Vulnerability is a crock.

I saw an Instagram post this past week where someone who knows these things was showing that socks and sandals, worn together, are back in vogue.  For reals.  I kid you not.  You heard it from me……..Now while I’m no major fashion follower, and I for one, will not be following this new (old) trend, it always amazes me how many trends for so many different things come and go.  All. The. Time.

I have two jobs and in both those jobs I have a husband and wife team who are my bosses.  If I’m ever feeling a tiny bit bratty, then sometimes I’ll throw a couple of trendy words into conversation that one of these teams really don’t like……one of those words is ‘journey’.  And I’m not talking about a physical trip with a start point and a destination, an end point. ‘Journey’ has become a trendy word though.  So has ‘vulnerability’.

‘Vulnerability’ can be defined as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.

Spend any amount of time reading or listening to any kind of self-help/ leadership/ emotional growth type of articles/ blog posts/ podcasts or books and you will hear the word ‘vulnerability’.  You will.  It’s now a trendy word.  And it’s a word that carries a lot of punch.

Now I happen to love Brené Brown whose work on vulnerability has been hugely significant and her TED talk on vulnerability is one of the five most watched, with over 30 million views.  I love her books, I love her instagram posts, I love what she stands for and who she fights for and the fact that she is so well educated and is leading in her field, and she’s prepared to put the spotlight on the tricky and complicated topics of courage, shame, empathy and vulnerability.  If you haven’t already, read her stuff.  She makes so much sense.

But here’s the thing.

In reality, when the rubber hits the road, when you actually start to live out these things that you’re told are good for you and are going to be worth it, and when vulnerability is one of these things, sooner or later you’ll find that it’s actually a crock.

Vulnerability is a crock.  It’s hard.  It’s laying your heart and soul open to inspection.  It’s dumb.  It’s painful.  It’s allowing others a glimpse of what you’re rather keep dark and hidden and private.  It’s not sheltering your loved ones from that which you know may hurt them.  Which goes against the grain of what comes naturally and easily to most.

Vulnerability is a crock.  It means that others may say inappropriate things back to you.  Or say nothing in response to you.  So you’re left in limbo wondering if whatever that thing that made you feel so vulnerable in the first place was too much for them, was too big for them or too messy for them.

Vulnerability is a crock.  I know of people who have had very physical responses to the emotional work involved in opening up to others – breathing problems, insomnia, wakefulness, panic attacks, weight loss, weight gain – all these are very normal somatic responses to adversity, and for many, becoming vulnerable is also becoming open to adversity.

Vulnerability is a crock.  It makes you feel like an idiot.  It reminds you of all the things you haven’t worked out yet, that you haven’t mastered yet, and that we’re all works in progress.  It highlights all the things you’d really rather have control over and be in charge of and manage very carefully and well.

But here’s the thing.  As much as I think vulnerability is a crock, here’s what I know even more, it’s actually totally worth it.

Becoming vulnerable is worth it.

Being vulnerable is worth it.

Yes it’s hard.  But nothing worthwhile was ever easy. Ever.

Yes it’s laying your heart and soul open to inspection – but only to those who you trust. Those you respect.

Yes it’s dumb.  But so is pride.

Yes it’s painful.  But wounds left to fester cause more harm than good.

Yes it’s exposing.  But only negatives grow in the dark.

Yes it’s showing your muck to those who love you most.  But as my favourite artist Charlie Mackesy says and illustrates:

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When you’re vulnerable with someone, when you’re sharing the good, the bad, the beautiful, the joyful, and the downright ugly, then you’re allowing them to step into that situation with you.  You’re allowing them to be Jesus with skin on.  They may not necessarily be able to change anything, but sometimes outside eyes can see things you can’t.  Sometimes outside ears can hear other sides of the story, that you can’t.  Sometimes more hands than just yours can help shift burdens and barriers.  And that’s worth it.  That’s worth the pain and the reminders of what you’re still working on.

It’s been proven time and time again that simply sharing a painful experience with someone will help to ease the pain.  Brené says ‘an experience of collective pain does not deliver us from grief or sadness; it is a ministry of presence.  These moments remind us that we are not alone in our darkness and that our broken heart is connected to every heart that has known pain since the beginning of time’. 

We build walls around our hearts and our souls for very valid reasons, but there’s so much to be gained from overcoming the pain, the pride and the powerlessness to truly share your life with someone.To truly be vulnerable.

