Monday, 9 March 2015

On Vulnerability

It's one of the Ted Talks top 20 most popular segments of all time, the one on 'Vulnerability'. I watched it again for myself this morning. I was having a rare luxurious lie-in in my house in Cape Town - just a beautiful view from my bed. And a beautiful day. Coffee. Fruit salad. And dark chocolate! Felt indulgent and self nurturing.

I was moved by that video. Watch it. Do yourself that favour. I've seen it maybe 5 times over the past few years and every time it teaches me new things. Today it resonated so strongly with me about how very vulnerable I am myself right now. And all the stuff I've been wrestling with myself about that. How much do I show? How much do I share? How much of myself should I be exposing to the people around me, and how much do I keep just for me.

I have felt wrong and judged over the past weeks. Almost punished for showing too much. Showing myself to my precious people in all my naked and raw honesty on this blog became too much for them to hold. And some of them sanctioned me.

Berlin rebuked me. I think he misread some of the blog I sent him. And reacted to it so strongly that he sent me a very cruel response that I know I still haven't quite recovered from. I felt so chastised. Wrong. Bad for trying to explain myself to him and trying to share my real truth.

Mark first reacted to the vulnerability he felt about his wife possibly finding this blog and identifying him through my stories. But in deeper conversation, he than also cautioned me about sharing so much of myself and my pain with the men in my life. He was concerned that it might scare them away - that I may be showing too much of an 'emotional burden' to them and they may be 'intimidated'. He wanted to know why I felt the need to share so many of my secrets with other people. The fact that I have 6 or 7 very close people who have had access to my blog was so very weird to him. He has maybe one or two - me being one of those.

And when our mutual girlfriend shared similar sentiments with me and suggested I stop blogging completely, I felt very betrayed - I could tell this was something they had discussed together - their words and ideas were coming out in a very similar way - and I just felt unseen and misunderstood.

So closing my blog to my friends, and moving it to this new, secret place where they would really struggle to find it has felt like a relief to me. I feel suddenly freeer and unencumbered again as I write. I hadn't realised how much knowing they could come in at any time and 'read me' was actually shaping the way I was writing. Not wanting to hurt them. Or not wanting to expose a particular thought to them. Or even imagining John the Narc possibly stalking me meant I was just adding that extra layer of veneer on my editing, just in case. So now. Free. Raw. Truthful. I will write my truth here, and share verbally with people I choose to share myself with rather than sending them blog sections to read.

To allow yourself to be vulnerable takes courage. Expressing it even more so. If you are given the gift of someone's raw vulnerability, however uncomfortable, it is a gift to be cherished. It speaks of trust and your worthiness to be let in.

I don't think I have completely figured out who to let in and who not. Although being vulnerable involves the risk of being wrong. Being hurt. It also should be carefully communicated. Just as I've been learning to 'hold the baby' and not try to give it away, so I think, I should be careful of my vulnerability. It isn't always a pretty or sexy thing to share. Sometimes it's just raw and awkward and clumsy. I was that with one of my Cape Town best girlfriends this week. And she was just a perfect place to show that. She didn't need to rescue or fix. She just listened. And held me with a caring empathy that she didn't even need to express in words. She let me feel and say my say and witnessed that moment with me. That was all. Safe. Held. Loved. And a bit healed.

But yesterday I told another girlfriend about turning off the blog. I abbreviated the story and told it on WhatsApp, so I don't think she was able to read my tone or get how painful it has been for me to get to this point where I hide this part of myself. But that I was pleased that I could be free to write unencumbered. Her immediate and only response was that I was to please not write anything of her thoughts and feelings I hear in conversation with her or she would no longer feel safe talking to me. BAM. Just like that. Sanction. Judgement. Punishment. And suddenly I felt wrong again. Exposed and harmed. My motives and care for my friend held in question. She's in a tough space right now - I know that. So a place where I am usually safe isn't very safe right now. I must be careful to feel like it's never going to be safe again. And read it in a few days time when she has settled her own anxiety a bit. But an interesting lesson for me all the same - people can be safe for me sometimes, not always. And even that I'm going to have to watch.

And when I get it wrong? I trust? I reveal? My vulnerability comes out in a place where I have the courage to be seen, and I am rebuked and hurt? I think I'll have to learn how to soothe myself in that pain. Take myself into my own arms and say 'sorry that happened to you Trudy my precious. You weren't wrong to be vulnerable and show yourself. You were brave. It didn't work out so well for you this time, but it will. Keep being brave. You're a good good person. And you deserve love and compassion'.

Because I think that, despite the riskiness of showing myself to people, the payout is worth it. When I have the courage to tell the truth, real conversations often happen in return. Those conversations that shape us and help us find new meaning and learning. Intimacy and trust is built between people when they have the courage to show up with their vulnerability. And those are the kinds of relationships I want to attract into my life. If I have to close myself and hide myself from people, then it's time I question whether they are people I should continue journeying with. The people you are in relationship with shape you. They contribute to your character. They grow and encourage you to become a better person. Or they can distort and direct you into places where you become a lesser version of yourself. I should be with people who will help me shape me into the best I am capable of becoming. As I do the same for them in return.

I sent these words (my own!) to Mark yesterday - he loved them so much he used them in his profile status: There is richness and vitality that comes with wrestling with life. It's not always easy. But it's not ordinary. I like not living in a predictable way any more. I used to have so much sorted. But I'm finding it nice to be surprised with what life presents when I live my truth. Sore sometimes. But rewarding too.

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