Returning to Vulnerability

whole heartSurprise! Another blog post – not even one day since this morning’s, and not at all the usual week later.

I have a reason.

See, something was niggling me about this morning’s post.  I wrote it.  I proofread it.  It seemed fine, so I posted it.  And still…something felt a bit off.  All day, something felt a bit off.

It was only in explaining something to someone else that I finally understood what was bothering me.  I was speaking with a woman who was struggling with a decision – whether or not to make herself vulnerable.  I wrote her an email that included the following:

This past year I’ve worked my ass off to learn about true vulnerability.  For a long time, I thought that because I can let people see my emotions easily, it meant I knew how to be vulnerable.

Turns out, vulnerability is so much harder than that.  I’ve come a long way, and I’m still working it.  It’s one thing to ask & receive when there’s no other choice – as I’ve done many times in my life when I’ve been desperate.

It’s when there is a choice…when you can either hang on to pride and tough it out and survive, but not really get your needs met…or open up and put yourself out there and ask and then stay open long enough to receive… that’s when real vulnerability comes into play.  Vulnerability is always a choice; always an act of strength, and it’s always brave…

…I thought, because I’d been broken, that I knew what vulnerability was.  But I only really started to learn about it once I became strong.  Because it takes strength to risk getting vulnerable, and strength to stay open enough to receive.

As I hit “send” on the email, it hit me — suddenly I realized what was bothering me about my blog post:

I forgot, when I was blogging earlier, that my commitment in this blog, my commitment to you, my reader, and my commitment to myself as a writer is to be radically vulnerable.

This morning, I was afraid.  I was writing about perspectives in the midst of a radical perspective shift of my own.  And what is changing in me is powerful, and at times it scares me.  Because I am in the midst of it, and at times afraid of it, I tried to distance myself from it in the writing.  It is an old habit of mine, this attempt to create a false distance between myself and my words.  And I got caught by it, again.

What I wrote earlier is true.  It might even be useful.  But it wasn’t vulnerable, and that’s why if felt off.  Because it didn’t honor the commitment I made at the outset of this blogging process.  Because I am at my best when I am laid bare.  Because you, who are taking precious time out of your day to read my words, deserve nothing less than my utmost vulnerability.  Because I, who am taking the time to write them, deserve nothing less than the freedom of being seen in my laid-bare-ness.

So I’m writing again, not even one day later, to lay bare my current process.  And I’m nervous.  I’m nervous I won’t be able to explain it well, because I am still in the midst of it.  I’m nervous it won’t make sense.  I’m nervous it will make sense, and you won’t like it, that you’ll think it’s too far out there, or that you’ll think I’m crazy.  I’m worried that what seems like such a big deal to me won’t have any resonance with you at all.  But if I let nerves get in the way, I never would have created this website in the first place.  So here goes:

If you’ve read my memoir, you already know the beginning:

When I was 17 years old, I reported my father to child protective services for sexual abuse. I spent the next 7 years caught in the perspective that he was my abuser and I was his victim.

Then I shifted perspective – I came to see that I was more than a victim, I was a daughter. That he was more than an abuser, he was a father.  I grew stronger.

And then I shifted perspective again – I realized that he was the first face of the beloved in my life, and that he loved me, and I loved him.  That all little girls love their daddies, and that I loved mine, even in the midst of all the pain and confusion.  And I grew still stronger.

It’s been a beautiful process.

This morning, my perspective shifted again. I found myself writing in my journal about how much I miss him.  Admitting that, just that, at times feels crazy – how could I miss the man who crossed all my boundaries?  And yet it’s true.  He is my biological father, and even though I have absolutely the best adopted father in all the world, there is a part of me that will always miss the man who raised me.  And so this morning, as I journaled about missing him, I also found myself writing about how much I love him.  And I realized that, somewhere along the way, I stopped loving my father “in spite of what he did to me”…and started just loving him.  All of him.  Including the part of him that hurt me.

It feels radical.  It feels shocking.  To say not “I love the essence inside of him” or “I love his potential” or even “I love the way he treated me in the sweet moments,” but simply “I love him”.  And to realize that it’s true.  That I love his whole self, as flawed and imperfect as he is, and as much as his flaws and imperfections wounded me in ways I thought I might never heal from.

Because, you see, I did heal.  And I continue to heal, even as I am whole.  And the whole trajectory of my life — the entire, beautiful, miraculous grace of my life — would not exist had he done anything any differently.  And I am so grateful for my life, for the grace and miracle of it.  And if I am grateful for where I am, then I have to be grateful for everything that brought me here.  Everything.  All of it.  Including him.  Not just parts of him – all of him.  Not just that I survived, but what I survived.  Because it formed me; it made me who I am today…and who I am today is an amazing, beautiful thing to be.

And so, to step fully into my power, to step fully into my grace, to step fully into the choice I have made to live a life of intentional love, I am daring to shift from saying “I love him in spite of” to saying “I love him because of”.  And it does feel daring.  It feels risky.  It feels like it pushes the edges of what love can mean, and shocks my own heart in the process.  And sharing it like this, publicly, is terrifying.

And that tells me I’m on the right track.  Because true vulnerability, in my experience of it, is always terrifying.

So here, on the frothy edge of my own growing capacity to love, is where I am risking in my own journey, and where I am choosing to risk with you.  I don’t know what it all means.  I’m not sure where I’m headed with it. So far, it’s just a shift in perspective, and all I know is that I’m finding out I can love deeper and wider than I ever thought I could…that I am finding, within myself, a more powerful love than I ever thought possible, and that I am now able to choose to love the man I once thought of as my enemy.

It gives brand new meaning to the verse I learned as a child, the one where Jesus says “love your enemies, and do good to those who persecute you.”  I’m starting to get how radical that statement is…starting to feel it in my own soul.

This love, this choice to step into love — It feels like an earthquake in my being.  I’m not sure I have ever been so alive.

4 thoughts on “Returning to Vulnerability”

  1. Your healing and transformation will help others heal and transform. This post and you are both radical and amazing. It takes that kind of love in the world to heal the wounds that are out there. Thank you, Sana. This is beautiful.

  2. “I am at my best when I am laid bare.” I am most alive. Right now I am struggling with two values that are opposing each other–and one makes me more vulnerable. Actually, now that I write that, I see that they both do.

  3. Deep within this message is true forgiveness for your dad and for you….and that is healthy… are no longer letting the past that you perceived eat you up. Love wins out in the end….

    1. Forgiveness was a long while ago, as was ceasing to be “eaten up” by my past. 🙂 To forgive says “you did me wrong; I was victimized, and I no longer hold anger or resentment toward you.” This is a step beyond that – this says “you did what you did, and all things work together for good; all is well.”

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