Becoming vulnerable is worth it. Being vulnerable is so very worth it. I get the feeling that all the noise and rumble that has come along when dealing with ‘vulnerability’ means that this isn’t some passing fad, and not just a trendy word.  It’s here to stay because we now recognize that it’s worth it.  It’s really worth it.

I’m hoping that the socks and sandals thing doesn’t stick around though.

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”  – Brené Brown

 

 

 

 

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My Million Dollar Idea

Don’t tell the cat, but we are secretly dog people.  I long for the day that my three boys can have a dog as their faithful companion.  Not a little, yappy thing, but a hugable, loveable, ‘don’t let him stand on your toes’ kinda four legged friend.  A border collie or a retriever or a lab.  There’s something good and right about a boy and his dog.  The problem is we’re renters and it’s really hard to have a dog and be in a rental property.  So for now, we’re cat people.  We pretend that she’s enough.  But.  Really.

Sometimes when I’m with a certain friend we brainstorm together about business ideas…things that haven’t been done before, things that we could do while maintaining order at home and other commitments and jobs, but a thing that would earn us both a million smackeroonies.  Preferably a residual income.  That’s the dream, aye?  Money that makes itself for us.  That way my husband and I could actually get a foot in the property ladder.

It’s just as well dreams are free.  We can limit the smashed avo on toast and the lattes drunk out and about – but the dreams – there’s no limit to them.

One of my latest ideas was a right proper nightmare actually.  You see I’ve got this secret to better living, everyone.  I’ve got this simple idea that absolutely anyone could begin to action, and I absolutely guarantee it will change the atmosphere of your workplace, your social club, your small group or your larger group.  It will grow relationships overnight and it will make you a better wife/husband/ Mum/ Dad/ sister/ brother/ employee/employer immediately.  Guaranteed.  In fact I believe in this so much I could sell tickets to seminars, or produce workshops that could be shared on memory sticks and sent all over the world (for a small fee of course – hence the million dollar idea), but I’m not that kinda person.  Not now and not never.  For one – my knees have fellowship any and every time I have a microphone in my hand and well, at the end of the day……MONEY SCHMONEY.  Whatevs.  I’ve actually got this open hand open heart thing going on and could never be the next Anthony Robbins.  No-one will ever make money off any of my ideas – myself included.  But, because I believe in this hair-brained idea enough to really think it could make a difference in my world and in yours, I’m a gonna share it here anyways.

The secret to better working relationships, personal relationships and any kind of interactions in any kind of way?

You ready for it?

It’s what I call, ‘the follow up’.

Yep.

The Follow Up.

This is when you check in with someone and follow up on what you’ve previously talked about.  It may be the same day, the same week, the same month…..all dependent on the situation, but it is you following up on whatever has been good/ hard/ joyful/ anxiety bringing/ fraught with frustration/ filled with blessing – whatever – you’ve last discussed with someone.

The Follow Up.  Why do I think it is so important and changes the way relationships grow?  Because it shows you care.  It shows you were listening.  It shows that even though time may have passed in between seeing this person, you’ve still thought about them and their world.  It shows that you have capacity to think beyond your own world.  It shows that they matter to you.  They matter, fullstop.

And who doesn’t need to be reminded of this, just every so often?

It’s really not rocket science, nor is it manipulative in any way, it is showing sincerity and genuine care.  It’s saying to someone, that you appreciate the fact that they opened up to you and showed a slice of their heart to you, and that it wasn’t too much for you.  They aren’t too messy or broken or full on for you.  And from there – even more trust and openness can be built. And good relationships can improve any workplace, any friendship, and setting that I can think of.

What does this look like in an everyday setting?  It can be light and simple, or bigger and deeper, depending on the feelings involved.  One of my bosses is a bestman at a wedding today.  He’s been talking about his duties for this for a while now.  You can bet your bottom dollar one of the first things I ask him when I show up for my next shift on Monday will be – how did the wedding go?  How was your speech?  And we’ll spend the whole evening dissecting all that went into the event.  Why on earth is this important?  I believe it is important because it’s showing him that I genuinely care about what was a big event in his life.  Its about being interested in more than my world.  People don’t care what you know, until they know how much you care.  In any setting.  But surely everyone would take the time to ask about this?  Surely anyone with any little amount of people skills?  You may be thinking that because you’re a friend of mine and you already have a great amount of people skills and perhaps you already action this little skill naturally, intuitively. Actually.  Not everyone does this.  You’d be surprised.  Life is so busy.  Life can be so consuming.  Some people prefer to talk about their favourite topic – themselves – all the time.  But that doesn’t grow trust.  That doesn’t put relationships on an equal footing.  That doesn’t make people feel safe with you.

