I witnessed the other day, perhaps for the first time, the exact moment a single leaf let go. I admired its courage as it surrendered to the breeze and danced gracefully toward the dirt. In response to this beautiful, tender vision, in my heart I wondered why I struggle so much with the same simple act of letting go, when over and over again, nature and experience show me that to do so is essential for life.
A heavy personal loss this season has me meditating on the act of being vulnerable. I’ve discovered that it is a conscious act – - a courageous one. Being vulnerable requires that despite its cuts and cracks and wounds and brokenness, the heart must remain fearlessly open. It’s counter-intuitive for most of us. In the past, the moment my heart was threatened, I would raise the steel wall shield and lock it down, denying any vulnerability or masking it with false confidence. In the past, I would have called this “strength.” In the past, I would have considered myself “pathetic” to phone a friend, crying, at midnight. In the past, I’ve been in the fetal position, alone, in a cheap hotel room in India.
But this time, I knew I couldn’t do it alone. In my quest to live with ever more awareness and ever more compassion toward myself and others, during this time of acute vulnerability, at the risk of being seen as imperfect or inadequate or, god forbid, pathetic, I’ve chosen to expose my damaged heart to my friends.
The first friend who saw my tears took me into her arms and said “I’m so glad to know you’re human.” The next two said “We’re here for you.” Someone I’d just recently helped welcomed the opportunity to return the unconditional support. My dearest friends provided sanctuary and saunas and a healing, neutral space. Others started calling, emailing and texting on a daily basis, seemingly with all the time in the world to listen. Someone I know only peripherally invited me out for tea and shared with me her own vulnerability. Even people I’ve never met in person who sensed something was up from my lack of activity online reached out with heartfelt sentiments. I observed, humbled, in awe, as my community rose up around me like a protective fortress of caring hearts.
As a result of my willingness to expose my vulnerability, my willingness to risk being seen as weak and helpless, I’ve been able to move through the grieving process quickly, while feeling it fully. I’ve been able to sift through the emotions consciously, feel them deeply, find compassion for myself, and acquire discernment in my heart. I’ve discovered incredible strength, gratitude, empathy, even joy in the process. I feel closer to my friends than I ever have in my life, and instead of feeling pathetic, as I feared, I feel empowered, loving, deserving of the wonderful community I’ve called in. Naked, yes, like the trees outside, but beautiful, like the brave, delicate leaf.
Do you have the courage to be vulnerable?