Sunday, December 28, 2014

On Vulnerability


"The question, then, is not only how to uncover our fundamental tenderness and warmth but also how to abide there with the fragile, often bittersweet vulnerability. How can we relax and open to the uncertainty of it?"

From this article by Pema Chodron, in which she discusses how loss and heartbreak opens us up to warmth, but then how we snap our hearts shut soon after. In the days following 9/11, this was the feeling of vulnerability that prompted most people to treat each other with tenderness. Shortly thereafter, just days, really, that tenderness faded, and we all went back to being gruff, protected, sheltered. Hiding our softest parts.

We all have them, these tender spaces that very few people are allowed to see. Babies are born with them, even called soft spots, so delicate that you can see their hearts beating through their downy hair. The body itself wisely closes that soft space as the baby grows, and our heart buries itself deep into our chests.

As 2014 ends and a new year begins, February looms. February, the most bittersweet month on the calendar, mercifully short. The month I met my love, and the month I lost him thirteen years later (almost to the day we met, on the day of our first date). I have felt crabbish and small these last few months, thinking daily of Dane and Life After.

I can feel myself shrinking a bit. I have had a hard time looking strangers in the eye. I have had a hard time being open and vulnerable. More often as I write this blog, this blog that is supposed to be the purest expression of myself (by my own design, as much as I can, as honest and authentic as I can be), I have had to stop or delete altogether blogs written for an audience by some version of the self I would like to project.

I don't want that to be me in my work anymore. I assume there is an audience of some kind reading out there because I get your comments and analytic reports. I cannot write for an audience, though. I have to write for me and know that on some level it might resonate with someone. Being authentic and vulnerable here has been harder of late.

This is the time, Chodron says, that we should turn to each other. The time we feel the most vulnerable and anxious and scared is the best time to recognize that these are universal feelings that everyone has felt or is feeling or will feel. Instead of feeling connected, though, we get angry and withdraw or blame something/one else. We shrink into anger instead of expanding into love.

I don't want to be that person. I want to be open and vulnerable and trust that the people I meet will not hurt me (intentionally). I don't know how to do that except to just do that, but transparency goes against my nature, or at least the vision of myself.

" For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." 1 Corinthians 13: 12 (KJV)

But then also...

"Ignorance is regarding the impermanent and permanent, the impure as pure, the painful as pleasant, and the non-Self as the Self." Sutra 5, Book Two The Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali

So I think I know who I am but maybe not so much, and this darkly clouded glass is ignorance and confusion. Chodron says that pain is an illuminating experience in the most spiritual sense of the word if we can manage to seize the opportunity to stay with the tendency towards warmth and light as the pain starts to fade.

All this to say, simply, I want to fall in love again, but I don't know if I am capable of letting myself be that open to another human.

That was hard to say. It took 653 words to get there. It's what I was referring to in this earlier post but literally could not type the words yet.

But as I think about falling in love again, I feel myself closing up. I referred to myself as "not a hugger" multiple times in settings when, in fact, I actually could have easily been a hugger and people wanted to hug me, but I threw up the barrier as much as if I had stacked bricks.

I don't know if I have the capacity to let go that much anymore. But I know I don't want to be alone.

What do you do when you want to do a thing you don't feel you can do?



  1. Hi Suzannah (great name, by the way). I just clicked my way to your blog, have never seen you before or read anything else you've written, but this is a subject very dear to my heart on multiple levels.

    I'll limit my response here to your main point: opening up to love again, to another relationship with, um, some trepidation? For what it's worth, I hope you can simply honor where you are. If I'm understanding correctly, that's somewhere between not quite finished with the one who's gone and a stirring for something else, a new beginning, a new experience. I further suppose that where you are today is further along the continuum, as it were, than where you were before and not quite as far as where you will one day be. So allowing the very wide range of thoughts and emotions that occur in such transitions -- between where you were and were you might go -- can be truly valuable. I hesitate to tread any further and sincerely hope this offers some degree of comfort.

    P E A C E . . .

  2. That was a lovely, spot-on assessment. Yikes. Maybe you should be the one writing this for post feels a bit fumbling after that. It is a hard thing to admit, though, and I really appreciate your reply. :)

  3. I would say wait. You will know when it's time, grief is very painful and takes time. It's true what does not kill you will make you stronger.

  4. The good thing is that there is nothing to force. Dating is beyond me and I would have no idea where to begin at this stage of life. :)

  5. In my humble opinion, Suzannah, we are all served when any one of us is willing, for whatever reason in whatever format, to be authentic. Your willingness, just in this one instance, seems to have helped you even a little, it certainly helped me, and who knows what it may do for future readers of our brief exchange? Brava.

  6. I am so glad I found your blog on SITS Sharefest. I think you have touched on something all people can relate with. We are all a work in progress so don't be too hard on yourself. Honor your situation and who you feel you really are at the core. There is no right or wrong way to do life. I have found that when I truly share my heart, whether in my writing or with others, only then am I truly living. I am so thankful for your honesty in this post. I hope you find the courage to open yourself up to love again. It will be worth it!

  7. I thoroughly enjoyed that chat this morning, the first one of its kind that I actually felt some serious community. Thank you for reading!!

  8. This is such a beautiful and raw and brave piece. Thank you for finding your way there and for trusting us with one of the deepest parts of your heart.

    I have trouble admitting what I want or even that I like what I have because then I fear they will be taken from me. It's my past coming back to haunt me. I'm working on it, but it's been years of work and I'm still not there.

    Here's the thing. I don't like to be controlled by fear. I feel very strongly against it. So if something scares me, I evaluate how much I want that thing. If I really want it, I bite the bullet and jump! Waiting just makes it worse.

    Emotional things are so hard. Opening our hearts is so hard. Especially when someone hasn't been kind with our heart in the past.

    Best wishes on your journey. May you find what you are seeking. I will throw an extra prayer your way that you find happiness and peace. And love.

    Happy Sharefest! I hope you have a lovely weekend and a wonderful new year!

  9. Fear is the death of everything. It is so powerful, and it stops you before you can even think about starting. I agree with you, too; sometimes the anticipation of it is worse, like diving into cold water.

    Thank you for reading, and happy new year to you, too!