“Rather than deny our vulnerability, we lean into both the beauty and agony of our shared humanity. Choosing courage does not mean that we’re unafraid, it means that we are brave enough to love despite the fear and uncertainty.” ~Brene Brown
Years ago, a man I was dating could sense I was holding back and my block was preventing us from moving forward. He said to me, “you know, it’s okay for you to be vulnerable.” You would think Thor directed a lightening bolt at our clasped hands because I bolted. Tucked my tail and ran like a terrified puppy. By the mere thought of sharing with him my battered heart and letting him see my pain. Mind you, I literally did make a quick exit, and there’s no way to elegantly hoof it when still wearing a walking cast. The hobble is not dignified or efficient.
He became the first man I ghosted. *I know, I know….* And it was brutal! I was such a coward. He’s a good man, and he treated me remarkably well, and he deserved far better than what I gave him. And it was painful for him. Both of us were clumsily trying to navigate dating, both having experienced similar trauma of discovering our significant others were unfaithful to us. Years later, we reconnected.
Funnily enough, he reached out to me after seeing a young woman hobbling on crutches which reminded him of our first date. We are friends…. after he read me the riot act for disappearing. Which I accepted. He’s happily married to a wonderful woman and they share a healthy, beautiful, blended family.
And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
Risk ~ Anaïs Nin
And I’m often still that clumsy, scared puppy when comes the terrifying thunderclap or being called upon to share my intimate parts of me with others. However, here in Oaxaca, that’s more likely to be fireworks exploding overhead than actual thunder…..
I’m currently dealing with a lot of vulnerability and exposure in a way that I normally tend to work very hard to avoid. I’m absolutely, definitely, without a question the person who will cut and run and avoid authentic connection in almost every scenario in effort to avoid being emotionally eviscerated again. Even though, so far, I’ve proven that you will be able to recover from every loss, broken heart, abandonment, and betrayal. It doesn’t always feel like that is possible, but I have a 100% recovery rate.
Here’s a rub, though: there are times during which channeling massive courage for authenticity and vulnerability will not be rewarded by receipt of the outcome you put yourself out on the very ledge of exposure for…. and it sucks so hard! Aaaaah, that feeling is the worst when you’re emotionally naked, and the lights are on, and… and… and… no.
A few years ago, when I was nearly hysterical from what I was then experiencing as a vulnerability exposure fail, a friend said to me, “it’s scary and it’s hard to show people our ugly.” Yes. It’s scary. And it’s hard. It’s hard to constantly live in your truth. Because when you’re being truthful and authentic all of your time, you’re going to turn off some people because they don’t tune in to that vibration. But it’s not easy, and again, the fear factor, for me, is intense.
Also, trust. Can I trust my instincts regarding this person? Can I trust this person? If I open up my heart, is this person going to take that vulnerability to hurt me? Because… that’s what happened before.
I’ve held myself back. I lose out on the possibility of the kind of connection I want, and I also deny someone the opportunity to receive all the weird, wonderful, quirky, and beautiful parts of me that lie beneath the surface of fear and anxiety. But the part of me that craves that connection and depth doesn’t call to me as loud as the part of me that begs me to stay closed to protect myself.
I learned that fear through a traumatic abusive relationship. I came to accept I wasn’t worth more than what he told me I was worth, through his hurtful words and his injury afflicting actions. Then, another one, this time a true wolf in a friendly skin told me I hadn’t come as far in my recovery and ability to protect myself from a predator (when you learn your ex is a convicted felon as he goes back to prison… yeah that happened). Trusting myself, and trusting others… that’s hard. It’s scary.
I keep coming back to this picture from when I went on a (divine) yoga retreat in Costa Rica a couple of years ago. When my friend snapped this picture of me, I had no idea she was even there. I had just been wacked in the back of my head by my longboard on what was one of my most awkward falls I ever made when surfing – and just believe me when I say I wipe out better than I ride.
But my smile is so real. There was nothing anticipated or commanded. This sunburned mug is radiant with sheer joy. If I had let my anxiety and self-conscious nervousness about how not-good I am at surfing get the better of my earnest desire to ride those perfect baby swells (I know my limits of my skill level), I wouldn’t have ever known how delicious and fun Costa Rica waves are for long boarding.
One of the things about surfing – especially at the beginning, is learning how to read the wave and determine which ones, and when, are good to ride. Because I don’t get to surf often, I miss quite a few, and in the split second of hesitation, that wave is gone. But there’s more. There’s always more!
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” ~Brene Brown
When you’re told repeatedly you’re not worthy of love and sincere affection without conditional approvals, your mind can hold onto those messages. Despite a hell of a lot of work I’ve done to reclaim myself and recover, I still have triggers. But those aren’t my truths – only as much as I want to allow myself to continue to subscribe to that story. I still have doubts. It’s like that song from Bob Dylan, Just Like a Woman.
Whether puppy or little girl, I have to willfully force myself to stand present in front of someone, whether a new friend – usually a man wanting to build an emotional connection – I have to resist and push down the initial reaction to run and choose to be courageous. I’m a good emotional runner. But a terrible physical runner. Too many ankle and foot fractures.
And so also goes with finding the courage to continue to take the exposure and painful anxiety of vulnerability. We get better at what we practice. Sometimes the ride will be good. Sometimes we get knocked in the head by a surfboard. Right now I’m feeling the knock in my heart. But I really don’t want to miss any more waves because I hesitated.
Vulnerability is not for anyone faint hearted! If you want to live authentically and with appropriate vulnerability, you have to be a warrior. A love warrior! And better yet, be ready for the ride.