It’s been an intense year for me. I interviewed for and turned down a job in another state, had a baby, trained as a doula, sustained and healed from injury, purged my apartment, started a business, chose to stay at a job I love with major - and very scary - changes in place, and learned how to be a kickass mom of two. Name an emotion, and I guarantee I’ve felt it this past year, deeply and repeatedly. I was moving through a yoga class a few days ago, ears and heart open, and the teacher gave me what I always hope I will find in such places - Perfect words. I’ll talk more about Perfect in a later blog entry; for now, just know that these were exactly what I needed to hear in that moment. She said,
“Learn to fall. It’s part of growing up. It’s called growing UP, not growing down.”
~ Francesca Bove, awesome yoga teacher
Oh boy - oh God - oh my - did this resonate with me. I’m turning 35 this year, and I can say with certainty that I am indeed growing UP.
You see, in this last year, I’ve learned that in the times that I’m most vulnerable, I’m also being my most BRAVE. In these moments, it’s come to me that
Being vulnerable IS being brave.
In her transformative work Rising Strong, Brene Brown, one of my greatest teachers at this stage of my life, wrote,
“I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.
Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”
Earlier this month, my husband was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance with sudden and severe pain. Hours later, he was in surgery to remove a very angry appendix. It was one of those times when everything else falls away and you know exactly what you need to focus on - just caring for this one person. I reached out to my people to make sure our kids were all set. I took the days off work, promising myself I would feel zero guilt. I took friends up on their offers of help. I said YES. When my dear friend, who’s also my boss, messaged me asking if she could stop and pick up anything for us on her way home from work, I paused. I almost responded with my usual: “Thanks - we’re good!” Instead, as I often do now, I heard the voice of my mother in my ear.
“Sometimes you just need to say yes,” Mom-in-my-ear said to me.
So I did.
“That would be wonderful,” I texted back. “Can I get back to you later with a list?” It felt SO SCARY. And when she showed up that night with food for us, treats for our toddler, and litter for our cat, my only emotion was gratitude. She’d asked if we needed anything, and we did, and I said so. It felt so scary. And that was BRAVE.
As Brene Brown teaches us, “The bottom line is that we need each other.”
You guys. We NEED each other.
I’ve been noticing where feelings of vulnerability sit in my body, how they move, what they’re like. I feel them in my stomach, not down low in the “pit,” but higher, right in between my ribs, in what must be my core. When I’m feeling especially vulnerable, it’s as if someone (who might be myself) is taking a massive ice cream scoop and scooping me out, the same way I do with spaghetti squash before I roast it. It’s a sudden internal shift; it feels like loss. When, in that same moment, I flip the script and recognize that I am, in fact, being brave, it seems that the big scoop of my innards is planted firmly in that center, still very round and scoop-like, but swelling, as your heart swells when you experience intense love for a person or place or experience.
That feeling is TERRIFYING. And it is AWESOME. I hatelove it. I LOVE IT. I want more. (I’m scared.)
So I’ve come up with a new word to describe this experience:
It’s what you have when you say yes to something you need; say no to something that isn’t right for you; take that risk you’ve been thinking about; speak your truth; finally talk to the person who hurt you. It’s. Real. Living.
So do it. Be VULNERABLE. Be BRAVE! Be vulnerabrave. And then tell me all about it. Let’s grow UP, together.