Choosing Courage to Ride the Wave of Vulnerability

“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

it took

to blossom.

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…..

Costa Rica Surfing Nosara Vulnerability

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.

Costa Rica Surfing Nosara Vulnerability

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.



Nosara Costa Rica Surfing Vulnerability .jpg

The truth however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to seekers after it. Agatha Christie quote

Good morning! In context of the need for us all to be truth seekers across all areas of our lives, here are some inspiring words for your day! “The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to seekers after it.” Oh gosh, though, the truth can hurt. But, ultimately, the pain is less than being seduced, betrayed, and beaten with a lie. Oh, I could use a little bit of Miss Marple in my life right now. What about you?

Make this one a great one!

XO, Jennifer


New Year’s Quotes and Reflections for 2017

And like that, we welcome in 2017! Whatever blessings and challenges you experienced in 2016, as 2017 begins and you head into your future, may grace, patience, and light see you through the year ahead. I am particularly fond of seeking the wisdom and inspiration of others, so from their beautiful brains, here are some of my favorites for new year’s quotes and reflections as we say hello to 2017.

Oh… I was almost forgot.

Last night I confirmed my new apartment in Oaxaca. I think it is fitting I’m going to live in an old house with the exterior painted in bird murals.

I also made the wrong call on how to wash my “brand new” vintage cocktail dress and it is now misshapen and two sizes too small. But I wore it anyway and after two kir royales I didn’t care one lick that my dress was too small or that I might be too old for the Ariana Grande ponytail. Or that I was tagging along on my folks’ fancy dinner date. The only redemption to Kansas winters is that the temperature actually merits wearing my vintage estate sale curated furs.

Happy New Year - New Year's Quotes

Another thing I did last night was I opened up and read my gratitude jar. In the jar were small slips of paper on which I wrote my happiest moment for each day or week. I did not keep up consistency for 366, but I had a lot of wonderful memories to revisit and reflect on as I said “goodbye” to a year which brought me so much change. I got the idea from Elizabeth Gilbert, and during the year I already decided I will definitely carry over the practice in 2017. I received a text message from a friend of mine three days ago, on my birthday. It was a picture of her 2016 Gratitude Box, a re-purposed Birchbox box. As it turns out, during my birthday brunch at the beginning of the year last year, I explained to my friends one of my resolutions for 2016 was to keep a gratitude jar. She really liked the idea and decided to keep one of her own. One of my happiest moment slips just so happened to be of a friend letting me know I had a profoundly positive impact on helping her have a positive year. By the very exercise of finding something for the day, or the week, to be happy about, it changes the mindset to focus on the abundance and beauty in life. If you want, keep one with me. She told me she is doing this again in 2017.

Happy New Year - New Year's Quotes

  1. I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and moulding my life, is too much of a daily event for me. ~Anaïs Nin
  2. Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right. ~ Oprah Winfrey
  3. One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves. You don’t choose your passions; your passions choose you. ~Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon
  4. Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away. ~Frida Kahlo
  5. For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. ~T.S. Eliot
  6. Let our New Year’s resolution be this: We will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word. ~ Göran Persson
  7. And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been. ~Rainer Maria Rilke
  8. Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
  9. Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. ~Albert Einstein

And because I will never admit, in person, that I am the sappiest, most ridiculous, swooniest, practically pathetic (as in could throw it all away) romantic: I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible. ~Harry Burns (Nora Ephron)

Happy New Year - New Year's Quotes

I would love to hear from you. How are you starting your 2017?


An Amelie Memory and What Does it Mean to Take the Hit As a Gift

Missing Paris, I decided to pop in Amelie for a little reminder of a beautiful, brief respite of solitude and beauty in an otherwise emotionally tumultuous time in my life. This was also one of the last points in time I ever felt wholly optimistic. Soon after, a fated meeting with someone resulted in a sequence of events, after which, I have been holding onto a heavy amount of cynicism and general distrust toward people (lamentably, men, in particular).

I’m not happy about it, and not resigned to an indefinite state, but right now, it is what it is. There is a limited, stunted, amount of vulnerability and how much of myself I will open up to others. I miss the me who wasn’t so suspicious and guarded. I miss the me who was optimistic and hopeful when meeting someone new.

Paris Eiffel Tower Take the hit as a gift

A quote from the movie said by Monsieur Dufayel (Glass Man) “So, my little Amélie, you don’t have bones of glass. You can take life’s knocks. If you let this chance pass, eventually, your heart will become as dry and brittle as my skeleton. So, go get him, for Pete’s sake!

To me, this sweet little gem of a film illustrates vulnerability, taking risks, and putting one’s self out in the world, even if that means uncertainty and the unknown. Last week, somewhere I heard “take the hit as a gift.”

I really cannot remember where, and it’s entirely possible I hallucinated it in my sleep deprived state during the 48 hours I subsisted on about five hours of sleep and the kind of jet lag that makes a person see triple.


When Doors are Definitely Closed | Finding the Open Door
When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us. ~Helen Keller 

Today is her birthday. Ms. Keller’s. She also penned poignant messages regarding suffering, pain, and overcoming adversity. If anyone understands the struggle to finding the open door of opportunity, it’s surely her.

I left my employer 60 days ago, today.

Today is a sort of mini anniversary.

I guess….

finding the open door

I retained my faculty role, but that is part time and inconsistent, dependent on scheduling cycles. Planning and  set up my first weeks of unemployment to complete my dissertation data collection, I actually believed I would be able to accomplish so much more progress with my interviews with my open schedule. I did not factor an unexpected derailment in the form of obscure dates, paperwork filing, and administrative actions… and waiting and waiting.

What I did not factor in was the emotional fatigue of selling and donating almost all of my possessions. I had NO idea of how exhausting and disorienting the process of dismantling my Phoenix life while simultaneously attempting my data collection would be for me.

Hypothetically, I thought leaving my job would release the stress, but if anything, I feel more stress, I feel less grounded, I feel less certain about my next step, than ever (ever) before, and I am in adversity of my own creation.  I’m in veritable Purgatory of sorts, and while I know this will pass and I will be able to eventually progress beyond the present situation, that does not mean any part of what I am doing… is… easy.

Which is why I love this quote by Helen Keller so much.

We owe fidelity to finding the open door.

Abandon blindness and looking toward only what is not working – there IS a way out and through.

finding the open door