Now it may be coming across that I’m trying to appear as an expert in this people business. Let me assure you.  I am not.  I stuff up with people all the time.  I often don’t know what to say or I say the wrong thing, or I clam up when I could talk.  But this one thing I do know:  if I open up to share a piece of my heart with someone, however deep or shallow that piece may be, if that person asks me at a later stage about that piece of my heart, then that builds my level of trust with them.  That helps me feel not so alone.  That reassures me that I’m not too crazy/ messy/ screwed up for them.  I think most people are aware that sharing with people, especially things that are painful. helps to divide the pain.   There’s some kind of magical maths that goes on when this happens.  And that, my friends is worth pursuing.  That’s the real gold.  That’s worth more than a million bucks.

The Follow Up.  It’s priceless.  It will make you a better person, whatever you do, whoever you are.

Now, onto other ideas………buying the next kids’ trend in games before someone else brings it into the country?  Personal shopping?  Hmmmmmmm.

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The tightrope and the juggling.

It was one of the cooler mornings that we’ve had recently.  We sat there, hands cupping our coffees, tucked into the corner of one of my fav little cafes in the area.  First came coffee, both of us had just rushed around doing the mad school dash.  Then came the standard going through the mental checklist – husbands, kids, jobs….how are they all?

Twenty minutes later after we’d both assured each other of health and general happiness, the wealth was still to come though…Liz sank down deeper into her chair, momentarily closed her eyes and and then I saw her whole chest rise up and down, as she took some deep breaths.  ‘Fee’.  Her voice faltered a little and I could tell things were fast changing gear.  ‘It’s hard’, she whispered.

I leaned forward, and took one of her hands, the one that was mindlessly twisting her rings around and around.  Knowing that Liz is one of those dear friends who listens really well and prefers not to speak unless she’s got something really meaningful to say, I knew this was big for her.  Gutsy.  Brave.

She looked up from her coffee cup and gave a half smile. That reminder she gives from time to time when conversation does get deep, as if she’s declaring her own strength to the world and doesn’t want me to worry; ‘yeah I’m sad and this is hard, but I’m going to be OK’.

I smiled back, and released her hand so it could go back to the endless twisting and twisting.  ‘Tell me about it’.  I whispered back.

Liz is facing some major challenges at the moment, that much I knew.  I know some of the details of the challenges of her life, but there are many details I don’t know.  Her story is only hers to tell, but I do have her permission to share this much today.

A couple of tears managed to sneak out of Liz’s eyes, and just as soon as they appeared, Liz swiftly wiped them away.

‘I feel like I’m on a tightrope, and I have to place my feet so carefully on this tightrope. It’s the only way over, the only way across the danger; the hurt and the hard.  I can’t go backwards, and if I stand still for too long….well I can’t…..I have to go forward. And I don’t even know where this tightrope ends. And that’s a frustrating thing.  Most people can see what the end goal is, where they are headed.  But I don’t.  I just have to keep going.  And not only am I on this dangerous tightrope, but as I’m walking it, I’m juggling all these balls.  These demands on my life.  Walk, walk, walk, juggle juggle, juggle.  That’s what my life feels reduced to’.

And in an instant I understood.  Liz was being very real and open about the weight of expectations on her.  The things said and unsaid, the lists of thou shalts and thou shalt not…..sometimes even from the most and best meaningful of intentions.  Because Liz was facing x y and z in her life, by hook or by crook she needed to react in a b and c ways.  That was how she needed to be, that was what it felt like to her.

I nodded in agreement and understanding.  I’ve had my own share of balls to juggle and fear of dropping them.  Haven’t we all?  I didn’t and couldn’t think of anything more helpful or caring to say, right then and there, other than, ‘I know’, and by then, Liz, realizing that the chinks in her armour, the armour she wears to enable herself to function as best as she can right now, had started to show, was embarrassed at being the focus of our attention, and what was left of our quick coffee catch up quickly moved on to other things.

Well the conversation moved on then.  But my thoughts have kept coming back to Liz’s picture.  Trying to understand. Trying to think of how some glimpses of hope can be offered to her.  Trying to gather some truth for her.

