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I am not easy to get to know.

There are many reasons for this—I’ve given it lots of thought over the years—but mostly, it requires a certain amount of vulnerability. And I don’t do that well. Coupled with the fact that I’ve managed to create a life full of busy-ness, this is not always conducive to making deep friendships.

I thought about this yesterday, as I was having breakfast with my friend Kathryn. We worked together years ago and were friendly enough, the way coworkers sometimes are. When she left that job and moved away, we lost touch, until last year when she was coming to town and reached out to say hello and to see if I wanted to meet up for lunch.

We met and spent an afternoon walking around the city and catching up. In the span of a few hours, we developed a deep bond, the kind where someone sees you, hears you, understands you.

We’ve stayed in touch, and she’s reached out many times since whenever she’s in town.  I, of course, have been too busy to make a plan. All perfectly valid reasons for why I couldn’t be spontaneous.

Finally, this weekend, I had the time.

As we caught up yesterday over eggs and smoked salmon, she spoke animatedly about what was going on in her life.  At one point she paused.

“I gotta tell you,’ she began.  “I’m so glad we can stay in touch and get together, when there are so many reasons not to.”

It made me think.  How many opportunities have i missed to get to know someone because of my schedule?  Perhaps busy isn’t a good enough reason to not develop friendships.

But i also know it’s deeper than that.  Sometimes it’s easier to be busy than it is to be open.

After breakfast, we walked through Central Park before I left her where she was staying.  We talked about relationships.  At one point I said, “You know we’ll see a few brides today.”  There are always brides in Central Park, especially on a beautiful weekend day.

We said our goodbyes, and I ran some errands.  As I made my way back home, i once again walked through the park.  Sure enough, my prediction came true.

IMG_7800

I looked at that couple and thought, it takes a special kind of vulnerability to get married.  I wondered if I could ever be that unguarded, that open.

Maybe I could start with my friends.

And then I thought, friendships are just as important—sometimes more—than romantic relationships.  Maybe I could open up just a little bit more.   Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to try.

xo, with goodness and grace.

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Showing up in my social media feed a few weeks ago was a question that caught my attention.  “What advice would you give your younger self if you only had two words?”  Immediately, two words came to mind.

Be brave.

An odd pairing of words, I thought.  But the next few weeks made it clear why those words were so relevant to me.

A few days later over tacos and cocktails, I was talking to a friend about something I’ve always wanted to do.  She was silent and thought about what I’d said, and then she lit up with an answer.  She remembered a friend of hers who could guide me.  A day later, she emailed to say that her friend said I should reach out to her. I wrote back, saying I’d reach out to her that day.

And then I sat on the email for a week.

It took me five days to write her, drafting about forty versions of an email during that time.  I became emotionally paralyzed, wanting desperately to make a dream come true, but immobilized in a deep fear of asking for what I wanted.  The note I ultimately sent her was perhaps the most self-conscious thing I’ve ever written.

It went something like this:  “Dear friend of my friend.  I really want you to like me.  Will you like me if I pretend like I’m opening my heart, giving you a glimpse into my dream, while I’m really saying absolutely nothing?  Pretty please?? Thank you.  PS – I know you are busy and have a rich, full, successful life, so I really don’t want to ask anything of you.  You can write me back…or not.”

Just admitting that makes me feverish with vulnerability.  If vulnerability was an ongoing college course, then I have failed over and over again.  I wonder if it’s possible to get expelled from the college of life.

Be brave. 

I’m reminded of a lunch I had years ago with my parents and a friend of theirs, who commented on a bracelet I was wearing.  At the time, symbolic beaded gemstone bracelets — rose quartz stood for love, turquoise meant strength, and so on—were all the rage.  She commented on mine, and I proudly offered up details on the bracelet.

“It stands for courage,” I said.

She laughed at me, mocking the idea that a bracelet could hold super powers and making fun of me for needing courage from my jewelry.  I felt the flush of shame that I’d bought into the idea of what it meant, that I’d dared to wear it, that I spoke about it as if it were some truth etched in stone.

But the need to have audacity keeps coming back.

Be brave.  

At work last week, we had two full days of meetings.  The first day was an easy one, with lots of nice presentations on the state of our union.  The second, however, was an exercise in being exposed, defenseless against doing something new in which none of us were skilled.  Learning about the craft of storytelling, we each had a turn to speak in front of our peers, to practice being terribly bad at it and risk looking silly.

At one point, the trainer asked for volunteers to participate in an exercise.  No one raised their hands.  My boss, who was sitting directly behind me, called my name quietly and implored,  “come on.”

“Okay, okay,” I said as I got up.  I spoke out loud in a large room full of my peers, most of whom I see every day but don’t know very well.  The world didn’t end.  I wasn’t injured.  No one mocked me.  I learned it was okay to just try.

My boss would later would tell me she was impressed with my storytelling abilities. She would say I had much to offer.  She would say people had a lot to learn from me…and that I needed to use my voice more.

This moved me more than I could say.  But these are often the moments when the good girl filter has gone to sleep, when you are weary from a long day of trying to seem fearless, when really you just want to crawl into bed and hide under the covers—because someone has seen you and recognized you for the magnificent person that you have become.  This is uncomfortable.

My response to her compliment?

“REALLY???”  The doubt that is in my head I actually spoke out loud.

Sometimes we play small.  Sometimes the only thing in our way is the fear of what it would feel like to stand in the fullness of who we are.

Fear can keep you small, or fear can be a catalyst to asking for what you want in life.

Be brave.

A few days ago I had to have a difficult conversation with someone I’ve known for almost two decades.  Though I knew it was the right thing to do for me, I also knew the conversation was going to hurt this person’s feelings.

