The Gift of Vulnerability

Since I began my journey of sharing my story I have been blessed to touch lives in a way I never anticipated. I didn’t have a plan, I simply wanted to help people recognize that children who run away from home are in need of understanding and support rather than judgement. Even though I knew there was a need to de-stigmatize homeless youth and runways, I didn’t realize how ingrained people were to think the worst of these children. I thought that because we are so much more enlightened around the topic of psychology and seeking help that people understood the effects of child abuse and family dysfunction.

I have been blessed and honored to speak at a variety of events. At the end of my presentation someone always comes up to me and shares their story, many times more than one person. When I am speaking I look out at the audience and see tears in the eyes of the listeners and I know that I am striking a cord beyond what my own story. Sometimes I will catch the eye of someone and know the cord is theirs ... It’s a feeling ... an abuse survivor connection. Through all of this there is one experience that sticks with me - that encompasses my being in a different way.

After one of my speaking engagements a woman came up to me and said “because of you sharing your story my best friend shared something with me that I never knew.” She hugged me with tears in her eyes and barely managed to get the words “thank you” out before walking away. I stood there stunned, looking for where she went, wondering if I could somehow be of help to her friend.

As I left the building the woman's best friend - the one who disclosed her story - ran up to me and asked for a hug. I knew it was her, even though I had not seen her. We embraced and she began to cry ... I began to cry ... she looked at me and simply said “thank you.” I stood there as she walked away knowing I had somehow changed her future in a positive way. I have not been able to get her out of my mind since. I have no doubt she will be on the path to healing from whatever secret she shared. When secrets are uncovered, healing is just what happens. While I wonder if I could help her, or even what her secret was ... it is not what keeps my thoughts circling back to her.

It’s the vulnerability and the fear of being vulnerable, a fear I have lived with for all of my life. I was taught not to speak, I was taught to be ashamed of everything, whether I was involved or not. I was taught to be silent. Being silent ensures protection for abusers. I was taught that people do not “like” or “respect” truth, vulnerability or my opinions. EVERY time I get up and speak it is beyond being out of my comfort zone, it is counterintuitive to everything my soul knows. EVERY time I get up and speak I am IN my comfort zone because I am living my truth ... I am sharing my story, my truth.

What I am learning is something I have always known: when you give love you receive love. I am living something I was terrified of doing because of the voices in my head left behind by my mother. I have always equated being vulnerable with giving love. Love is trust. Trust is naked ... vulnerable. As I trust the world with the secrets that were never my responsibility to keep, my heart opens and I become lighter. I used to hide my tears because I was terrified of judgement ... of rejection. I never realized this until my ex-husband pointed it out after several years of marriage. I cannot remember what we were speaking about. I was crying and looked into his eyes, he stopped me and said “you have never looked into my eyes and cried, you always looks away and hide your face.” Apparently this was something he wanted, needed. Apparently this was something I never did to maintain my distance. It was some sort of protective mechanism. Sadly, it was protecting me from something I needed no protection from. If you are a survivor of any sort of abuse I have a feeling you will understand this. The risk of vulnerability goes hand in hand with rejection and judgement for abuser survivors.

The truth: Being vulnerable is the most beautiful, freeing feeling in the universe. Surrendering your being no matter how it is received is freeing. Hiding behind the obligatory “I'm fine,” or avoiding eye contact when tears fall is an emotional prison sentence. There is literally nothing more beautiful than connection through soulful emotion ... through vulnerability.

Today's Mantra: Laugh, cry, be angry, be real, be who your are, share, be naked and live life unfiltered…vulnerability gives ways to joy, to meaning, to life itself.