strength in vulnerability*


There was a moment a few days ago when I felt completely naked in a crowded room. There I was, standing in front of this person I care for deeply but between us are layers of hurt and unhealthiness for me.  I had prepared for this day and this encounter.  I had a circle of friends praying for me, lighting candles, sending visions of light and warmth and a bubble of love and protection.  I received text messages all morning from loved ones reminding me to stay in my center.

This one quote from a friend in particular was a visual that felt so powerful to me... 

"I'm here holding a copper staff right down through you into our beautiful strong Mother Earth"

I held that vision close but it was my beautiful and beloved grandmother's memorial and a deeply emotional time for my dear family and being the empath that I am for other's emotions, I fell from my center under the heaviness of it all.  

After three hours of having to hold in tight my emotions about being in the presence of this person and behave as though I was unaffected by it, I felt utterly suffocated by this way of being (or not BEing).  So, when there was a moment of eye contact and acknowledgment, I felt myself moving towards them as though this awareness of each other was a way of me surfacing for breath.  My whole body embraced them as I collapsed in their arms.  Even as it was happening, I was unsure why this was my reaction.  Being that close, their energy felt like a fierce wakening blow and like a wild storm through my senses, I got stripped to the very core and what I found at that very core is Love.  I softened in the embrace and I wept because for me weeping is always a release of my truth and whether its joy or happiness or anger or frustration or sadness, tears flow from the well of the truest and deepest parts of my soul.

The softness that came over me wasn't returned after the embrace and I stood there feeling completely naked and vulnerable.  I felt exposed. I felt like I couldn't breathe again.  My softness felt swallowed up by their cold and fierce. After stumbling with my words, I realized that I didn't want to have to match that cold and fierce energy in order to be heard, so all I could do was remove myself.  I walked away and I kept walking.  I left the building because I ached for light.  The sun warming me and the motion of my feet and the swift movement felt calming to me. I was in an unfamiliar town, so I had no idea where I was going and it didn't matter but what I did know was that I needed to find earth.  Finally, I saw green beneath my feet and felt the leaves crunch below me and that is when I realized I was holding my breath.  I exhaled and let breath move through my entire body and that release brought on the sobbing.  The grass, the leaves, the trees, they felt like a safe bosom and holy ground and like a nurturing cloak to protect my nakedness. 

Later at my sister's farm, even when surrounded by those that deeply love me and hold my heart gently, the remainder of the evening I felt angry at myself.  Angry that this happened at my grandmother's memorial.  Angry that I let my guard down.  Embarrassed that I walked towards and embraced what was potentially unsafe because that was a very surprising and awkward thing for me to do.  Ashamed that it was clear I was so affected by their presence when I have done so much praying, so much soul-work.  Worried that the handful of people surrounding me in light and imagining me centered and strong and protected would be disappointed in me.  I felt weak.  I felt like a wounded little girl clinging to the littlest bit of attention she was starved for.  So many not so kind thoughts about myself rushed through my mind.  I couldn't quiet those thoughts all night.  My head was full of shaming myself for being too soft, too exposed, too vulnerable.

After a sleepless night, I got up much earlier than planned and drove to the airport when it was still dark for my late morning flight.  I needed to roll down the windows and be in movement  There was something about movement that I was aching for.  Not to flee, nor run from my thoughts but to honor how far I have come and have broken free from many old ways of BEing and thinking.  This ritual of movement was the healing reminder that I needed because the day prior I had felt as though all of my soul-heart-work had just crumbled in the midst of this one single encounter.

I had told a dear friend that put energy into holding space for me all weekend... 

"I feel like I failed!"

and she responded... 

You didn’t fail, love. You set a boundary. Leaving is a boundary. You are not bitter or hard. Your weeping was your truth. You are love. You are light. Soft is brave.

Another friend said... 

"You embracing and crying, that was you being fully you in that moment without walls and fears.  That is not weak.  That is so so strong."

How did I lose sight of this?  For years it was insinuated and I chose to believe that my sensitivity, my tenderness, my empathy, my ability to cry so easily was a sign of weakness or fragility.

The last two decades of my life I had hushed those lies and came to know that these parts of myself are beautiful.  It is not easy to be soft and tender and vulnerable.  It also makes creating boundaries with people you love more difficult.  It takes strength and wisdom and depth and tremendous self care.  

I know and honor that with certain energies or people we need to cocoon and protect ourselves from and it probably would have been healthier for me if I continued to protect myself in that moment BUT that doesn't make me weak or make me a failure.  Showing my love for this person and allowing my tears to fall takes so much bravery and that perspective brings me more life than the hurtful things I was telling myself.

And just because I let my guard down, doesn't mean I have forgotten all of my soul work around boundaries.  This particular time, it was extra tender and therefore I offer myself extra tenderness and compassion and understanding.  Perhaps as an empath, my work with boundaries will be a constant practice.

I give myself grace around it because in all truth, I am grieving over this relationship. Grieving that no matter how much we've tried, it just doesn't seem to work and perhaps may never work.  

My dear friend Rain, wrote this about grief on her blog the other day and her words have really helped me honor why I was so deeply affected...

"This I know to be true: Grief keeps you soft, if you let it. Keeps you tender and warm-blooded and human; Keeps you on your knees, on your face, your soul close to the earth. There is healing in the earth. I googled the other night in a sleepless hour: Can't handle the grief. Because what then? I've learned to surrender then too. I can't handle the grief? Okay. Deep breath. Here I am. This is me in the unhandling. I will let this be. I will sit and observe. It is dark and holy work."

The other day, that was me, in the unhandling and after much sitting and observing, I will let it be.