I just spent 45 minutes staring at a blinking line on my computer wanting something, anything, to come out, but I’m filled to the brim with emotion and unable to pour it out onto a page.
But, I’ve learned a lot about myself lately, and I can tell you that it’s fear that is holding me here staring at a blank page.
If there is something else that I am learning in a real and deep way recently it’s this: When life is scary it’s easier to hide.
It’s easier when faced with the choice of having to talk to people you haven’t talked to in a long time about why you moved back to your hometown after years abroad to avoid it and hide.
It’s easier to not go to places where you might run into people and be forced to talk about what your life is like, while trying to put on your best “I’m fine” face when you’re crumbling underneath.
It’s easier to stay in the shadows, isolate yourself, because talking about how you’re a complex human being, full of light and dark, just seems like too much. Too exhausting. Too scary. Too shameful.
It’s easier but it’s not better.
You know what is better? Vulnerability.
There is a lot to unpack when you talk about vulnerability and it feels so counterintuitive to everything we are taught about how to survive in the world. All you have to do is watch Planet Earth and watch some unsuspecting antelope meet its end at the merciless hands of a prowling lion (Or tiger or hyena or cheetah. I mean are antelopes at the bottom of the food chain here? Goodness.) to know that being vulnerable is seen as a liability not an asset.
It’s funny though, isn’t it? Maybe sad is a more appropriate word here. In hiding what we’re essentially doing is trying to protect ourselves, because life is scary!
You can put your heart out there and get burned. You can lose your job. You can get cancer. Someone you love can get in a car accident or make destructive choices or know just the right words to use that will send you spiraling either into a fit of rage and an abyss of sadness. Sometimes you can even hurt yourself.
And so, we protect ourselves from rejection, sadness, grief, and other emotions that cause us pain. We do this because we think in moving away from vulnerability we are making ourselves strong. Nothing can hurt us if we make ourselves strong. Strength is a highly valued attribute in our culture. While, I won’t argue that it’s a valuable attribute, I will argue that what makes someone strong isn’t their ability to not be emotional.
I’m reminded of this great C.S. Lewis quote from his book, The Four Loves:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
Lewis is talking specifically about love here, but he makes a wider point about vulnerability. Without it, we cannot experience the things we want from life.
They all happen, truly happen, when you risk. Vulnerability requires risk, but we are all familiar with the idiom that with great risk comes great reward.
Many of you may already be familiar with Brené Brown’s research on vulnerability (and shame. Honestly that could be a series of posts in and of itself.) from her brilliant TED talk. She’s a wealth of information, a great writer, and gifted storyteller. In her book Daring Greatly, she says this:
“What most of us fail to understand and what took me a decade of research to learn is that vulnerability is also the cradle of the emotion and experiences that we crave. Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.
Does showing up to be with someone in deep struggle sound like a weakness? Is accepting accountability weak? Is stepping up to the plate after striking out a sign of weakness? NO. Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
Friends, being vulnerable is one of the strongest things you can do with your life. And the reality is that it is the gateway to meaningful connection. Something every one of us desires.
I’m by no means perfect at it. In fact, I’ve spent a lot of my life hiding behind lies and not reaching out for help a long time ago when I really needed it. I still need the help. I’m not there, yet, but I believe that the weird, awkward, scary, sometimes (basically always) uncomfortable, even painful feelings that come with being vulnerable and being truthful, letting down your walls and being real with who you are, all the light and dark that exists within each one of us, is always better.
Without it we cannot experience the deepest desires of hearts to be loved, to be known, and to belong.
Yes, life is scary, but don’t hide! Be vulnerable and discover that in this counterintuitive act of leaving yourself exposed you find you make room for the best parts of life. Especially love.
* I wanted to title this post “Life is Scary,
Hide Be Vulnerable!” But you can’t use strikethrough in a title. Sad. (Nudge, WordPress, Nudge.)
I’m not sure what this Mixtape series will actually be. I struggled thinking of themes or just songs that felt right. If you remember what I wrote for the last Mixtape, I was (wrongly) convinced that Spring had arrived. It hasn’t. These songs to me are some sort of in between of resigning to the cold and hoping for warmer temperatures. Either way there’s always room to see the beauty in the world no matter the weather.
One track to highlight is ‘Sonsick’ by San Fermin. It’s been particularly heavy in my rotation and in my heart. You can listen to it and stare at this picture of rural central France by train.
Spring has arrived in Paris and it’s a reminder just how stunning this city is. When the evening sun hits the Pont Alexandre III (see above) it’s a thing of beauty. I’ve put together a playlist that has been the backdrop as the days get longer and the weather gets warmer. And I hope you enjoy it as much as I have been.
Sometimes in life there are people that get you. They get your flaws and your desires. They understand, more than others are able, the kinds of things you wrestle with. What does it mean to work in a church knowing that we have our own junk? Things we’re ashamed of. Things we want to rid ourselves of. Things we hope to be.
And sometimes you get to spend the better part of a week with some of these people. In Brussels. With cheap and plenty of beer. With whisky tastings and delicious meals. And most of all with people who just get you.
I left Brussels last week feeling refreshed and ready to begin again with the daily graces of the Spirit of God in the midst of heaviness.
Listen to the song below to guide your viewing.
Delirium Cafe… lots of beer, you guys. Just lots of it.
In an old pub sharing a pint and stories with some beautiful souls.
Love these people.
And upon returning to Paris this has been my prayer the past week.
“Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
wean it from earth; through all its pulses move;
stoop to my weakness, mighty as thou art,
teach me to love you as I ought to love.
I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
no sudden tearing of this veil of clay,
no angel visits, no opening skies;
just take the dimness of my soul away.
Teach me to feel that you’re ever near by;
teach me the struggles of my soul bear.
To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh,
teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.”
Spent a few days in London this weekend to care for my soul a bit. We should do a little more soul care if you ask me. As per usual I fell in love with this city. I will live there one day. I mean it! Anyway here’s a few shots and a song by Doves, because it reminds me so much of when I first fell for London.
Found this little market on Saturday afternoon. It took all my will power not to eat everything after just having brunch with some pals. I got a Bloody Mary instead.
Arrived by train near King’s Cross Station. The architecture here is just my favorite.
Ate lunch and had a few ales here, a little place called The Crown and Shuttle. I love the culture of cask ales in the UK. Smooth and creamy and delicious. You can understand why they have such a culture of beer when it’s so tasty.
Took a long stroll listening to the song below on my commute to work (a coffee shop in Shoreditch).
London was a quick trip, but I got to see many friends I haven’t seen in a couple years and am already making plans to return. It feels so nice to be so close to my favorite city in the world.