I couldn’t quite see her face. I could, however, see a reflection thanks to the rays of the fluorescent bulb from the bathroom that splashed into my bedroom. Nonetheless, I could feel the intensity in her voice; a complex mix of pain and regret.
It would be the first time she would tell anyone this story, the story that had conceived her perceived need to be invulnerable. She was right on all logical terms except that path hadn’t taken away the pain nor the scar. She wondered what it would have been like if she had let gone. That was all she could do, wonder.
She had been in love, she had given her all, she had seen the signs but she had believed she could change him so she loved even harder until, it was clear that it was only a mirage. And, if she had stayed, she was always going to be on the sideline. This reality transformed her. It made her different, her heart turned stone cold. Whatever came after that, never passed the surface.
Then she met him, he was everything she wanted, everything she could dream of yet, her conciousness saw only red lights. She didn’t want that type of happy, she actually thought she wanted it but somewhere her mind played scenarios of possible disasters from being vulnerable. So, she shielded herself from this intrusion. While she had stayed, her subconscious trumped-up ways to leave. Inevitably, they fought, made up, broke up, and made up again until one of them decided they weren’t meant for each other.
It had been her all along, she knew that especially now. What if she had left her guard down? What if she had been strong enough to be vulnerable?
I listened all along reminiscing about my own tale; we all have that one tale. It wasn’t a time to throw in a word of advice or come up with a twisted form of strategy for quick relief. She just wanted to talk, to let it all out. At least she talked; I couldn’t, not yet.
It was beautiful, every moment was magical. It didn’t matter what we did, there was a force too strong to pull us away from each other. I wanted to do it over and over again. My mind was stuck on us, I thought us, and I only wanted to do us. I could have stayed on that phone even if all we did was listen to our breaths. You always knew just the right things to say, you were my first call when shit wasn’t going right. I became too accustomed to you and could barely think for myself. But I loved it, I loved you.
There were signs; there are always signs. First, I ignored because it’s always easier that way. Yet the rift only drifted further and the excuses never ceased. I was petrified so I fought it so hard, I told myself a thousand times I was going to end it but just one phone call was enough.
Then it crashed, it was bound to. What came out of me frightened me; my walls came crashing, it was like a bomb exploded inside of me. My heart turned into grains.
I did what I knew how to do best, I chinned up and acted like nothing happened. It was just a phase, I told myself. It will pass just like everything else. I once read an inscription; there are two types of pain; the one that teaches you and the one that changes you. This changed me.
I loved myself more, I became my own best friend. I did what I loved, I focused on my goals and I nailed it, I still do. But I crave it, something is missing.
I fear that I don’t know how to be vulnerable anymore. It hadn’t been a threat until I had watched her imagine what it would have been like if she had just been her true self not who she had become because of her fear of being hurt. I might become her, but I don’t want to be her.
There is usually a clear path to doing or becoming a lot of things. If you want to be successful in any given thing there is usually a system which, when followed success is assured. But not with vulnerability, it’s always going to be a gamble. I think that’s the scariest fact.
Brené Brown in her TED talk, the power of vulnerability, she describes people that are vulnerable as, “…they fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating. They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say, “I love you” first …the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees …they’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental…
And I know that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love. Why do we struggle with it so much? Am I alone in struggling with vulnerability? No.
So this is what I learned. We numb vulnerability…the problem is…, 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. You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then, we are miserable.
One of the things that I think we need to think about is why and how we numb.
The more afraid we are, the more vulnerable we are…but there’s another way, and I’ll 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 …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.”