that point had all come crashing in on me all at once. My life had pretty much ended, my four-and-a-half-year relationship had definitely ended, and I learned about some health issues I had. When I was at my weakest, the person who should have been there for me wasn’t. Not in the least little bit. That just solidified my lack of wanting to ever be vulnerable like that again. I’d been let down so hard by someone I had so much hope for. So I slammed that gate to my soul shut. Nope. Not gonna do that again.
I started really working on my health and my life getting it back to where I deserved to be after being dragged down. I continued to make some pretty questionable decisions in regards to who I got into relationships with because, apparently, I had to learn hard lessons. The truth of it is actually that I always want to help people who need help to move up in life. People who haven’t ever really been loved unconditionally and treated the “right” way in a relationship. Because, granted, I have my flaws, but when I love, I love hard, and I think that everyone should experience that love and feel what it’s like to have someone care for them in that way.
Joke’s on me, right? I mean…it was. A few times.
After my relationship ended three years ago, I buckled down on working on myself. I came out to more people and started pushing forward in continuing to live my authentic life as my authentic self. For the most part, that all went really well and I gained a lot of confidence in people not only seeing me, but really knowing me as Heath. I’d started shedding the old skin as much as I possibly could and really coming into myself without Heather dragging behind.
Then I decided to try and trust again. Not because I was lonely. I can do being alone. I’m an only child who grew up in the country, so being alone is kind of my jam. The only person I need is myself and I’d finally gotten to the point that I knew that to be my ultimate truth. I had to work on loving myself so that I could love better and also accept that someone could love me as myself—for myself.
I dated a girl for almost a year, and in so many ways she helped to heal that insecure part of me that was still hanging onto having to be Heather in some capacities of life. She showed me that it was possible for people to meet, know, and love Heath without Heather in the picture at all. Up to that point, nobody had done that. Things happened and we drifted apart for a while, but she changed my life completely. I’d known love in a way I hadn’t before. And from that point on, I decided that never again would I settle for anything less than absolute unconditional love and acceptance from a partner. I’d finally gotten a taste of what it should be like.
Then I continued working on myself. I went to the doctor for the first time in years and am on track for getting a referral to the endocrinologist. I’ve lost 20+ pounds to date and decided I was going to settle for nothing less than someone who set my entire being on fire.
Then she came back into my life. At a point where I wasn’t even looking for her. Or anyone else, for that matter. I was deep into working on myself and pushing forward, but there she was. Here we are a couple of months later and she continues to change my life every day for the better.
But this isn’t a blog about her.
For the first time in my life, I am consciously practicing vulnerability.
I’m learning that not everyone will use the deepest parts of us to hurt us. That some people actually take that and put it in the vault, guarding it to ensure its safety. Not that I haven’t been vulnerable before, because I have. But not on this level. I never made a conscious effort to do it and now I do.
It gets easier every time, and nearly every time, it brings me to my knees with tears. Not an ugly cry, just tears. Tears of release. Tears of healing. Tears of restoration.
I don’t see being “weak” as a bad thing. I don’t have this need to always be the safe haven, and I’ve learned to let someone be my safe haven in a raw and vulnerable way, without having a panic attack waiting for the bad to come.
It is my highest hope that everyone gets to experience that and gets to live in that at least once in their life. Because, for me, it has been healing in a lot of ways that I didn’t even know I needed.