From My Heart

butterfly

Sometimes I wish there was an emotional heart valve. One that I could control and let in only the good things. It doesn’t work that way. My heart is always open and so I feel everything. And when there are many emotionally charged things going on at once, it can feel overwhelming.

Vulnerability.

That’s what it is. I can weep at the drop of a hat lately. Selling my house, packing and moving into a smaller house in a new area, my work routine changing again soon and the anniversary of my dad’s passing.

I feel so exposed emotionally that sometimes I feel as if my heart is beating outside of my chest. It’s been three years since my dad died suddenly. Although he lived a full life for 88 years, his death was a big shock and the grief that followed was incapacitating.

Vulnerability.

My dad was one of ten children and a World War II Veteran. He was fearless, outspoken and even a little rough around the edges. He was able to impact more people in his life on a daily basis than anyone I know, always working for Veterans’ rights. He was “larger than life” and never took no for an answer.  He had a big heart and an even greater willingness to forgive. I always admired that about him.

Even though we butted heads at times because I challenged him often and wished he was a little more sensitive, I always knew that he loved me.

My dad was tough and strong and I think my soft and sensitive self made him a little uncomfortable. I don’t think I totally accepted who I was until I no longer judged myself through the lens of my father’s eyes.

I began to embrace who I was and the vulnerability that I was feeling and, rather than look away, I looked inward, perhaps for the first time. I began to dwell less on the past and worry less about the future. That’s where I’d been most comfortable and it was always a welcome distraction from what I was feeling in the present. I knew I had to open myself up and learn how to process what I was thinking and feeling in a healthy way, in a way that would make me stronger.

I asked for help when I needed it and began a journey of self discovery to find out what makes me feel happy, healthy and grounded.

Vulnerability is not a sign of weakness.  It requires strength and perseverance to be in that space.

Embracing vulnerability can be terrifying yet life-giving at the same time.

I’m grateful that I’ve had the courage to open myself up to change and the swirl of emotions that come with it.

Thanks dad!

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Courage

It’s been 18 months since my unraveling, I mean, since I began my journey of self discovery, and I made it my New Year’s resolution to pause, reflect and regroup in January. I felt a much needed break would give me an opportunity to learn more about where I might want to venture next.

Here’s what I’ve learned that keeps me less stressed, tired, anxious and depressed and more happy, confident, energetic and excited about life:

  • simplifying
  • presence
  • gratitude
  • intention
  • setting boundaries
  • nature
  • writing
  • eating a plant based diet
  • fitness
  • meditation
  • yoga
  • perspective taking
  • not taking things personally

I feel like I’ve come a long way and have experienced some real growth and lasting, positive changes.  This month I decided I was ready to learn more and dig a little deeper. That yearning brought me to Brene Brown and her Living Brave e-course (brenebrown.com).

One of the cornerstones of her philosophy and research is vulnerability and, although it takes tremendous courage to be vulnerable, the potential for growth and connection is profound.

Sounds pretty intense, yet my response was, “Sign me up!” Perhaps deep down I knew that this was exactly what I needed.

The courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead.

We often look at vulnerability in others as courage, but inadequacy in ourselves.

~Brene Brown

Truth.

I’ve noticed that when I’m vulnerable, more often than not, others feel comfortable enough to do the same with me and this creates a real sense of shared humanity. A real human connection. These interactions really fill me up.

I went to the dentist recently for a routine cleaning and was greeted by a hygienist whom I’ve never met. My appointment wasn’t with her, it was with my regular hygienist. With my regular hygienist, I knew how the appointment would go. She wouldn’t use that excruciatingly painful water pick, she would compliment me on my dental hygiene and we would talk about work, our husbands, our homes and our pets. Sounds silly, but some days sitting in her chair I could actually relax.

Apparently there was a last minute change and my hygienist couldn’t make it in that day.  When I realized this complete stranger wasn’t just showing me to my room and was actually going to clean my teeth, I went into a full blown fear-of-the-dentist-anxiety state of mind.

THIS WASN’T WHAT I EXPECTED!

I instantly formulated two options in my brain, I could leave and reschedule or work through my anxiety and just get the appointment over with. I decided on the “big girl” option, it was unpleasant at best (she used the painful water pick AND tutored me on the proper flossing technique the entire time), but I made it a point to speak with the receptionist after my appointment and request that I be contacted prior to any changes in the future.

As I approached the receptionist, I became nervous and doubted what I was going to say. I was afraid I would seem silly, demanding or worse yet, a little unstable. I decided to venture out of my comfort zone and work through my vulnerability, unsure of the outcome.

Boy was I glad I did. As I began to politely and calmly share the anxiety I felt due to a change in hygienists without advance notice, and the fact that I would like to be notified of said changes in the future, something unexpected happened. Instead of an annoyed, judgmental reaction,  I received one of understanding, kindness and compassion.

The receptionist repeated over and over again that she completely understood and then went on to share her own story of her recent health issues, her experiences with a variety of health care providers and how unsettled and anxious she feels when her appointments change or don’t go as expected.

I left feeling completely understood and respected. Not at all what I had anticipated. We had shared a sacred space called common humanity and, rather than feeling abnormal, I never felt more connected.

If you decide to let your guard down, put yourself out there and allow yourself to be more vulnerable, it takes courage, since it may not always work out. Brene Brown cautions that we must be mindful of when and where we are vulnerable and who we decide to share with. A crowded office party after a couple of beers is definitely not the right time or place.

Only you can decide if you’re willing to take that risk. So far I’m one for two, not a bad average.

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