“Vulnerability” is one of the most popular buzz words in circulation right now. It’s the new “gratitude”, right? I might joke but really, I probably practice vulnerability more naturally than I do gratitude, whether I like it or not. And since there’s almost an over-saturation of vulnerability talk now, I feel like if I speak to the importance or necessity of it I’m just going to be adding to the noise.
So let me be nice and honest and a bit briefer (for a change) and name what I’ve learned from vulnerability recently, since when I look back, I’ve had to surrender to it a lot in the last year or two. Probably as a way to prime me for all the surprises ahead!
1) Vulnerability is not victimization: I had these confused for a long time and maybe I’m wrong, but I think people tend to draw close associations between the two. The main difference I’ve experienced is when I make myself the victim in a situation, I’m ultimately looking to place blame. When I open up and become vulnerable, the focus is actually on my state and response to the external rather than the external itself.
2) When I’m vulnerable I see, hear, and notice more: When I say to myself, “OK, Katie. We’re going to be a teeny bit more open today,” my mental panel of judges seem to quiet down and create more space for me to pay closer attention to what’s going on in the world. The great and awful part of this is that then I’m open to being affected by what I see, hear, and notice, and it can’t all be sunshine and teddy bear picnics. Sometimes it angers me or moves me in a way that brings me to do things that are at first uncomfortable but ultimately, good. Most of the time this means having honest conversations with myself and others.
3) Stepping back and not being so “CEO” about everything can cause beautiful things to happen: Greatest lesson here is my daughter, Zo. I know I’ve said it before but everything I’ve created with a firm vision and grasp will never equal the beauty of this little surprise. It sort of reminds me of this garden we planted with the kids at church one year. They worked their little butts off planting bulbs, waiting patiently while other kids planted bulbs, and then watering the whole thing together. All this work just for it to start dying two days later!! We watered and brought in new soil and gave it cover but in the end there was nothing we could do. All their pretty little blossoms of life finally gave up the ghost and totally went under. We adults had to step back let it happen and worse, we had to let the kids see. We planned to make it a whole lesson on dying and the Sunday this was supposed to happen we arrived to find the garden totally resurrected!! It was so alive I investigated to see if some one had secretly replanted it for the kids. Nope! It seemed to have spontaneously come back to life. We were mystified and though we told the kids “This is the way God works” when they were out of ear shot we were like, “Yeah right!! Get Valley View farms on the line!” We consulted a garden expert who basically said we had “tended the plants to death.” So really, once we released our hold and let the little buggers breathe they came to life! Beautiful.
And lastly…well, probably not lastly, but I promised this would be short…
4) I am not foolproof:…and I don’t want to be. (secretly? yes I do, yes I do, yes I do!!!) In one of my last posts, I mentioned creating a foolproof plan for the future. Well in order for that to be possible I’d have to be privy to the details of the future, details that haven’t been written out in any realm at this point. These next chapters depend on how I am here, now. Along with not being foolproof, I’m also not waterproof or weather/wind resistant!! In some way, I grow through every day, every person, everything; you know, the definition of “living being.” And the consequence of living is having to mess up, falter, turn around, go a different way, take a minute, take a year, watch something fall apart, give space, break, blister, bleed, and heal over time, not over night.
Let me leave you with someone who’s leading the way in a lot of today’s talk on vulnerability: Brene Brown. Do you know her? She studies and learns and talks about The Power of Vulnerability. I first heard her through the On Being podcast, talking about her research. Turns out, people who open themselves up time and time again, people who are truthful about their feelings, people who admit when they’re hurt have greater resiliency (and are more creative!!) than those who do not. Almost more importantly, Brene is now on my fantasy dinner party list. Having a researcher storyteller would definitely add to the conversation!!
When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable.
But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.