Being vulnerable, not something I have really aspired to. It takes an extreme circumstance for me to show that I am vulnerable. I am pretty sure that goes way back to childhood. As I think back vulnerability was not encouraged. I learned to hide my feelings, I learned that you have to be strong. How many times did my mom say “tears mean nothing to me”, countless. Until tears became a weakness, a lessening of myself. There were a lot of masks in my house growing up. And certainly you never show your weakness, your vulnerability, your real feelings. Because someone could use them against you. These were lessons I learned as a girl. And I have carried those lessons right into my adulthood.
I know my mom had reasons that went back to her childhood for feeling this way. Good reasons that helped her survive a violent and scary family dynamic. Mom was only teaching us what she learned and how she survived. She did not ever want her daughters to be vulnerable to abuse or being used by the world. She taught us the only way she knew how. I understand that now.
But I am grown now and I can make changes in how I relate to the world. I can change how I see things. I can be different. I have come to see that being vulnerable takes enormous courage. I have to put myself out there. I have to say the truth about myself, how I feel, how I don’t feel, what I want, what is unacceptable. And then I have to wait for the response. Many times I do not receive back what I have put out. I get rejected, maybe laughed at, maybe felt sorry for.
If I say I love, but you don’t love me back, then what? If I tell you I am scared but you only portray yourself as strong do I feel less than? If I share how much I struggle to make it financially in this world is that something you can understand and relate to? If I say I am sad and lonely, can you feel that, or are you always happy and filled with the busyness of family and friends? Am I all alone in this?
Can I take those chances, would you understand? That is courage, to show the truth of yourself. It is not weakness, it is strength beyond strength. When I am honest and it falls on deaf ears the honesty sits inside me like a stone. Yes I want to always share my love, joy, light but I need to be able to show the fears, the anger, the loneliness to be balanced, to be whole.
Each time I don’t get the response; each time I see the glazed look on your face, or feel your silence reacting to my words I know that you are just not ready, or willing, to handle the rawness. But I can’t settle for anything less. I have enough superficial relationships in my life. I refuse to be halfway with those I love. There is a saying “If you cannot handle at my worst, you do not deserve me at my best”.
So I am going to keep going out on a limb, showing my vulnerability to those I should be safe with. No more covering up fear, or sadness. No more pretending not to have feelings just in case they don’t feel the same. No more playing the game of you show me yours first. I don’t want to live with a shell of protection around me. Yes it protects from those who might harm but it also keeps out love, honesty and grace. I am old enough and smart enough to be discerning in who I let in. And I trust myself…and I am learning to trust you.