“Vulnerability is the most accurate measure of courage.” Brené Brown.
I’ve never been one to really speak, write, or live with regrets. There are a few emotions I don’t really do: one of them is anger and the other regret. I’m sure my children would laugh if they read that I don’t do anger–but what they see as anger is really frustration wrapped in a foil that looks like anger. Anger is something else; it is what stays with a person for longer than a fleeting moment; it is something that changes who you are inside and alters your outlook on the world or even the future. I don’t have any room in my life for it, and when it comes up for me, I am usually very good at recognizing it for its temporality and putting it in the proper perspective. Anger is nothing more than fear manifested outward, and I’ve had to deal with enough fear that we’re good friends–I don’t want or need to share my friend, for the fear is there to sit with me and help me grow.
“If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not learning,” is something a professor once told me and it’s a phrase I remind myself and others as often as the opportunity presents itself. We can’t achieve growth without learning and we can’t learn if everything always stays the same. There is nothing that is linear or outlined in a way that allows us complete comfort, and it shouldn’t be that way. As an aside, this is something I feel we as parents of this current generation are doing to fail them; we try to make their lives as comfortable as possible, that when they are faced with real discomfort, they don’t know how to deal with it. Discomfort builds character and designs how one will make decisions in the future. It’s as necessary as the food we eat and the air we breathe. To combat discomfort we find a way to numb it, to eliminate it, or to prevent it, but we sell ourselves short. We try to find reasons to justify our discomfort, often in ways that assign blame to others–that’s where the anger often comes in. We feel angry when we feel wronged; when we feel wronged, we feel uncomfortable and because we live much of our lives trying to avoid those feelings, we don’t know how to allow that kind of vulnerability.
Brené Brown says that people who live wholehearted lives have three things in common: Courage, Compassion, and Connection. She explains that the etymology of the word “courage” means “to tell your story with your whole heart,” and that definition made me feel good all over. I have always tried to tell my story with my whole heart, but I’ve never really felt courageous. Sometimes people would say, “Oh, you’re so brave to do such and such,” and really I would think, “I’m not really brave, I’m just stupid.” Because that’s what people do (especially women,) we can’t just accept that there may be something fabulous about us, instead we just give into negative talk that reminds us we aren’t worthwhile people. Ms. Brown also says that wholehearted people embrace their vulnerability, because they know that vulnerability makes them beautiful and is the birthplace for creativity, innovation, and love. (http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html)
Vulnerability is seen in many areas and ways in our lives. I don’t profess to be any kind of expert, but I certainly have had my share of feeling vulnerable, especially lately. I’ve written before that I don’t want to be bitter about any of the hurts that I’ve experienced in my life, especially the most recent ones that I’ve not yet healed from, and each time I feel hurt, I am challenged. I am challenged to listen to the voice of love and not the voice of fear and to embrace the uncertainty. I’m getting better at it. It would be easier for me to close myself off to love and instead find a way to project that hurt outward in anger and blame. It’s not fair; I didn’t deserve it; I don’t understand why. Life isn’t fair; we all get what we deserve, even if what it is is unpleasant and painful; we don’t always get the answers we need or want. This is life. This I’ve learned. This I know.
I believe in the goodness of others; I believe in good intent and hope and especially love. Love is never a bad thing. To love another person without having any idea how it could turn out isn’t silly and shouldn’t be avoided–it should be welcomed and embraced. We never know when we will be altered by an experience that touches us deeply, whether that’s a friendship, the ending of a friendship, a death, a birth, a moment in time shared with another human, through sex, through discourse, through nothingness. All of those are gifts, given to us by others and by the universe in her infinite wisdom. Even pain and hurt that we wish to push aside or place in a box to bury deep inside of us never to see the light of day…
Hurt and vulnerability are the greatest gifts of all, because they are uncomfortable. And without discomfort, we aren’t learning; we aren’t growing; we aren’t becoming the truth of ourselves. We aren’t becoming wholehearted.
I want to be wholehearted. I want to be a person in the world that others enjoy being around and can depend on. I want my light to shine always, and I could never do that if I chose bitterness and anger over compassion and love. I don’t know how to make it be that way all the time, I wish I did. I don’t like feeling uncomfortable and uncertain; I don’t like feeling sad and hurt. I only want to love and be loved, just like everyone else and it doesn’t seem like it should be something that difficult to attain. But I suppose nothing really worth having should come that easily; sometimes even love takes a lot more patience, kindness, and effort than we think it should. Some situations, some people are worth the extra effort; some aren’t; sometimes we don’t know the difference until we try.
I’m going to keep trying.