When I was born they looked at me and said what a smart boy, what a strong boy. And when you were born they looked at you and said what a smart girl, what a pretty girl. We've got these chains that hang around our necks, people want to strangle us with them before we take our first breath. Afraid of change, afraid of staying the same, when temptation calls we just look away.
So last month we started with confidence and moved on to vulnerability, which is where we're starting today. Oh vulnerability, our tricky friend, our wonderful gift mistakenly disguised as weakness . . . and yet, the very epitome of strength, courage, and eventually confidence.
I talked before about hiding in the blanket fort of fear. It feels safe and comforting, small, warm, cozy. Small . . . really small, smaller still, and darker, closing in until eventually the warmth of your comfort has become a prison and you're clothed in a hairshirt of your own making. You become the agoraphobic neighbor staring out the window at the rest of world, fearful. Not so comforting now, eh?
Opening yourself up to vulnerability is not something people generally relish, but I urge you to think back on situations where you took a risk. Some went well. Some, not so much. But what of those that we label "not so much"? We name things as good, bad, ugly, pretty, smart, dumb, but those are all labels dependent on our own personal circumstance and idea of good and bad. I am astounded when people say they don't like peppermint patties, but apparently those people exist . . . I say good, they say bad, and the truth is neither, or both. And from more complex life situations we can learn a lot about things that make us both happy and sad, and the sad can end up being the greatest thing that happens to us, but if we are not open and vulnerable, how will we know? We'll just spend our existence wearing a hairshirt inside a self imposed prison with stunted growth.
I had a snowboarding incident a couple of weeks ago. I partially tore my MCL and I have some fluid on my knee resulting from meniscus injury. That, in and of itself, isn't very interesting BUT . . . some pretty great things came of that. I had to reach out to people for help. I had to make myself vulnerable. I couldn't get myself to the Dr's office on my own, I had to have help going to the grocery store, and shoveling my snowy walk. There was only one person who didn't respond to me when I asked for help, I was stunned and it hurt. You know what's awesome about it though . . . now I know, I know where that person stands in my life and that is a seriously great thing, so freeing. A chain around my neck to lose, an albatross to free, because I made myself vulnerable. My friends and neighbors gathered around with offers of rides, and crutches, and visits and every sort of help . . . and I took them up on it. I was vulnerable enough to say "Yes, I need help".
As I mentioned above, there is an aspect of freedom in vulnerability. You have no idea what will happen, you just keep yourself open to possibility, and it's so amazing what will come your way. You may have thought that you wanted something very specific, but if you keep yourself open and not getting bogged down in how things are supposed to look, even more amazing things will come your way. Let's think about "The Blind Side". You've seen this movie, right? Everyone has, if not, then I suggest it . . . make yourself vulnerable and try it. What if Sandra Bullock's character was dead set on having two white children that she birthed itself and nothing else at all, ever, that's it? But she wasn't, she was open to inviting someone else in her life and it expanded the joy of her family. There is so much beauty to be found in opening our ideas, or even better, letting go of them. An enormous black teenager from the worst side of town finding a home with a well to do, white family, whoda thunk it? And he was vulnerable enough to say yes, it took openness and courage and faith and vulnerability on everybody's part in that story.
I had a plan for the first 50 years of my life, a fairly rigid plan. My life now in no way, shape, form, or fleeting misty thought whispered on the wind resembles the plan I had. And now, now that I have no plan going forward, I am open to whatever may come my way, and I can't wait for the surprises. All the albatrosses have been freed to go hang around someone else's neck. No more hairshirt, no more prison of comfort because that prison strangled me. Open yourself to greatness to see what happens, and remember that it is all good - even when you reach out for help and get nothing back, it is good, because then you know, and you don't have to think about it ever again. The world is constantly conspiring to make you happy, so let go and let the world spin around you, stop trying to make it do what you want. Ignorance breeds fear, fear brings us shame and shame puts us on lock down. Give them all the finger, be vulnerable. Vulnerability breeds compassion and love for ourselves and others. So do it, you may tear a knee but it will heal, you may lose someone but if you do, did you ever really have them?
Open it up and let the world shine a little love on you!