Feeling Vulnerable 24/7 Kinda Sucks

Feeling Vulnerable 24/7 Kinda Sucks February 22, 2017

I’m trying to be more vulnerable in my writing and in person, but it’s difficult and unpleasant and I’m tired of it. I’m still doing it, though.

The ever-popular office selfie.
The ever-popular office selfie.

It took a lot of courage for me to mention getting divorced here on my blog, and even more to choose to write an essay about it for publication. I’m thrilled with my time at Berkeley so far, and thus it took some bravery for me to admit that I’m having trouble adapting to this new life. I hate being vulnerable and crying, but I blog about being  so in pain and ashamed that I cry when trying new things.

Generally, I follow Brene Brown in advocating that people lean in to vulnerability (as in her classic TED talk). But damn, it’s hard to do.

I’ve walked around for the last few months feeling as though the skin has been peeled off my face, leaving me raw and exposed to the cold air and wind.

Some of this is due to the blogging and talking I’ve done, in rather public spaces, about all the transitions I’ve experienced.

But I think some of this is also just me wearing my heart on my sleeve, not because I wanted to, but because I didn’t have any energy left to compose a neutral face to wear in public. (my resting bitch face, while impressive, is not all-encompassing)

I don’t want to be this raw. I don’t want to wear my pain on my face. I don’t want every exhale to be a shuddering breath that yanks bits of heart-matter free as it leaves my lungs.

Yet as Brown points out in her TED talk linked above, you can’t selectively mute or numb certain emotions. You can’t say “I don’t wanna feel this bad shit, so I’m turning it off.” Or at least, you can’t do that in healthy ways, or ways that still leave you able to feel the joyful or positive bits too. And feeling it means needing to talk about it and acknowledge it, like it or not.

As Brown puts it in her subsequent TED talk, this kind of sharing can feel like a vulnerability hangover. It feels awful to know that you’ve shared – nay, over-shared – publicly. At the same time, knowing academically why it’s so important to do so makes it necessary to continue to do.

What’s tripping me up is that this is good work to do, and a good mode-of-being to model for others, even as it’s utterly exhausting and heart-wrenching.

I want my students to know that their professors are human, with good days and bad days, with emotions that make us stutter and pause even in the middle of brilliant lectures.

I want my readers to know that I’m human and flawed, but so oh so committed to disseminating quality knowledge about folklore, sexuality, and more.

I want my friends and family to know that I’m trying to take in their support even as I’m grappling with these huge life changes that render me sad and shamed and antisocial useless-feeling.

Things are slowly getting easier. My cheeks don’t constantly ache from faking smiles. I’m having to lie less when people ask how I’m doing. But goodness, it sucks to feel so exposed so often. I’m sick of it. I don’t like it; I don’t want it. However, I also know that the only way out is  through, so that’s where I’m heading. I’m grateful to everyone who’s helped handle me gently. Here’s hoping it continues to get better.

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