Radical Vulnerability

"Vulnerability Poem"

Yesterday, I did something huge.

I listed my memoir for sale, publicly, on this website.  I’ve thought about doing this many, many times over the past four months since I finished writing and editing it…but each time I’ve talked myself out of it.  Until yesterday.

Over the past four months I’ve come up with a lot of reasons not to put this book out into the world.  “It’s not good enough,” one voice in my head would insist, “can you even call it a memoir?  It’s so eclectic; there’s so much writing that is critical, so many letters, so many journal excerpts mixed in with the personal narrative.  It’s too non-linear.”

I’d counter this voice – “yes, it is eclectic and non-linear, and so what?  Maybe it doesn’t fit into some sort of industry-standard “box” of what a memoir should be.  Nothing else about me fits into nice, neat boxes…why would my writing?”  And just at the moment when I would almost have talked myself into taking the risk…another voice would chime in:

“But there’s so many people mentioned in here.  It isn’t fair to make what I wrote about them public.  What if they don’t like what I said or how I portrayed them?  Or what if, like my family of origin, they tell me my memories are wrong?”  But I’ve been faithful in my work, and I have an answer all ready for this voice, too –  “My story is my story; it’s mine to tell; my truth is my truth, and no one else gets to deny that.  My voice is my voice, and it needs to be expressed.”  And so I would move past that particular resistance, and very nearly make up my mind to go public, and run smack-dab into the next doubt –

“What if no one reads it?  Or what if they hate it?”  and I’d counter “That isn’t the point.  It doesn’t matter.  The point is to continue to break the old pattern of silence.  To continue to speak and express.  If there are people in the world that my story needs to reach, it will reach them…but only if I put it out there.”  On and on the cycle of doubt and assurance played out in my head, over and over and over, until finally, this month, it shifted.

Because I started saying yes.

Not “yes, I’m going to sell my book online,” but, “Yes, I’m going to be all-in on my life.”

Being all-in on my life has taken me a long time to get to.  I spent the majority of my childhood dissociated, and when I came back to my body it was to find a lot of pain, a lot of suffering, and a lot of jagged edges.  There was nothing to hold on to; nothing that made me want to stay.  I developed a habit of leaving, on a lot of different levels.  I would check out of my body and space out during conversations.  I relocated, over and over, as if I could find peace and happiness if I only made it to the right place with the right people.  I’ve moved twenty-seven times in my life…and I won’t even be twenty-seven years old until the end of this month!  In between the spacing out and the running away, I struggled with depression and suicide.  When I think about how close I came to succeeding at killing myself, it breaks my heart for that broken little girl inside of me, who was just trying to make the pain stop.

But even in the midst of all the dissociation; all the running; all the saying “no” to my life…there was something in me fighting just as hard for full aliveness.  Some drive for life, some longing that always managed to triumph over the struggle.  Some inner “yes” that, even when I couldn’t hear it or feel it, was directing my path.

It was that “yes” that brought me to Shalom Mountain, a retreat center in the Catskills where, for the first time, I began to hope that my psyche could heal.  It was that “yes” that brought me to Tantra, the way of life that allowed me to dream of doing more than just surviving; the way of life that taught me to thrive.  It was that “yes” that led me to move to the Catskills to dive deeper into both Shalom Process and Tantra…and that gave me the courage to stay here for over three years – longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere – with no plans to move away anytime soon.

Step by step by oh-so-painstakingly-slow step, I’ve been learning to say yes to my life.  Yes to being in my body.  Yes to having a home.  Yes to building deep, lasting relationships.  Yes to community.  Yes to responsibility.  Yes to affecting the world, and being affected by the world.  And, lately, yes to vulnerability.

I’m starting to get that a huge part of being fully alive is to be vulnerable.  I love the definition of vulnerability above, which hangs on the wall at Shalom Mountain.  It seems to me that this kind of vulnerability, this defenseless, unchained way of life that doesn’t cling to predetermined goals…the receptive, open-armed, not-clinging-to-definition but always growing way of life…is radical in today’s world.  We’re taught, from a young age, to define ourselves.  We’re taught to protect ourselves.  We’re taught to put ourselves into little boxes and cross our fingers and pray that the illusion of safety we’ve built will last us.  And this kind of vulnerability flies in the face of all those teachings.

To be vulnerable is to dare; to risk.  And it’s not a safe thing – it can bring great suffering along with it.  But it can also bring great delight.

And here’s the thing – I believe that both the suffering and the delight contain a lot more aliveness that staying shut-up-tight in a box, praying for safety, ever could.  And I choose the aliveness.  Over and over, every day, sometimes every hour, I’m committed to choosing the aliveness.

So, in an act of radical vulnerability, yesterday I posted my memoir online, for sale.  In doing so, I broke through yet another layer of the silence that kept me chained for so many years, the silence that I am always shedding new layers of.  And I feel a whole host of things about it – proud, terrified, free, exposed, delighted, doubtful…this swirl of feeling moving through me has so much life in it that I almost can’t sit still.  And for that life, for being able to experience and embrace this level of aliveness, I am so grateful.  Because it’s movement instead of paralysis.  It’s flow.  It’s grace.  And even the moments that don’t feel so good – those moments of “Oh God, what have I done?!?” … it still resonates with the truth of alignment, with the truth of following my passion, with the truth of my yes to life.

In closing, I’d like to share some words that my “adopted” father gifted me with way back when I started writing my memoir, words that I clung to during the writing, and that I’m holding close again this week, through this risk of going public:

“We first do our work to remove the power that our story has over us. If we do our work with love, patience and compassion eventually we regain our power and we can then tell the story of our power. Sharing it makes us all powerful.”

It is my prayer that this risk into more vulnerability that I took yesterday will, indeed, make us all more powerful.

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