Strength and Vulnerability

My mom’s last words to me were: “You are strong.” Who knows what she meant as I was sixteen and not savvy enough to ask her what she meant by it. Maybe it was her way of telling me to “Be strong.” Or maybe it was to reinforce that she felt I was strong in my bones. I will never know, and maybe it does not even matter. It was the first line of my college entrance essay. I wish I still had a copy of it. I would be curious to know how I had processed the next two years of my life before writing about her to get into college. I think I wanted them to know that I was not just another number, that I had lived a life that many have not before they enter college. I wanted to somehow stand out. I needed to stand out as I had no Plan B. I applied to one college and luckily I got in.

I am rambling though. I recently came across this quote from Brenda Shaughnessy. She is an American poet and trust me, I do not follow her at all because somehow my brain and poetry just do not mix. I have never melded well with poetry or understood it. Sure there are poems that sink into my core and change the way that I look at the world, but most of the time I feel perplexed and wonder how they did it. In any case, I am definitely not into poetry because it took me this long to introduce this quote to you:

“I came to see that what constitutes strength is not just a muscle or will. It can also include the most desperate vulnerability, the saddest heartache, the lightest, sweetest laughter.”

I do not remember how, but this quote came into my inbox last week, and stuck with me. I had to share it. So often we think others are strong because they have been through so much (I get that from time to time based on my past). Sometimes we might think someone is strong because they consistently stick to a routine or a workout schedule. Maybe they get up at 4 am to ensure that they have the opportunity to push themselves and their bodies before the rest of their family wakes up and starts the day.

I have written quite a few posts on vulnerability. It is a word that energizes me. There is something about being vulnerable that gives an aura of strength. It says that person is not afraid to put oneself out there and be granted with whatever reaction is returned. Whether they share the scary parts of their life, their saddest and lowest parts, or as Shaughnessy says: the parts that bring laughter. I will give you an example.

A few weeks ago I was traveling with a colleague and my boss. We were walking through the airport to our gate and talking. I was following both of them (both are men) and as they each walked into the bathroom I started to follow them in, only to realize I was walking into the men’s restroom. Ooops. Luckily I caught myself in time, reversed course and moved on to the women’s bathroom. They both had a good laugh and via text it got back to my other co-workers. I could have either be completely embarrassed and devastated, or just rolled with it. I rolled with it and had a good laugh with them.

Sometimes being vulnerable brings us to our strength, whether through tears or laughter.

Vulnerable

Vulnerability is the new black. Thanks to Brene Brown, more people are talking about vulnerability. I love the word in ways I never would have a few years ago. Why? Because it is making us more real. I dislike the dictionary definitions I found for vulnerable. Once you read Brene Brown’s book “Daring Greatly” you may just agree that we need to revise the definition. Most definitions talk about “being vulnerable to attack or harm.” Not too encouraging.

How about something about opening oneself up to the rawness and realness of life, to feel, act, and speak with openness? Ah, what would life be like if we said exactly what was on our mind all the time? We might know each other better, feel deeper, wonder what others think less. Would that be refreshing? I think so. So what holds us back from being vulnerable? Are we afraid of what others will think of us, or that we will offend another, or that we will put ourselves out there and it will not be reciprocated? All valid points, but are they enough to not make us just lay it all out there? Do we have too much to lose?

I am not going to say that it was ever easy to put my thoughts out there blunt and uncensored, but the more I have the easier it gets. Sometimes it can be messy. I can have an amazing evening with Chris and another couple and walk away thinking, “Did I say too much?” I often get a funny feeling inside that makes me revisit a conversation and I wonder what is making me circle through different moments of the night. Maybe I did say too much and maybe it was just right. Regardless, I was me in all my rawness. There is a bravery, an innocence, a transparency that comes with vulnerability. I will take that from someone any day. It means I am truly getting to see that other person. In happiness, tears, fear, you get to witness them for who they are in that moment.

By being vulnerable, we feel deeper, we form stronger connections, and we are all changed in the end. It is a risk, but I think it is worth it. Are you willing to take that risk and start being more vulnerable?

Give a little love…

Love. Love. Love. Giving a little love is never too late. I believe that love is truly the answer to so many problems. For those that are depressed, angry, or lost love could be the answer.

Most of the time when we struggle in life, when we feel loved, appreciated, and seen we find the answers we need. If that is true, what could we do to share love more each and every day? What could you do with your family, at work, with your friends? If we knew that sharing love in everything we do could transform others, would we do it? Would you? If it breaks boundaries and removes miscommunications, would you lead the way with love? If you said yes, then how do we do it? I love this quote from Brene Brown:

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known.”

The idea of being vulnerable and showing our true selves has been a recent inspiration to me. If we show our true selves in the most raw and real way, how can love not surround us? Are we afraid that it will not? It is not possible. Love is always around us, we just need to stop and witness it. Most of the time, love is surrounding us in ways we cannot imagine. We just need to open our eyes, look around, and appreciate it. A few friends shared this on Valentines Day and I wanted to share it. When you watch it, I hope it reminds you that love is there each moment of your day.