“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” – Brene Brown
It has never been especially easy for me to find myself in a place of vulnerability. Throughout my life I have built my identity on my strength. My ability to navigate challenging situations. My willingness to lead. My ability to learn quickly, and adapt to new situations and environments with ease. I intellectualize my emotions. While I share my internal world openly, it is through an analytical lens. A self study on emotional transparency.
Vulnerability, or avoidance thereof, has become a theme in my post-loss existence. To have experienced the sensation of being publicly exposed, nude, flayed from belly to neck, my guts spilling out for all the world to see. Emotionally mutilated, stripped of privacy and place. The sudden loss of everything I ever held to be true. A fiery wreck on a busy interstate highway, helicopters buzzing overhead, passerby’s faces pressed to glass. Tragedy in real time.
I have a clear memory of Tim’s hospital room. Sitting in the plastic recliner next to his bed, my engorged breasts pressed into the plastic flange of the hospital grade breast pump. My nippled pulled to the steady rhythmic whoosh as milk sprayed into a small bottle. My baby on the other side of the East River. My husband on a ventilator.
Tim’s cardiologist walked in, quickly excusing himself for the intrusion. I was numb and apathetic. I invited him over.
We sat and discussed Tim’s care. The failing state of his liver and kidneys. The timeframe of a possible MRI. The levels of Fentanyl building up in his bloodstream. His comfort and care in the time to come. Woosh, spray, woosh, spray, areola on display.
You might imagine I am not comfortable with the feeling of vulnerability these days.
I’ve established patterns of self-preservation in response to this instinct. I have avoided asking for help, and rarely have taken others up on their offers of service and support. I have purposefully pursued emotionally unavailable suitors in an attempt to avoid any significant emotional attachment, and therefor, heart hurt. (Spoiler alert, it hasn’t worked.) I have attempted to do as much as possible independently, often to my own emotional and physical detriment. A island of steel and granite rising from the grief ocean. Impervious to further damage. As if erosion isn’t an unavoidable reality.
I had grown comfortable in this lonely tower, basking in the illusion of invincibility.
Recently my therapist called me out on my shit. A simple observation tearing the facade of effortless strength. Exposing the delicate tissue below.
I have spent the past month reflecting on the obvious revelation that I’m just a regular, vulnerable human.
I am no longer willing to allow myself to exist solely for the purpose of comfort. I have pushed and expanded myself in countless ways over the past two years, and I have arrived at a juncture in my path. To continue on being guided by my fear and focused on my own self preservation is to prevent my own emotional and spiritual development. To lean into the discomfort of vulnerability, to allow myself to be more easily aided and supported by others. To be a tender being. To open myself to the next level existence I hope to experience.
That’s scary, dudes. But necessary.
One could argue sharing these revelations in the vast, exposed platform of the inter-webs is vulnerable in itself. We’ll start there.