I feel like new thinking takes my older ideas to task. In my last post, I talked about rebuilding from a bottom and the worthiness for love and life that we all deserve. Of course, we'll all need to rebuild and of course that rebuilding will be hard. And yes, these fallow times may make it feel like we will never be okay, but we're worthy no matter what. None of these are easy beliefs to fully absorb into our way of being. I am sure there are people out there who recognize their worth and believe in it during times of change and pain. For those of you who do feel this deeply, any insights about your journey to this place are welcome, for certain! I still believe that at our core we are worthy of offering and receiving love and goodness. We can use that belief as fuel in a difficult time. The issue I face (and I suspect, based on the state of our world, many others experience) is that what seems right in principle is often much harder to deeply experience. It is scary to hold our most fragile thoughts and feelings out to others—we are sharing the most vulnerable part of who we are in hopes of a genuine connection with others. Being vulnerable seems wonderful in theory but in practice can feel squishy and nerve-wracking.
I don’t at all regret sharing my struggles with mental health. The more we normalize the hard stuff in life, the better we will be, individually and together. Glossing over or pushing aside the deep pains and struggles we all have does nothing more than overprotect a fragile heart. With these barriers, we can never really get close to another or in touch with ourselves. As sociologist Brene Brown explains in her assessment of vulnerability, this “protection” might come across as brave but actually becomes a liability in that we will never learn that we are worthy and be less likely to experience being fully loved and accepted in our most tender parts. I know that discomfort. The only way to living courageously, which includes loving and being loved, is through the terrifying feeling of having shared something central to who we are (Brown calls this the vulnerability hangover and says it’s to be expected). When I shared my mental health and mid-life rebuilding story, I definitely felt that struggle. I began worrying about making people uncomfortable or that I focused too much on my struggle without getting the message out that we are all worthy and that rebuilding can bring new life. I was doubting myself. Then, I got a message. The message was from someone I know but wasn’t aware of how much I had struggled. They ended the message by letting me know that they, too, had had some hard times with their mental health, where they had been laid flat and had to claw back to a new normal. In the end, my vulnerability allowed them to be vulnerable, as well. I would love to say that being vulnerable here made me braver, but I was initially seized with the desire to wall up. After some reflecting on my potential double-standard and talking with my therapist, I decided to take a different approach than I'm used to and reached back out to this person. I was able to see their message as an opportunity to offer a loving connection and accept one in return. I was able to dig a little deeper for worthiness. In the words of poet David Whyte: “The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance, our choice is to inherit vulnerability, as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully…” *Brene Brown, The Power of Vulnerability (TED Talk, 2010): *David Whyte, Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment, and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words, “Vulnerability” (2018)