Vulnerability

This article originally appeared in Rebelle Society

Vulnerability – there I said it, anyone else just feel their sphincter tighten?

Vulnerability, according to Wikipedia, refers to the inability to withstand the effects of a hostile environment or according to the Free dictionary, susceptible to physical or emotional injury, susceptible to attack (no wonder it is free)  and finally according to Brene Brown, Daring Greatly guru, it refers to our ability to empathize, belong and love. It is our most accurate measure of courage as it requires you to expose your fears, your uncertainties and to take emotional risks.

Anyone else want to join me for the hostile environment or attack? Grab your guns and man the hill!

Vulnerable, I let that word play on my tongue and then I shut my mouth, I say it in passing to people and get goose bumps. The only thing our society has taught me about vulnerability is that it is bad – it smacks you down and reeks of weakness. How then do you get to a place of being open and to fully experiencing life, all the great ups and the devastating downs?

When I found myself suddenly single at the age of 48, starting over and in more emotional agony than I have ever been the last thing I could ever imagine being was vulnerable again. As a self proclaimed control freak and one hell of self critic I slammed the door on the possibility of ever being vulnerable again. This stance did however produce a quandary, you see what the end of that relationship taught me was that the one thing I desire most in life, the one thing that makes me physically ache is human connection and relationship. How was I going to get that when I vowed to never hurt like I was hurting again N-E-V-E-R! I was smart enough to know the one thing I wanted more than anything in this life could not be achieved without vulnerability. Well, this certainly is a pickle isn’t?

I should mention here that I work in the male dominated justice field? A field that did not honor vulnerability, it spreads vulnerability on crackers and eats it cold and I have eaten a lot of cold crackers!

“When we expose ourselves, in work or a relationship, we have experiences that bring meaning and purpose to our lives”, say BB as I call her. Interesting, well clearly the purpose of my life was to show me that letting people in and being vulnerable was tantamount to get my clothes ripped off in Central Station. EXPOSED, judged, humiliated, cellulite showing shame to name just a few of the emotions I associate with when it comes to being vulnerable. I am sure you can suspect that this is not my strong suit – I am as compassionate as all get out with and for other people but oh no, can’t be vulnerable for risk of being hurt again.

I have suffered from, ok, I still suffer from but manage, ok, I still suffer from and try really hard, OK, I still suffer from and have an occasional day of reprieve from a hole in my soul that screams I am not good enough, I am not lovable and I am not worthy. The things I have done, drank, drugged and ate to fill that hole is truly remarkable. The amazing thing is all those external remedies just made the hole deeper, I will explain in another chapter the moment I realized I had this hole, it was over garlic and cheese, YUP, garlic and cheese!

Now back to vulnerability, since listening to Brene Brown’s TED talks and devouring her books I have made great gains in being vulnerable only to be slammed back down again and again. To question why, what is the point? I cry, I bemoan, I re-hash, I create drama, I do not sleep, I vow to never again take a chance and then with the help of the “bestfuckingchicksintheworld” I eventually soften. I realize again that I want what we all want; love, connection, relationship and you simply cannot have that without being vulnerable. I pick myself up, dust the dirt off my bum and move forward. Being vulnerable is the hardest work I have ever done, it is the most important work I will ever do and even if I never find the love, connection and relationship I desire it will all have been worth it.

I have discovered that being willing to be vulnerable is directly related to self acceptance. If I cannot accept that I am going to make mistakes, that I am going trust some that are not worthy of it and that no matter what I am perfectly perfect, warts, cellulite (I do not really have warts)  and all I cannot open myself up and opening is the best part of life – oh the highs!

My 50 year old wisdom on this matter leads me to this, Share, Share, Share – secrets and ghosts live and haunt us because we do not share our experience of them – open up, be vulnerable, let someone close, we really all want the same thing. While there will always be those that try to capitalize on that vulnerability that speaks about them, not you or I. Those people will become less and less as you become more and more resilient and choose whom to share your secret ghost busting stories with.

Progress is not an illusion, it happens, but it is slow and invariably disappointing. – George Orwell

BE vulnerable, BE open, Fail a little, FAIL a lot, FAIL BIG, TAKE GREAT RISKS, but in your soul, KNOW you are enough and KNOW you can survive anything as long as you are living fully for it is when we cease to live completely that our breath no longer has meaning.