“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ― Brené Brown
A – Z Challenge – Day 22
When I first heard of the Ted Talk – On Vulnerability with Brene Brown I wondered what the big deal was.
Then I watched it.
And I saw myself in her descriptions of those seeking to run from shame and fear, in those desperately feigning worthiness, while internally feeling like crap.
Her idea of wholeheartedness and vulnerability being key to all well-being in life, struck something in my marrow.
I got an email from a colleague last night that contained an apology for something that happened a couple of years ago.
I’d gone to a Walk Out of Darkness event, to honor another colleague who committed suicide. I didn’t know him well, but I’d taken some classes with him. I knew several of the people he was closest to. I felt compelled to support them, so I raised some money, and on the day of the event, took three buses (Yep. Three buses.) to get to there.
Once I arrived, I felt a sense of connection and a very real feeling of camaraderie with everyone participating. As we walked the route that morning, I chatted up various people — some that I knew and others I didn’t. I marveled at the resilience and grace of J’s parents, who were walking with us, demonstrating such beautiful openheartedness at a time that must have been pure hell for them.
I didn’t want the day to end.
So, afterward, I did something that up to that point I was not very comfortable doing.
I asked for a ride.
I wanted to go out with the group afterward to have lunch with everyone. However, the small group of people I actually knew already had full cars.
Risking One’s Heart
Anyone who knows me knows I don’t like asking people for help — particularly if I don’t know them well. (I come from a long line of resolute boot-strappers.)
So, when I asked several different people for a ride to the restaurant and all of them said no, I simply figured that it ‘wasn’t meant to be’ and got ready to head home.
Admittedly, I also started to completely lose it emotionally. (I know. There I go, taking shit personally again.)
Embarrassed (and not wanting to be seen crying), I was eager to leave as quickly as possible.
You can run but you cannot hide
I couldn’t stop my tears. I was angry for allowing myself to be that openly vulnerable in a public park, surrounded by thousands of strangers.
The friend who wrote me last night came across me in that state.
Red-faced and ashamed, I longed for escape.
She asked me what had happened, and I told her that I was just going to head home since there wasn’t anyone with room in his or her car.
In a word, I was mortified. (And I felt rejected. All my insecurities about my worthiness surfaced in an ugly rush.)
She sprang into action.
Within minutes, she arranged a ride.
I ended up going with a young couple. We headed out to a BBQ joint in the East Valley where everyone had a lovely time.
In my colleague’s message last night, she said she regretted the fact that I had been put in that position, and that she wished she could go back and change things that day, so that I wouldn’t have felt left out.
Mind you, we’re talking about something that I had largely completely forgotten, or so I thought.
As soon as I read her words, I was right back there, and it was as emotionally fraught as it was that day.
And the person I was then, didn’t like being vulnerable in front of anyone, let alone people I work with.
But, you know what?
I clearly uncovered something important last night.
That experience started a shift inside of me. I realized I could no longer hide out all the time, disengaged from life.
I have to live — fully, incandescently — or I am as good as dead.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” ― Brené Brown
Perfect Imperfection; Absolute Beginners
Fast forward, these few years later.
This morning I watched Brene Brown’s talk again, and realized how incredibly far I’ve come.
I’ve become much more compassionate with myself. I am willing to admit I need other people.
Yep. I actually need the help and love and care of others.
We all do.
I’ve stopped numbing my sensitive nature. Instead I see my empathy as a valuable life skill. I am gentle, kind, and soft-hearted.
And that’s OK.
If I cannot allow myself to be vulnerable, if I cannot allow myself to be seen as fragile and imperfect, then I will miss out on the best, richest, most luminous parts of life.
And I don’t want to do that anymore.
© 2014 Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved
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