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Tightropes are do-able.  They are not impossible.  Hard, yes.  But not impossible.  Thinking back to when I danced and even when I did gymnastics and did any kind of hard foot work like that – it helped when I looked up.  Looked ahead.  It keeps your centre of gravity in the right place to help most with balance.  So that’s what I’d tell Liz now.  Look up.  Keep looking up.  It doesn’t matter that you don’t know when or where this tightrope will end, just keep looking up.  Even if and when people place expectations on you – even when they are misdirected but well-meaning…keep looking up.  Keep seeing the good in their intentions.  Keep looking up to where your help really comes from.  Seek the Lord and All His goodness.

Another thing about tightropes is that it helps to have a supportive audience. The best circus performers have supportive audiences cheering them on.  They may be holding their breath, as they are nervous for the tightrope walker, but every single one of them is urging the person on.  No-one wants to see that person fall.  And so I’d remind Liz that she has people around her, urging her on.  They can’t walk the road that she’s on for her, they can’t do the hard work that she is needing to do, but they are with her, every step of the way, urging her on.  Feeling her pain.  Feeling her frustration.  But cheering her on.  As hard as it is for Liz to let people in, to share with them her pain, her hurt and all the messy feelings she has, that audience may well be her biggest ally in forward momentum, in helping her stay on that very narrow and flimsy path she’s on.  They can lend her their strength.  They can give her courage. They can remind her of who she really is, when circumstances around her try to steal that away from her.

How about the juggling balls?  We’re all juggling so much, all the time, aren’t we?  But here’s the thing…..circus performers don’t start off with all the items they have to juggle.  They have a few things, then they have more added to their performance, and then sometimes these items are taken away and/ or swapped out for other things…and then eventually, one by one, they catch every item they have and finish their routine.  I’m thinking that sometimes we forget that we can throw back some of the balls that we juggle.  We don’t have to always be juggling so much.  Sometimes we have the capacity to juggle more, and sometimes we don’t – it keeps our routines fresh that’s for sure.  The hard thing is to know what and when to throw away some of the balls/ items, right?  Without the whole routine not going completely out the window.  But its possible.  And  – what’s the worse that can happen?  We do drop some balls?  Even seamless circus performances can go badly wrong…..and what the audience doesn’t see are the hours and hours of practice put in, to make those performances as near perfect as possible.  We’re allowed to drop some balls from time to time if we give ourselves enough grace, and when we have the people around us, to either leave those balls by our side and urge us on anyway, or to helpfully hand them back to us, when the timing is right, and we can once again include those balls into our timetables and routines.

The tightrope, and the juggling…….not easy….not really much fun when so much energy and focus is needed…..but do-able my friend, dear Liz.  It’s do-able. Especially when you keep looking up, and you keep your biggest fans by your side.   It’s do-able my friend. xx

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Vulnerability and band aids.

There’s a reason that first aid kits in commercial kitchens usually stock band aids in gaudy bright, fluorescent colours.  You actually want a chef/ cook/ kitchen hand to notice when their manky old band aid has come off, cos you don’t want that in your meal. No ma’am.  No sir.

Band aids.  Bandages.  They serve a purpose, for a time, but sooner or later those puppies need to come off your body and be disposed of properly.

I’ve been thinking about ‘vulnerability’ lately and have been thinking that vulnerability is a little like a band aid that needs a little bit of help to be ripped off, before it falls off.

When you have a wound, a little or a big ‘owie’, there’s a need for it to be covered up for a little bit. You need to keep the wound clean, and clear from infection.  You also need to to protect it a little from further bashes and bumps.  You don’t want any more blood loss. (And by the way, look after yourself dear ones when you do have a band aid on. One of the stooopidest things I’ve done in one of my jobs was go to work straight after getting a blood test done. You don’t ever want to cut up twenty kgs of carrots after having some blood suckered out of your arm.  Nope.  No you don’t.)  Back to the band aid.  That band aid isn’t designed to stay on forever.  It is only a temporary stopgap.  At some stage your wound will also benefit from a little fresh air – this too has healing powers.  And we all know how gross it is to see band aids that have come off when people haven’t expected that – there’s something really repulsive about seeing them not disposed of properly.

I’m learning that vulnerability is a little like a band aid that needs you to take it off.  We need to open up to each other.  We need the healing power that comes in the salve of one another’s kindness and caring – but that is only possible to apply properly, when we open up to one another. When we expose our wounds to one another. When we peel back our band aids. Then we can bear one another’s burdens.

