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.