I’m not sure at what age I learned to put up a “do not be vulnerable” sign in my head, build barriers to my inner most being, or set up roadblocks to feeling and really experiencing my true emotions. And, I’m not aware of when I dug in, hunkered down, and chose to live with my fears alone and always try to be in control of my world.
Taking years to perfect, it took only moments to come crashing down. At a comfortable time in my life, I was called to stand for something and it got me fired from my job, in a very public, and humiliating way. I risked losing everything. The ground beneath me was gone and I became a target for hurt, betrayal and ugly public opinion; yet, it was the right thing I had to do. Through all of the headlines, commentary and editorials, I learned, I learned, when I am hurting, that deep-down-in-my-bones kind of hurt, to lay myself out there, buck-naked in my being so to speak, with all of my fears, flaws, hurts and weaknesses exposed and let you see the me of myself for who I am.
Flat out at one of life’s crossroads where criticism, humiliation, and judgment raced to run me over, the reality of the ugliness hit me hard and fast. It sent me into a tailspin I could not stop and I hit the wall of vulnerability with a thud that was deafening to the voices in my head.
As the shock began to wear off, I discovered what a great gift vulnerability can be. When I tell people the truth, how much the experience of being fired has hurt, how wrong it feels, or how much their support or kind words mean to me, how afraid I really am of taking that step, there, over to the edge of the cliff, I find I’m living deeper, more authentically – and I’ve discovered a natural companion to vulnerability, intimacy. Intimacy offers, a truly blessed intensity of being with others, allowing a connection that is heartfelt, soulful and possible only when its founded in trust.
Some days I still cloak myself tightly in the protective covering of “arm’s length,” but today and on most days, I try to walk out the door clothed in the free-flowing truth of vulnerability that comes from allowing others to see me for who I really am, a fragile being whose fears can run rampant and exaggerate themselves in my head, or the times when compassion gets the best of my common sense and I cry in public at life’s pain, or my pain, or I risk a stand, and speak up and out about injustice, or I simply put my arms around my hurts and joys and hug me for being brave enough to feel them.
Yes, I’ve risked losing everything, but I believe being vulnerable is being alive at living.
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