I’m Just Grateful

Jon wrote about vulnerability a while back, followed by a subsequent facebook post of a TEDx talk.  That talk kept popping up, so while sitting in my funky post-run sweat smell this morning, I took the bait and watched.  It starts a little slow, but around the 8 minute mark it gets meaty.

Here are a few morsels of goodness:

“There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. They believe they’re worthy.”

I struggle with this- I feel like I am confident and believe that I am pretty amazing, but at the same time, not worthy of someone else’s sacrifice.  And I have most definitely not felt a place of belonging pretty much ever.  I can trace this back to my parents, and their parents, and on and on.  My parents are both very fearful of being vulnerable, and both very much have walls built around their weakness.  I was loved and accepted as a child, but learned this struggle from their dealing with the world.  And now I am teaching it to my children.  Husband, on the other hand, is very open to vulnerability.  He loves with all he has, and freely.  I hope that his open-ness will rub off on the kids.  I can see where one of our children is very much like me, and the other two are more like him.  I want to be more like him.

“”How would you define vulnerability? What makes you feel vulnerable?” . . . Having to ask my husband for help, because I’m sick, and we’re newly married; initiating sex with my husband; initiating sex with my wife; being turned down; asking someone out; waiting for the doctor to call back; getting laid-off; laying-off people — this is the world we live in. We live in a vulnerable world. And one of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability.”

We had an experience a few weeks ago where we were able to witness an engaged couple be extremely vulnerable and open to each other.  I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, but they treated each others weakness with extreme amounts of care and tenderness.  Not only were they able to be vulnerable, but that vulnerablility was met and tended and cared for.  That is a positive cycle, instead of a vicious cycle.  Good breeds good. . .

“And I think there’s evidence —  we are the most in-debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history. The problem is that you cannot selectively numb emotion. You can’t say, here’s the bad stuff. Here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment, I don’t want to feel these. I’m going to have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. I don’t want to feel these. You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle.

This is my life.  I feel too deeply, and cannot control those emotions, so they spiral quickly downward, pulling my thoughts with them.  So I medicate.  Literally and figuratively.  And the result is a dulling of happiness, gratitude, joy.  And in turn, I put up more walls, and retreat further inside myself.  (but I prefer a cinnamon scone over a banana nut muffin.)

“One of the things that I think we need to think about is why and how we numb. And it doesn’t just have to be addiction. The other thing we do is we make everything that’s uncertain certain. Religion has gone from a belief in faith and mystery to certainty. I’m right, you’re wrong. Shut up. That’s it. Just certain. The more afraid we are, the more vulnerable we are, the more afraid we are. This is what politics looks like today. There’s no discourse anymore. There’s no conversation. There’s just blame. You know how blame is described in the research? A way to discharge pain and discomfort. We perfect. If there’s anyone who wants their life to look like this it would be me, but it doesn’t work. Because what we do is we take fat from our butts and put it in our cheeks. I hope in a hundred years, people will look back and go, “Wow.”

Religion and Fear.  Wow.  That’s a large barrel of madness that I can’t even begin to delve into.  Uncertainty, blame, perfection- my life is papered with these.  What is so bad about pain and discomfort that I will do whatever I can to rid myself of these?  Instead of tamping them down, walk through them.  Exist in them.  Shine a light on them, and see what there is that can be gained by experiencing them.  Compassion.  Empathy.  Kindness.  But when I grow and become better through them, I feel like I need to act.  But I’m tired.  Oh, so very tired.

“But there’s another way, and I leave you with this. This is what I have found: to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee — and that’s really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that’s excruciatingly difficult — to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?” just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.” And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place I believe that says, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.

Blogging is the easy way out to being seen.  I can love in an email.  I can love in a facebook post.  But ask me to love when you are in my face, and I will turn tail and run.  Far.  It is just too risky.  If I open myself up even just a little bit and It isn’t immediately returned, I will shut down and hang the CLOSED sign.  And then I will add that “rejection” to my pile of other rejections and use it as good cause to be closed up and unhappy.  Why would I want to be vulnerable and open to anyone, when even those who I am closest to have betrayed that sacred trust?  The risk of being open seems far too high when 100% of the time, people will fail me.  Is “connection” that valuable?  Is it that important?  I can stay in my realm and experience a modicum of happiness, and mostly avoid disappointment.  Is getting “out” of myself to experience heaps of joy worth the eventual let down?

