Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow – that’s vulnerability. —- Brene Brown
Vulnerability requires an amount of personal courage. When someone asks you, “How are you doing?”, how do you respond? Do you hide? Do you tell him or her that your husband is on the brink of losing his job or your exasperated with your children or you having a midlife crisis on your place in the world? The usual response, I’ve found, is that people smile and respond with, “I am doing fine. Things are good.” I wonder how much of that is really true and what is really happening behind the smile and that automatic response.
In the last two years, Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly and her other respective works, inspired my own journey regarding vulnerability. Part of my reasons for writing 40 letters to commemorate my milestone birthday was to let people know how they made an impact on my life. At the core of this process is vulnerability. While writing these letters, I plunged into parts of my past and unearthed some raw emotions. I chose to put what I felt, all of it, the potpourri of the good and the bad, in written form to 40 people who impacted my life. As I sent them, I let a part of myself go. Did I expect some of my authenticity to boomerang back? I would be lying if I did not say, yes. What happened in the weeks following my writing of these letters, surprised me. I wanted to send these letters without expectation, but I am not evolved enough to say that people’s reaction do not matter. At least for me, when you write a letter, you set yourself up for a response. Some of my letters were met with silence, others simply wrote, I received your letter. There were a handful who wrote back, thanked me personally, or sent a meaningful text.
Living with the silence of those who did not respond made me feel even more vulnerable. In the last two years, the lessons of vulnerability pushes me to tears. Lately, I’ve questioned whether I am vulnerable with the wrong people. How do you handle rejection when your intent is to be a thoughtful and vulnerable person? When an individual rejects your vulnerability, how do you respond? Do you risk telling them your true feelings or do you decide to invest less time in trying to cultivate a relationship with that person? I’ve learned hard lessons on how people can be so transient, so self-involved, and wavering in their loyalties, that vulnerability is becoming problematic for me. I want to be vulnerable, but I need to lessen my expectations when people choose not respond in the way that I expect. It makes me more tentative, but I know that it’s when I can feel unattached to my expectations that I’ve really felt the true meaning of vulnerability. Like everything else, I know it is a process.
Vulnerability is not intended to be immediate.