The band ‘Rend Collective’ recently wrote ‘it is in the rawest, most gaping, and angry scars that authentic faith is often found’.  Scars expose testimonies – testimonies shout of God’s grace.  God’s favour.  God’s loving kindness.  God’s ability to scoop us up and out of whatever messy situations we’re in.  God’s restorative power.  God’s healing strength.

One of my darling boys scratched his face with a long fingernail when he was merely hours old.  That precious, soft and smooth skin on his face was scarred.  He’ll always have that little reminder on his cheek. My own body has scars of battles with hot fudge (I seriously lost), and a stomach stretched to its limits by whopping big babies.  But its not the scars on our bodies that need the most healing – its the ones in our very souls.

It is a hard thing opening up to friends.  There’s trust that must be mustered up.  There’s swallowing of pride. There are doubts and uncertainties that raise their ugly heads.  Sometimes confidences are betrayed, that’s just a reality of life. But you know what?  The pay off that comes with sharing your heart anyway, is worth it. The healing that comes when you do become vulnerable yourself, is worth it.  The reciprocity that happens when you need a friend, and when the friend needs to be needed – creates  levels of shared experience that can’t be faked and can’t be created under any other circumstances, other than this shared vulnerability.

C.S Lewis said ‘We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually; we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves’. It has taken me a while to learn this, but I totally agree with him.  We don’t know what we don’t know…..friends can help us with this…..we need others more than we may think.

I don’t want to leave a nasty trail band aids lying around all over the place – peeled off at the very worst of times, in the very worst of places, so I’m learning to make myself vulnerable. And to rip off those band aids when I can.  To open up.  To share my heart.  To let the soothing words of others heal my little nicks and scratches.  I’m pretty sure it is worth it.

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Community Fences.

18 school lunches to go. That’s a total of six school days left to this school year for my kids. Do I hear an amen? 

It has been a great first year at our new school, in our new neck of the woods. I feel like we’re settling in, and putting down good, solid, strong roots. Roots that are comforting, healing and reviving. 

Our school community is full of amazing people.  People who dedicate masses of time, love and resources for ‘the greater good’. People who are self-less and shy away from any kind of spotlight, but they just get on with ‘doing the stuff’. 

We have several Mums in our school community at the moment who are dealing with cancer diagnoses, surgery, treatment and all that entails. One of the Mums doesn’t have any extended family here in NZ, so our community has rallied together and come up with just under $2K for this family. Now we are fortunate to have a public healthcare system, so that side of things is covered, but this money is to go towards things to practically help out the family in this tricky time; extra groceries, a cleaner, petrol money etc. 

I’m someone who has seen and been in ‘community’ before, and I’ve also been on the outside of ‘community’ looking in, and I know which side of the fence I prefer. So this whole wonderful side of life rallying together to help build up life, is really the awesome sauce. 

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Sometimes people get a little ticked off with me when I don’t say much.   I’m pretty sure I have less words to say than the average chick. But maybe writing makes up for that. 

But when I don’t say much, I’m usually thinking a lot. And observing a lot. And taking in a lot. So that when I do open my mouth to speak, if I don’t manage to put my foot in my mouth, then what I have to say is quite intentional.  Sometimes. Usually. Whatever. 

So, anyway. 

This evening my family and I were at a community event. I was fortunate enough to know a few people there so I sat with them. But as I sat at this event and when I wasn’t talking, but merely observing, I noticed some families on the fringes.

On the other side of the fence. On the other side of community.

Not many.

But some.

And ever since I came home I’ve been kicking myself for not reaching out to those families. For not including them. For not making space for them. 

You see community can be beautiful and warm, and embracing and kind, but it can also be selective and harsh, and unwelcoming to some all at the same time. 

It’s the weirdest thing.

Now before you fill the comments area in this post, or in the facebook share which I may or any not do, with kind and thoughtful words to make me feel better. Please don’t. I’m not writing this to share my faults, to gain sympathy. No. This is something I know I can ALWAYS be working on. As long as I have breath in me, I’d like to be reaching out to others and never settle for the status quo. 

And maybe you need to increase your awareness of others around you too. 

We are wired for connections. Always. In any situation. 

Let’s be people living ‘in community’ that is ever increasing, and ever making people feel valued and appreciated, whether you’re in the final countdown to the end of the school year or you have many school lunches still to pack…..people matter.   Fringe living is no fun. Living behind the fences is no fun.