Friday, April 15, 2016

To Love Is To Be Vulnerable- C.S. Lewis

I’ve never known what's it's like to be vulnerable and rely on or lean into someone. I have been an independent my entire life and mostly proud of that fact until recently. As I sat in my car a couple years ago, engine running, waiting to meet my next client, the aloneness of that self-reliance was as thick as the heat blasting from my engine.  I felt like the floor had suddenly  turned to water and I was sinking.  But like, with a truck tied around my ankles. Except experience had taught me I wasn’t going to drown, I just had to figure out how to cut the rope. Cutting myself loose and knowing where to wield the knife was the crisis.

Something had clicked that night and I was done dog paddling through life to the point of exhaustion.  I might work and play hard, and I may be a strong, introverted, self-sufficient mom of five, capable of doing all things - but I ain't superwoman- and I finally had to admit I just couldn’t do everything by myself. So I did what everyone does; I drank some whiskey, cried my face off and blubbered to God about it until I passed out.

The truth is I am a lot of things, and none of my attachments, behaviors, appearance, relationships, ideals or social status wholly defines me. My identity is constantly evolving; I am not static and neither is the world I live in.  I am a fractionated rubrics cube of all parts spirit and flesh, a mish-mash of my environment and values, a contradiction of morals and choices and ship-ton of consequences. I am a hypocritical believer in a perfect Creator.  I am authentically who I want you to see and the equally the girl I don’t want your mother to meet. 

And while the battle rages on between the congress of my logic, emotions, and faith, I've realized I have been addicted to comfort and security and complacency and all the trappings of family and community that have made it so cozy to stay in stagnant places for unconstitutional amounts of time.  I’ve spent years convincing my head of something my heart knew was a lie and all the while allowing pieces of me to die inside. I’ve been confused and torn because I imagined my life to play out so much differently.  I had made my bed and had no choice but to sleep in it. Until I realized I was living for everyone else's approval and somehow twisted my faith as being synonymously hinged on those choices. I'd beat myself up and tore myself down for over a decade before I decided I needed change more than I was afraid of the mess it would create.

So I changed.

I made some big, humongous, scary life changes.  And though I'm not a believer in "the pursuit of happiness," I'm finally on a path of living honestly which has resulted in a peace and contentment I cannot put into words.  But with this newfound happiness has come a lot of heartbreak. I have been mutually appalled and pleasantly surprised to reconcile with who I really am vs. who I want to be. I’ve also wrestled with immense guilt at how happy I finally am to be in this place.  Emotionally, the process of change is hardest thing I’ve ever been through since my son died in 2004. But I’ve recognized the gamut of all these feelings has been necessary to facilitate the overhaul I needed to make. 

It’s been rumored I'm not an expressive person. I’ve heard myself described as harsh,cold, maybe a little insensitive. I can’t really argue; saying words with my mouth about my feelings is very hard and I'm often misunderstood: Me when confronted: *blink* *blink* *blink*.  Me when consoling someone: Can I get you a cookie? Do you like pills?
I crack jokes at the wrong time. I'll pat you on the back when I should be giving a hug. If
 I’m upset with someone I'll ignore them...I really wish I could just write people notes to avoid all the awkwardness of conversation.

Because regret is the worst. Nothing has haunted me more than the things I've left unsaid. When you’re stifled by a voice that refuses to speak, it's like existing in a deafening, vacuous, frustrating, dark hole where your paralyzed tongue is constantly misinterpreted. I’ve done myself a disservice saddled in this silence for so long, unwilling to trust anyone with my words.  So many times I’ve been tempted to peel off the layers that cloak me in this persona I have unintentionally created so I can expose these hidden parts of me--the ugly, complicated and insecure. Except, sometimes when we reveal ourselves we lose people. I didn’t want to lose my people. But I had to change, I was so broken and out of order.

Authenticity is risky business. Growth and change can be agonizing.  And though time heals, time can also be soul-crushing when we delay to confront and deal with the stuff that holds us back. Pride had me pigeonholed in an alienated, unsatisfying world of mind-numbing mediocrity and monotony.  My shoulders weren’t designed to carry the weight of life without help. I wasn’t created to live this life in fenced in by stone walls.  And since the deconstructing of these walls, each day, brick by brick I'm able to be a little rawer with others. It’s been the most liberating decision I’ve ever made. 

I’ve met new, amazing, people I would have never known if I’d stayed in my exclusive, private gated community, unwilling to let my guard down to allow others in and feel new feels. Though, in doing so, my worst fears have been realized, too. I’ve been rejected, disappointed and hurt by people I adored, by friends old and new, who at one time made me feel invincible, wanted and validated.  But at the end of the day, the tears have dried, the pain hasn’t killed me and it has been worth it.  I'm not broken or jaded as I feared I would be.  The highs of finally breaking my silence and engaging in those hard conversations have become my present addiction. So I’ll continue to open myself up to new people, embrace different experiences and purpose to live more transparently, but it won't come without a cost. Being vulnerable is expensive, actually.  It's not always gonna look pretty, either.

I know people will misunderstand and judge me and I’ll get hurt again, but that’s okay. Vulnerability  is intimidating, it can spook people away and not everyone reciprocates. Sometimes when we’re too honest with people it’s a lot like looking in a mirror, they might see bits of themselves they’re not ready to confront. Some will be frustrated because they can’t fix us.  And some are just too emotionally unavailable for their own reasons. But I’ve stopped polarizing myself into corners and denying myself opportunity to change my mind just because it makes others uncomfortable.  I hate my regret more than I love their approval.  I don’t want to be almost dead one day wishing I’d told people what they meant to me, why I loved them or what they did that hurt me.

I’ve intentionally left the details out of this monolog because I think  the theme applies to so many life challenges and unexpected plot twists, not just my personal drama.  Truth be told, my hands are mired in a very sticky mess right now and it may appear I am going backward to some, but God’s Word says He is doing a thing in me. I cling to that.  He is faithful when I am faithless. Where my failures increase, grace abounds for me, also. Though I wander, I am not lost; God doesn’t lose his kids, his mercy chases after me, too.

I need the humans in my life to reflect that sentiment.  If there is a tribe who can stick beside me despite my flaws, different opinions or lifestyle and challenge me at the same time, those are who I want around.   I want to be loved and forgiven for everything I am.  And I need those people to be just as real with me. I want to know every bad thing about them so I can love them anyway.  They'll have my back and I’ll have theirs.

I won’t lie, though, keeping people at a distance and refusing to make hard choices is much safer, I’ve lived this way most of my life but it is so very isolating and dull. No one can hurt you when your defenses are always on point, but we also deny ourselves the ultimate utopia and joy of living that comes when we’re willing to be unguarded and allow people in those darker corners.  We recognize joy because we have suffered, we know peace when we've been through chaos and “Happiness only real when shared.”  ― Christopher McCandless

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