Vulnerability and I have been hanging out a lot lately. We’re old friends so I wasn’t surprised to see it come around again. I’m sure you know what I mean. When faced with uncertainty in the world around us, doubts about our choices, exposure of our deepest selves, vulnerability comes knocking at our door.
Not only as an author have I been feeling this so keenly, but also in my career.
This last school year was my first as an executive at the educational non-profit I’ve called home for most of my professional career. There were many a day I questioned myself and my decisions, and many a sleepless night finding the good and the lessons to be learned from the failures.
But at the end of it, I was able to celebrate the opportunities I brought to so many, celebrate with students their successes and celebrate the connections I made with some pretty amazing people. So I know that despite the sleepless nights and the risks that come with doing this work, I have to be brave enough to stay in it. Why? Because ultimately it is one of the many things that brings meaning to my life.
But I have to admit there were days in the last six months when work was not my vulnerable place. It was my distraction.
Distraction from the heartbreak I feel over my sister’s ALS diagnosis and the worry I feel for her kids and my other sister, her twin. From the helplessness I feel because there is nothing I can do. From the pain I feel for my son and his health issues that have led him to leave college. And the uncertainty of his return home to figure things out.
Yes, you could say, vulnerability has moved right in.
Back in March my latest short story, “72 Hours”, was published in an online literary magazine, Five on the Fifth. A reader asked why I had written about such sad and difficult moments in life. In those four vignettes I had taken my own aching, scared, desperate feelings from years past and imagined stories around them. Stories about living the vulnerable life and what that means. What does it mean to show up? To let go of control? To accept? To trust? To find solace? The why is finding that doing so ultimately leads to intimacy, empathy, bravery. The very best things of life.
As a lover of books and the written word, I wasn’t interested in podcasts until very recently. I found a PhD researcher, Brené Brown, on a TED Talk and connected to her stories instantly. She tells about one of her most vulnerable moments and the emotional hangover she had for days after. I knew exactly what she meant because I’d experienced that too. So I downloaded some of her podcasts and a few interviews with her. She’s down-to-earth and funny. She leaps into very tough subjects with grace and ease. If you want to dig deep into yourself and how you are living your life, she’s worth a listen.
In one of her talks she says is that vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity. I believe it. That’s what I’ve found in my writing. I know it about my daily work too. And as scary as it is, it’s what keeps me in those two worlds.
As I move forward with my family into an uncharted, very vulnerable landscape, I hope to be fierce and brave whatever comes. I hope to practice gratitude for each present moment we have together. If you want to hang out, come join us. Vulnerability and I are still keeping each other company.