Yesterday, in the midst of a radio interview with Kerri Kannan, I was asked a question about vulnerability. It is a topic that has become as familiar as the fingers typing these words. I was awakened to it when viewing a TEDTalk by Brene’ Brown a year or so ago. It doesn’t come easily to me and is distinctly uncomfortable, since it involves a sense of trust in my ultimate well being. What prompted the query was a thread in the conversation about a few years back at a retreat, having plaster and casting material wrapped around my face so a mask could be made. Although I’m not typically claustrophobic, the 20 minutes it took for the mold to harden seemed to last hours. The friend who assisted me was an art teacher who knew what she was doing and she held my hand and guided me through it. When it was done, I felt much more at peace and had a pretty piece of work to show for it. It’s now hanging on my bedroom wall.
Kerri likened the sensations I had during that process with how she imagined I might be feeling now post heart attack. Once upon a time, I felt invincible and invulnerable, taking all kinds of emotional risks without stopping to consider the impact; throwing caution to the wind. I like to say that I do emotional bungee jumping, since ain’t no way you would see me springing about from a stretchy cord. I was reckless at times with my heart; emotional and cardiac. I didn’t hold it sacred as I like to think I do for others. I took for granted that nothing could ultimately penetrate either version. That was until June 12th of this year when an artery required some mechanical propping up, as did my somewhat shut down heart chakra. Multiple losses that I pushed aside in the service of moving forward, came back to visit and I gave myself permission to feel fear and sadness; edgy emotions that, as a therapist, I am grand at encouraging clients to express. Recent deaths of friends exacerbated the experience.
I am also keenly aware that I have been reluctant to immerse in a committed life partnership in the interceding years, since I was widowed in 1998, because I told myself that I will never be so raw and vulnerable again; by surrendering my heart to someone who may not have been able to hold it in the way it (and I) deserve to be held. Bless him, I think my husband did the best he was willing to do back then, but in many ways had not learned how to do so, not having had role models for healthy relating.
I am finding it less frightening to admit vulnerability, since when I do, people don’t run screaming and in fact, draw closer and can relate to my experiences. As I come out from hiding, I am willing to gradually let go of the need to control every aspect of my life. The armor is off and my naked and open heart stands ready to absorb all the love in the Universe.
Photo Credit: Terree O’Neill Yeagle