“Vulnerability is the only authentic state. Being vulnerable means being open, for wounding, but also for pleasure. Being open to the wounds of life means also being open to the bounty and beauty. Don’t mask or deny your vulnerability: it is your greatest asset. Be vulnerable: quake and shake in your boots with it. the new goodness that is coming to you, in the form of people, situations, and things can only come to you when you are vulnerable.”
― Stephen Russell, Barefoot Doctor’s Guide to the Tao: A Spiritual Handbook for the Urban Warrior
I believe people when they tell me something, and take them at their word. I trust people, and by letting people in and trusting them, we become vulnerable, and vulnerability is not my specialty. I do much better hiding behind sarcasm and cynicism and laughter. I’ve spent a lifetime shutting people out, hiding behind a carefully engineered facade, and I’ve spent the past year and a half deconstructing those walls in attempts at creating an emotionally open floor plan. There are times I must force myself not to build them back up twice as tall and twice as thick, because unfortunately, life can be a messy bitch.
I work hard at not being jaded by the world, scrubbing the shitty taste of suffering out of my mouth and brushing off the acrimonious attitude that occasionally rears its spiteful head with a sense of entitlement. It’s not easy to have that Zen attitude, no past, no future, just now. Theoretically, that’s what I strive for, but there are times when I am not able to remain impervious and objective. There are times I am rattled, and in turn, I lose my center, and when I lose my center, my instinct is to start throwing walls back up to protect myself, and I have to fight that with all that I am. People only rattle us if we allow them to, I get that. It’s up to us how much space we allow someone to rent in our psyche, but sometimes it’s like an infectious disease that has to run its course, and we spend so much time and energy fighting it that we are left drained, and in turn, allow ourselves to become swallowed up in dangerous waves of self-pity.
But I can’t afford that luxury. One of the hallmarks of addiction is using substances or other behaviors to escape what you’re feeling. Even in recovery, there are subtle ways that one can escape his or her experience. I can’t run from it, and I’m not rebuilding stupid walls. I will sit calmly in my open floor plan and remind myself that life ebbs and flows, and that I am not in control. I will remember that in the absence of my judgement, everything is exactly how it is supposed to be, and I will work to accept it. I need to remain sensitive and empathetic of that fact that everyone I encounter in my life is on their own journey, has had their own struggles and are muddling through this life just as I am.
People will not always treat us the way that we deserve to be treated, but that doesn’t make us less than we are. Feelings aren’t facts, they don’t define us and are as transitory as the clouds gliding through the sky.
Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.