Vulernability

I know vulnerability doesn’t relate specifically with Christianity. But it seems to be the theme of late. At least this week. Ok, who am I kidding? It’s probably my life’s work. Why? Because I am lousy at it.

A couple of people directed my attention to this TED talk on vulnerability yesterday, so this morning I sat down with my cup of tea and decided to listen to it…. while I read email. Because, it’s about vulnerability, see, and what could it possibly say that would demand twenty minutes of my precious child-free writing time?

Oh, silly me. The speaker, Brené Brown, had me laughing and then nearly crying. Her delivery and story sounds very similar to mine. Her description of therapy? Right on the money. She hit home. Dammit.

I am a very enthusiastic person; I get SO EXCITED about things. Which means that I get equally crushed and disappointed too. I try to temper both ends: my enthusiasm can overwhelm others – so put a lid on that! And I don’t know how to deal with my disappointment – so I drive it inward and just leave me alone already. But without vulnerability we aren’t fully open to the full range of life’s experiences and emotions; I believe that that openness is one of the results and requirements of a full spiritual existence.

I know that my soul’s longing for the Divine is in large part a hunger for wholeness, a wholeness free from guilt, fear and shame. I’m a work in progress on that front. I talk a really good game, but I’m still working out the pieces in action in my own life. My husband has helped me in this regard more than any other person. He demands that I be vulnerable, and I love that and hate it, both at the same time. Being a mother has also opened me up to levels of vulnerability in ways I’d never expected. I don’t know how mothers of ten kids function: there are two living, breathing pieces of my heart walking around in this world. What happens to them, happens to me.

I’m starting to make progress. As much as my gut instinct is to flee from vulnerability (my own and others), I no longer feel that being safe, closed off and emotionally withdrawn is worth it. I’ve tasted just enough of the sweet fruit of being vulnerable that I’d like to go back for more. But fear, guilt and shame still block my path pretty regularly. You might not believe it, but writing publicly and personally in this blog has been a big step forward for me.

(Ok, now I’m terrified that this post is becoming all therapeutic and shit, and soon I’ll start talking about my relationship with my parents and sobbing at the keyboard, and you’ll laugh at me…. VULNERABILITY! FLEE!!)

Phew. Crisis averted. Diverted. Hey, see what I’m doing here? I’m avoiding being vulnerable!

The last few days I’ve felt sensitive. Like some one left the door to my heart open and I’m getting all drafty. How do I engage with the world and still be vulnerable? My Facebook page is filled with links to things that I believe we really need to pay attention to: modern-day wage slavery, struggles of people without health care or insurance policies that max out on the dying, religious fundamentalists that believe there should be no separation of church and state – so long as it’s their religion in charge (Rick Santorum, I’m staring at you), lists of corporations which (not who – they aren’t people!) are sneakily and insidiously bribing legislation…. the list goes on and it feels so overwhelming. Will my kids grow up in a country where they are at the mercy of big business? Will they have clean water and healthy food? Will a bunch of men who practice a religion we don’t be in charge of my daughter’s body? Will the ocean run out fish in my lifetime?

It’s so overwhelming some days. I don’t know how to engage with out shutting the door to my heart and putting on my Strident Know-it-all Scholarly Debater costume.

The only thing I know to do is breathe. One breath at a time. One moment at a time. This practice makes each task five times longer to complete. Getting through the grocery store alone with out freaking out over which apple to purchase can take a really long time.

But there it is.

Thoughts? How do you stay open to vulnerability and still get through your day?

And really, please click on the link to the TED talk. Best twenty minutes you’ll spend today.

About Niki Whiting
  • C Wolfe

    Great post, challenging question.

    For me, I’ve had to shut the world out at times and disengage. The less I’m connected, the more room I have to care, and the more action I take. It seems counter-intuitive, but I’ve found it to be true so far.

    But that speaks to volume of information, not how to be vulnerable with the information from the world.

    Acceptance is huge, both of the world and however I feel. I’ve resisted (and resist) acceptance, mistaking it for complacency and worried I would stop trying to make myself or the world a better place. But again, counter-intuitively, I find that when I accept what is, I’m better able to change it, and less likely to burn out. More likely to take small, daily, personal action, then focusing on the big, abstracting theories, too. And I believe change — personal, interpersonal, societal — is based on these small action.

    BTW, my fav part: “(Ok, now I’m terrified that this post is becoming all therapeutic and shit, and soon I’ll start talking about my relationship with my parents and sobbing at the keyboard, and you’ll laugh at me…. VULNERABILITY! FLEE!!)”

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/awitchsashram myownashram

      Thank you for writing this, Chris. I think you really hit on something here. This moderation, this boundary keeping to actually have larger boundaries, is something Adam and I talk about a lot, particularly the distinction between acceptance and complacency. I am a long way off from finding my balance in this, although I recognize how far I’ve come. And you know? I actually think social media has helped with that. But that is a conversation for another time. ;)

  • Jennie

    “How do you stay open to vulnerability and still get through your day?”

    I have no idea! It’s a constant challenge. But it’s important. Good question.

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  • s4rahislife

    Protect yourself. Know and truly honour, n laugh with joy at who you are. Enjoy yourself and take it a step at a time.


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