Vulnerable

If you have never heard of Brene Brown, you need to Google her and check her out.  I’ve mentioned her to you before.  If you haven’t checked her out…wow.  You need to.  She is truly amazing, at least to a broken, isolated, weary person like me.  Scares the hell out of me, but wow…she is really amazing! Amazing because she has some really amazing insights.
 
I recently discovered her through a friend on Facebook (one of my friends who lives in my computer…you know, those friends I never actually see or interact with in person).  She posted a link to one of Brene’s YouTube videos.  I’ve now listened to it, and several others, at least 5 or 6 times.  I’m trying to absorb what she shares.  Because I think it’s really, really important. I think she has a message that is critical, especially for me.  I need to “hear” what she has to say.  I need to “hear” it with my heart and soul. 
 
She is a researcher who holds a PhD.  A LMSW and a professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has studied topics such as shame, connectedness, worthiness, vulnerability…very interesting topics for someone like me who is buried in shame, lacks connections and has worked my entire life trying to avoid being vulnerable.  She has studied these topics in great detail for over a decade.  Going deep.  Reflecting.  Putting together minute pieces and making astounding discoveries.  Simple discoveries.  Incredible treasures.  She talks about vulnerability like it’s a good thing…isn’t that crazy?!  Like it’s the birthplace of creativity and all good emotions!  Like I said, she scares the hell out of me.
 
You see, being vulnerable when you are a child who is being abused physically, sexually, verbally, emotionally and who is being neglected (lack of medical care, dental care, etc.) is very dangerous.  Being vulnerable in that situation means you may not survive.  In my situation, during my childhood as I tried to endure the abuse,  to protect myself, I became hyper-alert, acutely aware of everything that was going on around me.  I became adept at listening for things that weren’t said but that were thought or felt in an attempt to avoid being vulnerable to the adults around me who were hurting me.
 
It didn’t pay to be caught unaware.  It happened far too frequently, even considering I existed and lived in a state of heightened sensitivity.
 
I learned early that I wasn’t safe.  That the people who were supposed to take care of me wouldn’t.  Were, in fact, the very people who were the most dangerous to me.
 
I also learned early that I wasn’t acceptable.  My hair wasn’t blonde enough.  My body wasn’t thin enough.  I was too much of a tomboy.  I wasn’t mature enough.  I didn’t do everything they wanted me to do the moment they wanted me to do it.  I caused trouble because I had needs.  And wants.  I wasn’t perfect.  Big sin, that!  I wasn’t pretty enough.  I made A’s, but they should have been A+’s.  I wasn’t clever enough.  I didn’t have lots of cool friends.  I wasn’t exceptional.  Or popular.  I got sick and cranky.  I cost money.  I didn’t fulfill them and complete their life.  I didn’t make everything better.  So I was rejected and beaten and used.  I was nothing but an object and they took as much as they could from me.  Got whatever they could from me.  Gave as little as they could to me.  Expected me to fix their world.  And I failed.
 
When every word you utter is sure to be used against you or turned into something that proves your inadequacy, you learn to keep quiet.  When every action you take is going to cause a reaction that is both painful and frightening, you try to make yourself invisible to the greatest extent possible.  You move like a whisper.  You exist like a shadow.  When the fact that you are alive is destined to evoke disgust and disappointment in those who are supposed to love, care for and adore you, you learn that having needs is a grievous sin, so you must find ways to get by on next to nothing. Even breathing air means you are taking something you don’t deserve.  When your only worth comes from how well you perform and you can never perform well enough, you come to a point of defeat.  A realization that you are nothing.  You give up.  You stop trying.  You stop caring.  Because YOU do not matter; never will.  No matter what you do or how much effort you put into being perfect. You realize you can never get anywhere close to the perfect image they have pictured for you and you can’t ever live up to what they expect from you.  So you give up on ever having value.  You realize you will never be important and you certainly will never be loved.  Being vulnerable doesn’t fit in this picture.
 
I lived inside myself.  I built walls high and mighty.  I couldn’t connect with anyone…there wasn’t anyone sane in my world to connect with.  Connecting was dangerous.  So I isolated, even as a child.
 
One of Brene Brown’s messages is “I am enough.”  I can’t even imagine believing this.  Feeling it.  Being enough.
 
In my deepest most defenseless dreams, I long to be unguarded and completely vulnerable.  I long for the walls to be demolished, for my heart to be open and laid bare.  For someone to see me as I am…all the ugly parts, the hurts, the wounds, the brokenness, the goodness, the desire to be someone, and for them to want me, accept me, love me in spite of how greatly I lack and how great are my deficiencies.  I dream that they will find beauty within me somewhere.  Somehow.  In spite of seeing and knowing my ugliness.  My craziness.  That they will see me naked; soul, body, heart, mind, and still think I have value.  I long to be enough.  To matter.
 
Which is pretty much what Dr. Brown talks about.  Being vulnerable.  How that’s the only thing that makes life worth living.  Seeing and being seen.  Knowing and being known.  Connecting.  Deeply.  In a very real way.  In spite of imperfections.  Seeing the beauty in each other and embracing the flaws.
 
My heart longs for this with an ache that is beyond anything I can possibly describe.  It is such a deep and primitive longing, coming from the depths of my being.  And it is utterly painful because there is no way the ache can ever be satisfied.  Barring a miracle.
 
I don’t know how to reach out any more.  I think I lost the ability as a fairly young child.  I haven’t a clue how to connect. I pulled all my connecters inside and cut them off to survive my abusive childhood.  I’m too fearful to open a door in one of my massive walls…if I even actually have that ability.  I’m not sure I could take the walls down at this stage in life, regardless of how hard I tried or how much I wanted to remove them.  I am a prisoner in my empty world.  A prisoner who desperately longs and desires to be free, whole and fully connected; vulnerable.
 
I’m going to keep listening to Brene Brown.  I’m going to try to let her words soak in.  I’m going to attempt to comprehend the concepts she presents, the conclusions she has reached after years and years of study and intense research.  I’m truly going to try to “get” what she says to the point it makes a dent in my shell and shines a speck of light in the vast darkness of my life.  Because I truly don’t think my life will ever be worth living if I can’t open, embrace, connect and be vulnerable.  I truly believe it’s my only hope.
 

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