Bottom line is that I long for connection.  I believe we all do.  But I am unwilling to risk the chance of being disappointed and frustrated and rejected in order to make connections.  Is it possible to connect and not be devastated by the probable negative side affects?

Someone please tell me yes- and then give me the steps to do it.  But don’t disappoint me.

12 thoughts on “I’m Just Grateful

  1. This comment from Greg was initially deleted-
    “I think its interesting that you crave connection and intimacy, yet you’re married to a gay man who, while wonderful and important, can’t possibly fulfill that basic human need inside of you. How will you live the rest of your life like that? That’s a question for each of you. Wouldn’t it be easier to deal with the pain of separation, get through it and be BFFs and find what you came to earth to find…that being true love?

    I don’t understand what is so worth all this difficulty you seem to live with. The church? What?”

  2. Yes, Greg, that is a very good question for both of us, one we are ardently trying to answer. I can tell you off the top of my head that I don’t know how I will live the rest of my life like this, and I honestly don’t know if I can. But I will try.
    I don’t think that “true love” is what I came to earth to find.
    And last- “the church” is not why I do this. And if you have to ask, then you most likely will never understand.

    • Oh, I may understand more than you know. I hope you weren’t being snarky, because my question was sincere. You’re not the only one sailing in this boat.


      • Greg-
        Yeah, snarky. That’s me. I tire quickly of explaining myself and my choices. And I feel that my reasons have been stated over and over again on this blog. I really don’t see what the problem is with being married to my BFF. We connect. He gets me more than anyone I would have ever dreamed of getting me. I stay in this marriage because I REALLY like this guy. As in, crazy like. And, at the end of the day, he really digs me. All the stuff in the middle is just stuff. When we can see around it, life is profoundly great. Great is what I choose to see.

      • Yea, I get it. But you’re the one who writes about all the problems and challenges. I was simply joining the conversation. I suspect that if you read back over your own blog you could answer your own question about “what the problem is with being married to my BFF.”

        I’m sure you do connect, but you were the one writing about all the other challenges and short comings typical of a M.O.M. If you’re both good with CRAZY LIKE and DIGG and all the other stuff in the middle is merely just stuff… then ok. I’m sure you know that others have managed to keep all that good stuff you know so well, and they’ve also found true love, passion and fulfillment. The crazy doubt, suspicion and sadness have lifted. That’s what we’re going for.

        We are each on a different journey, I get it. I just wanted to join the conversation for a moment. As you were.


  3. It’s okay to be afraid of the bad things, but you have to live for the good.

    People will always disappoint – it’s what we do. Humans, we’re perfectly imperfect. We’re selfish and judgmental and mean without reason sometimes.

    When I met my life partner, I was instantly enamored. He was recovering from a broken heart and found me slightly annoying, I think. I pursued him relentlessly – I broke every single rule; I called him two or three times a day sometimes, I told him exactly how I felt about him, I even got drunk once and begged him to let me come over…and then I cried and begged some more when he refused. He took me to dinner the next night and told me I had to stop being crazy.

    I was six months out of a failed marriage – the one that was supposed to last forever. I was 26 and felt broken but was trying desperately to pretend I wasn’t. At some point, I realized that if I was ever going to have any sort of happiness, I was going to have to pursue it with my whole self. As I saw it, I’d already been through the worst thing ever – my husband left me. I was recovering from that. If I could recover from that, any wounds acquired pursuing happiness surely could also be healed, right?

    I told Jimi I loved him one night two months after we began dating, knowing he wouldn’t say it back. He didn’t then, but it came eventually. I’ve asked him to marry me no fewer than two dozen times, and the answer hasn’t changed yet; I’m sure it will one of these days, but till then, I’m enjoying the fact that my life is full of a happy that I didn’t know was possible before. And I would’ve missed it all if I’d not been willing to risk getting hurt.

    Relationships all end in one of two ways – either you part ways in life, or you part ways in death. No matter how true someone is to you, they will leave you, one way or another, and it will hurt like hell. It’s the time between now and then that you’re supposed to live for.