What amazes me is how we can continue for years in situations that we know aren’t right, and we stay in them anyway, because maybe people won’t like us anymore.  Because maybe needing something else means we’re selfish.  Because maybe we don’t really deserve better.

Enough of that.

I had the conversation.  It was uncomfortable and odd and probably more painful for me than the other person.  But I did it.  Life as I know it wasn’t shattered. There were no fits of rage, no explosions, no broken glass.   The conversation even ended with a hug.

For a few moments, I allowed myself to be vulnerable and ask for what I needed. For once, I was brave.

Perhaps that is a new beginning.  Perhaps courage and fear can travel the same path.  Perhaps they can lead the way.

I was having a chat with my dear friend Kirsten one night last week when I was feeling sad over something. In the 20+ years that we’ve known each other, we’ve had lots of conversations about the meaning of life and our place in the world. She’s a deep thinker, so full of knowledge and always so open to sharing whatever she has learned.

I am very grateful to know her and to call her my friend.

So when she suggested I read Dying to be Me by Anita Moorjani, a book that changed her perspective on life, I jumped at the chance to read it. It tells the story of the author’s near death experience brought on by the end of a life-threatening illness.

The book’s basic message is one of self-love. Moorjani says that we are meant to show up fully as ourselves, or as she says, to “be yourself fearlessly.” She describes how recognizing your magnificence – because in our deepest essence, everyone is brilliantly magnificent – can change your life and make it much more fulfilling.

I started thinking about myself and what I cherished most about me. It struck me as funny how I can see magic in so many people, but rarely am I open enough to seeing it in myself.

I decided I’d write myself a letter celebrating me.

Of course writing a note to myself is one thing.  SHARING it on the blog is quite another and feels incredibly narcissistic, but in the spirit of embracing vulnerability, here is my first Grace Note of this month-long adventure – a love note to myself:

Dear D,

If only you could recognize your own beautiful magnificence. It is in you, around you, of you.

When you decide to be present with people, fully locking into someone eye-to-eye, you can feel the recognition of their soul. These are the sacred moments of life and when you are open to them, you feel transformed. Sometimes it feels like too much, the feeling too powerful, and you avoid being fully in the moment with people. It’s okay to step in and immerse yourself in the wonder of connection.

You see the romance of life, in the luminosity of sunrises and sunsets, in the swoon of the full moon rising in your neighborhood and the soft caress of the ocean on your feet when you go to the beach. The smallest things often seem the most beautiful to you: a white pigeon feather on the ground, the sound of a baby laughing, the color of tree leaves just after they’ve been born. It’s one of the most beautiful things about you. The world is full of exquisiteness and you are so present to it when you are open.

Embrace your mother nature. It would—perhaps will—make you an awesome mommy. Only the heavens know if this is meant to be, though not giving birth doesn’t mean you cannot put your nurturing spirit to good use.

You offer support to so many people in your life. To family, to friends, to co-workers. To the sweet cashier in the cafeteria who spreads her infectious joy all day long—the day when you were paying for breakfast and she began to cry, you offered a kind heart and a soft touch on the arm so she would know that she was not alone. That is your gift, to witness people’s pain and to let them know that it’s all okay. If only you could do that for yourself.

But your empathetic nature can be hard on you sometimes, especially on the streets of your beloved city where so many people are in need. Be careful of taking on other people’s pain. You can lend an ear, but you don’t have to try on their troubles as if you were shopping for a winter coat.

You’re so used to being on your own that sometimes you think love isn’t for you, that it will continue to elude you as it has so often in the past. But you must keep the faith. Love is everything. The signs are everywhere…even on the streets of New York City.

Double Heart

It’s okay to believe in the magic of life. Trust in love and believe your innate magnificence will bring it to you.

xx, Me

When I was in the 3rd grade, we had a dance party in our classroom for the holidays.  As my all-time favorite teacher, Mrs. Feder was warm and kind and knew how to have fun with a class of 8 year olds.

But with my shyness getting the best of me, I didn’t get up to dance.

Towards the end of the party, Mrs. Feder came over to me and said that I had to dance with her during the next fast song.

Of course it never played.  The party ended and I hadn’t danced with Mrs. Feder.  I hadn’t been brave enough to just get up and do it.

It’s a theme that’s played out throughout my life, the chances I’ve had to get up and have fun not taken because of my unspoken fear of looking silly.

I don’t do vulnerability well.

The concept of vulnerability has become much-talked about recently, mainly because of the popularity of the book Daring Greatly by Brené Brown.  Funnily enough, I’ve started and stopped reading it a few times.

I think the whole subject makes me uncomfortable.  Take, for example, this nugget that Brown tweeted recently:

The greatest vulnerability challenge: Our capacity for wholeheartedness = our willingness to be brokenhearted. #DaringDammit

Just reading that makes me want to crawl under the covers and snuggle with my pillows.

The basic premise is that you can’t find joy—or have a truly intimate relationship, for that matter—without being open to being vulnerable.  I’m pretty talented when it comes to getting other people to open up and tell me about their feelings, but I’m starting to see with crystal clarity that I am an expert at using that as a deflection to being vulnerable myself.

It’s time to open my heart.

The regrets I’ve had over the years were because I’ve let something go unsaid or unacknowledged. I get a stomachache just thinking about that.  I wish I could have told Mrs. Feder how much it meant that by encouraging me to dance, she acknowledged that this quiet kid deserved to have fun, too.

So, for the month of August, I’m dedicating myself to being open hearted and living as gracefully as possible, with gratitude as my tool.  Each day I’ll be posting the thing I’m most grateful for – a picture, a quote, or a story.  And, throughout the month, I’m also planning to send Grace Notes to people who have touched me in some way.  Most days I’ll include a brief summary of what the person means to me.

It’s time to spread a little love.

Heart

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