when we were children we used to think that when we grow up we would no longer by vulnerable / but to grow up is to accept vulnerability / to be alive is to be vulnerable.
-- madeline l'engle
I've been reading a lot of Brene Brown lately. Her big hangup and the topic of much of her research and writing is all about vulnerability. Where she came from and where she's going resonates with me so much because I used to be so bad at it. I used to think Vulnerability? Nah, not for me. I didn't do vulnerability. I saw vulnerability as a sign of weakness.
I was raised to not feel things. I was never allowed to have reactions - excited, angry, sad, and definitely no embarrassing outbursts of tears or shouting. I had to self soothe, silence my inner voice, and keep it together. To what end? I am still trying to figure it out. But, I lost my ability to be vulnerable because I was taught that it is shameful, and my wall was built up to block out feelings and to fortify my stone cold attitude. I was seriously a machine. And there are certainly pros to that way of existing- but it was all on the surface, nothing ever went past skin-deep. Not even my first marriage. And I felt dead inside and completely unfulfilled.
My BLC (big life change) certainly brought on a lot of newness for me. Any change in general creates a place of vulnerability - moving from the known into the unknown. That's why it is resisted and sabotaged by so many. Because it's f*cking scary.
Most people go through a BLC- some more dramatic and challenging than others, but it's all relative. The long and short of mine was a period of self discovery, simultaneously finding that I was married to the wrong person and the right one was a woman, getting divorced, coming out to my friends and family, being rejected by my parents, navigating a new relationship, and getting remarried.
There isn't a really graceful way to get through all of that, but amazing friends and a good therapist work well as a way to navigate from one end to the other. Every stage of the BLC is scary because it leaves you vulnerable. Vulnerable to feelings, judgment, disapproval, rejection, the gamut. And I wasn't just vulnerable to it and narrowly escaped without experiencing these things, they actually happened.
I was vulnerable to myself and through self-discovery I found out who I was- uncertain that the people currently in my life would even like this new person.
I was vulnerable to my friend and told her that I was in love with her- uncertain than she shared the same feelings or would be willing to leave her long-term relationship to pursue one with me. She shared the same fears, btw.
I was vulnerable to my ex-husband (not completely... the wall was definitely still up) enough to tell him what was happening inside me, and that I felt our relationship was over.
I was vulnerable to my parents and tried to explain my feelings, my actions, and how my life was changing for the better- uncertain that they would accept me for who I am. Spoiler: They don't. But in the grand scheme that is pretty minor IMHO.
I was vulnerable to my friends and explained my feelings, my actions, and how my life was changing for the better- uncertain that they would accept me for who I am. And this is when I found out who my true friends were and were not. But overall, the support that I received was overwhelmingly positive.
I feel vulnerable every day to an extent, as proud as I am to be happily in a same-sex marriage and not afraid to talk about it openly, that the discussion of equal rights could at any moment turn around and go backwards, that I could not only be judged (which I wouldn't care so much about) but also treated unfairly or poorly because of it (which I would care about A LOT).
Brene Brown talks about how our resiliency is not determined by how vulnerable we are at any given time, because cannot avoid it without tremendous effort, it is determined by how vulnerable we acknowledge we are and are willing to be.
Prior to my BLC, my willingness to be vulnerable and acknowledge it was a dark black hole. It didn't save me from being vulnerable, it held me back from having a fulfilling happy life. What I have learned is that being vulnerable isn't something that you should shy away from, it is something that you should seek.
Jump. The discoveries you will make and the perspective you will gain far outweigh any cuts or bruises you have to endure along the way.