  4. What I can’t understand is why you cannot have a connection and intimacy with a gay man. I beleive I do. As imperfect as it is and as much as we want it to not be so difficult, for now it is what it is and I’d rather have that than nothing.

    As for vulnerability, I have never in my life felt so vulnerable as I have in the past 32 days. It has led me to have to put my trust in someone other than myself, be that God or perfect strangers like yourself, who I suddenly feel a connection with and it is almost refreshing to feel so exposed and vulnerable. I recognize I haven’t done this enough and it took a life changing revelation to bring it out. I hope that if you showed up on my doorstep I would embrace you both with tears and gratitude because you know of my vulnerability and I agree that virtual vulnerability is not the same as human contact and you are one of the few people who can understand my sorrows, or have actually heard about them at all. You seem to me to be a very strong person, but I also feel you have taken risks by just believing in who you are Negative side-effects come with most everything; they are just more prominent with vulnerability.
    I remember the first time I had my heart broken, I put myself out there in a big way which was unusual for me, but I took a risk and when I was kindly rejected, it was, at the time, devastating and humiliating. I cried in front of my friends which, at the time, was rare. I listened to Alanis Morrisette with them as we took a road trip, and just worked through it. I healed so much faster with the freinds who cried with me and saw my shortcomings. I think back on the experience and have actually been grateful for it. He means nothing to me now, but I must have needed him to humble myself and grow.
    Bottom line is I think you have made more connections than you are aware of. People WILL disappoint you, but I truely believe the risk outweighs the consequence. You can’t focus on how relationships will possibly end, if you do, they are doomed from the beginning.

  5. I feel like I am confident and believe that I am pretty amazing, but at the same time, not worthy of someone else’s sacrifice.
    Wow! You just put into words how I feel about my husband who is my BFF…I don’t want to hold him back from his true self. He tells me he has made his choice and he is with me forever but there is a small part of me that worries he is sacrificing more than he knows. The larger part of me just hopes and prays that he stays with me – that is my vunerability I guess – that desparate hope. Mandi you are amazing and you are in my prayers!!!

  6. I think it is possible to connect and not feel devastated from the possible negative side effects, but I think it takes practice. I think it takes letting it happen and seeing that you aren’t left completely destroyed. I was having a conversation with a friend the other day who was reading a book when I called. I can’t remember the name of the book, but he said he’d just read something about how when you do make yourself vulnerable and you are devastated and it feels like you lose everything, then all you have left is you. Your core self that is indestructible. It might feel small and weak at first, but if you connect to that core, I believe you learn to be more steady in the storms. And if you are devastated, you learn to move through it more gracefully and metabolize it more quickly. Life and relationship still hurt at times, but we develop muscles that help us swim through it without feeling so overwhelmed.

    • Jon- that is why I keep you around. Perspective. I have come to be acutely aware of my alone-ness in this journey. Once everyone else fell away, and I realized that the consequences- good or bad- of my choices lie in me, I got really scared, but then really empowered. The trick is for me to now have the desire to reach outside of my own sphere and connect with others. I don’t want to turn into a bitter old lady, but that would be so easy to do.
      Rambling on here, but thank you!! You rock!

  7. jon, at least you sure hope that core self is indistructible. In the past 2 years I’ve felt more vulnerable than at any other time in my life. My wife has seen more of me (metaphorically speaking) than any single other living being. I spent a lifetime building a public persona that in many instances had little to do with my private persona. It was extremely hard for me to let her in. I hated it at first, but when I realized she wasn’t going to simply reject me for the imperfet person I am, it made me feel more relaxed and comfortable, with her, and with myself. Yes, that core self does need to be indistructible, but for some people I’m not sure it is.

  8. Andy, Yes, I do hope that everyone has a core self that is indestructible. I would still even go as far as to still say I believe that’s true. I think people get completely disconnected from that core self either through their own self destructive choices or through destruction imposed by others, and sometimes it’s probably to the degree that it’s impossible for them to connect with that core with some unfair mortal limitations. I do hope though, that everyone will be afforded the opporunity to unravel all of that at some point and connect with their indestructible core self.

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