Our little Poppy gets a lot of attention these days. We get plenty of stares and strangers asking questions- because it’s not often you see a baby in a cast. People are curious (and mostly kind) and I’ve found that if I engage them, they do their best to encourage. And sometimes they say dumb things. But most people just end up ooo-ing and ahh-ing over Poppy’s sweet round face, her clear blue eyes and her smile that just won’t quit.
And I’m glad to engage. I am generally at ease with others and I don’t have deep wounds of betrayal, so letting people in comes pretty naturally to me. I have obviously welcomed people in by sharing and blogging so it’s my own fault that it takes a half hour to walk across the courtyard at church lately. It’s like having a new puppy.
I recognize that it is not always a simple choice to open up. It isn’t always safe. It isn’t always productive. It can come with unsolicited opinions, input and even criticism. And once someone has been brought into your stuff, they feel invested and want to have a say in what happens next. It can be complicated to invite others in, but it is often better than choosing not to.
You know the friend you have that never tells you what is hard until it’s already solved? “That WAS a rough time, but now I’m better.” They might think it makes them appear strong, but mostly it just exposes their fear. Like my roommate who wouldn’t tell me before she was interviewing for a job or going on a first date. She didn’t realize at first why she was hiding things (or even THAT she was hiding things) but after talking through it she admitted she was protecting herself. If she didn’t get chosen, then people wouldn’t even have to know she tried. Or if she told us after the fact, she could play like she didn’t really want it anyway. It killed her to put herself out there because it felt vulnerable.
True vulnerability is exposing my current self. Sharing my unsure, speaking what I think and feel now, showing my ugly and being in the midst of the thing and inviting someone in. The “I have already conquered this” stance creates a wall of protection and keeps others from really meeting me in the depths.
Stories of my past can help others understand me and give context, but they are no substitute for vulnerability. The practice of sharing before I feel good about it, before I’ve overcome it and before it’s solved is crucial.
But then who? Who do I choose to hold my things carefully? I don’t want them dropped and I don’t want them used against me later. I don’t want to feel ashamed or to appear silly and weak. Of course these are the very reasons we use to talk ourselves out of being vulnerable. And all those things could happen- this is risky business. Your people aren’t always going to do all the things you need. I have failed people who have shared deeply with me, I know I have. But the more chances I get to be that sort of friend, the better I get.
So if you don’t like where I am going with this and your “run for the hills” response is welling up, here are 3 good, golden, bright, WORTH IT reasons to invite others in (and a kick in the pants from Brené.)
It’s brave. Bravery opens up chances that guarded people don’t get. Like Bear Grylls, unprotected and open to experience whatever comes. Brave people experience thrill and rawness and all the feels.
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly
It connects us. Receiving acceptance from someone that knows the real you is powerful. The sort of connection that is rooted in intimacy can bring joy, healing and can create pathways for other kinds of depth.
“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”― Brené Brown,
“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.”
― Brené Brown,
It allows support. The reason that I blog is because I am convinced that there are golden threads woven into all of our experiences. Good, valuable and meaningful things that need to be drawn to the surface. For me and for you. But the unexpected benefit of sharing this way has been the personal support and encouragement I have received (and have been able to give.) When we are deeply connected as people, support overflows.
When Poppy first started using the pavlik harness, we learned that all she could wear were onesies and baby leg warmers. After my first post about the hip dysplasia and the crazy harness, leg warmers came out the woodwork. Every pair were given to us. This might seem small, but it is tangible and represents the thoughtful ways others contribute to lightening my load.
It is fair to say that if you are dealing with deep wounds of betrayal or if shame has a hold on you, all of this sounds flowery and unrealistic. Even just plain not worth it. You’re saying to yourself, “I can buy my own dumb leg warmers if I need them.”
But living fearfully, disconnected and alone is not really life at all. Give yourself time, but not too long. Eventually you must pursue healing and take steps toward healthy people. “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” ― Brené Brown
God created us to live abundantly, to be deeply known and to hold each other’s hands while we do it. And His ways always win out in the end.