It is How We Will Survive
Whenever there is uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure, there is vulnerability. Everyday we lose a bit of ourselves simply by waking up. No day is similar, ever.
Our routine may appear the same, but the unexpected happens. It may be nuanced or hit you across the head (literally or figuratively). In any case, you feel exposed, unprepared and uncomfortable.
Some people purposefully step into vulnerability. For them, it is a way to thrive and feel alive in their uncomfortableness. Others chose to armour up. Many straddle the middle.
“A person does not really begin to be alive until they have lost themselves, until they release the anxious grasp which they normally hold upon their lives – property, reputation and position. Having nothing but possessing all things.” Allan Watts
Time Flash Cards and the Fast Lane of Vulnerability
Sometimes the speed with which we make decisions creates an environment of chaos. We don’t take time to purposefully read the situation at hand. I just recently wrote about the subject of our need to rush through our lives, Why the Hell Is Everyone In Such a Hurry”
Are we making snap decisions for ourselves or to prove something? Are we being true to the outcome we want or are we simply vying to be the first or the fastest no matter the cost? When does this behavior begin?
One example is timed flash cards. I loathed being forced to make an on the spot decision, even if it was as black and white as giving the only correct answer to a multiplication problem. I was shy and needed time to contemplate and avoid embarrassing myself with a wrong answer. The pressure was excruciating.
Maybe I did not always know the answer within a millisecond, but what was the real purpose of this timed exercise? An antiquated learning strategy that just made me feel inadequate and exposed.
I remember vividly the classroom atmosphere as my competitive schoolmates would strut their stuff upon winning the flash card races. I would slither into the background. Feeling small and defeated.
I know this may seem an anemic analogy, but this is where we begin to guard our vulnerabilities. Timed flash cards and the elementary school playground.
Today, there are still multitudes of examples of timed exercises in and out of the classroom that divide and pigeonhole the vulnerable and those who pretend not to be. A metaphor for our adult world.
Praised for Quick Decisive Action
The ego is front and center here. Society praises people for their quick decisions. Unless it is an emergency, quick decisions can be destructive, inconsiderate, self serving and just plain wrong.
I agree on many levels, that decisive actions need to be taken. And those quick responses should come with the experience of past mistakes, lessons learned, and homework done. We rely on informed decisions.
But what if the decision is not based on a life or death scenario?
What if the decision was based upon anger or revenge or hate? I have been in many situations where I said or did something on the fly because I was emotionally riled up. Feeling vulnerable and needing to prove myself. Rarely did I feel good about my initial snap decisions or actions.
My authentic self was hiding behind fake bravado.
If only we could just slow our roll. Allow ourselves time to reflect on who we really are underneath all that egoic garbage. Live in our vulnerability and the universe will respond in kind.
Risk and Vulnerability
When I drive my car through town, I often envision a car or truck running a red light and slamming into me. Do I drive in fear of my life everyday? No, but I am keenly aware that simply driving with thousands of other people could result in a psychologically unhinged, intoxicated, and/or medically impaired driver ramming into me or someone nearby.
Check the national stats regarding drivers going through red lights, for example. According to data from the National Safety Council, 42,060 lives were lost on U.S. roads in 2020 to people running red lights.
Being vulnerable is all about awareness of yourself, your surroundings. Because of the situations we place ourselves in everyday, we can no longer sleep walk through it all. Or pretend we are in total control. It is not sustainable.
Risks meet us each day. I am not implying that we tip toe through our existence. On the contrary, come to the understanding that life is risk and we are ALL vulnerable.
Dealing with the unexpected, trying new things, seeking adventures, meeting new people, entering uncomfortable conversations is what will enrich us and help us survive and feel alive.
When my spouse and I moved to New Orleans, uncertainty was in abundance. The only sure bets were that my spouse would be starting a residency and I would be continuing my education. And even those were a bit shaky.
We had no place to live, $1000 to our name, a Honda Civic and a UHaul full of personal possessions we chose to bring on our journey. This was the mid 1980″s and Apartments.com or any other means of minimizing the uncertainties did not exist.
But for me, not knowing was exciting. We were moving across country to a place foreign to us. Literally. Since I was young moving away from the Midwest was a dream.
Excitement in Vulnerability
And as exciting as it was, I felt vulnerable at every turn. Uncomfortable and at times lonely. Everything was new and different. From the ethnic makeup of the population to understanding the southern dialect of the region. Dealing with LDOT to get a license (not having the correct paperwork) and paying three times as much for car insurance. Waiting in line at the grocery store, complaining about the slow pace of the employees (not realizing how the heat and humidity affects EVERYONE). Mardi Gras parades causing traffic congestion in and around the city. Being afraid to drive for the first few months.
Flowering trees, beignets, alligators, jazz musicians and artists on the sidewalks, three inches of rain and flooding in minutes, hurricanes, intriguing people, spicy food, poverty, decades old family cliques, discrimination and so much more.
I remember calling my parents a few months in, feeling the need to cry. It seemed all so much. I held back and stuck my vulnerable self into a safe space. Once classes started in the fall and my sense of familiarity returned, I slowly began to accept the newness of everything. Meeting new people from various walks of life and parts of the world was a personal desire and one I began receiving.
Vulnerability and Courage
It takes courage everyday to wake up and meet the day. I think of my 80 plus year old mother and the courage it takes for her to carry on without my dad (even after 17 years). Facing the vulnerabilities of age, being alone and not having the independence she was so used to most of her life. Courage.
I think of my daughter experiencing a world that was lost to her for ten years while she struggled with her addiction. Everything is new and often overwhelming. Forcing her to step back and check in with herself. Staying true to the person she has become. Courage.
When I started writing more consistently, my own vulnerabilities began to surface. I kept writing for myself as a way to get and keep in touch with me. It did not take long to realize the desire to share my truth with others who may feel similar vulnerabilities.
Many have told me that I am brave to share such private stories. But are they really private when many feel these same vulnerabilities? This is how we show our humanity by sharing parts of ourselves to benefit all.
I often wonder about the tranquility of those who choose to live off the grid. Are they better off? What are their risk levels? Do they feel vulnerable not knowing what is going on in the world? Or do they choose not to care?
Image: Spiritual Awakening IV, monotype, 24″ X 18″
I created this image at a time when I was subconsciously attempting to connect with who I was becoming. It was a time when vulnerabilities were not recognized or valued. But my art had a way of assisting in connecting me with myself in subtle and unconsciously nuanced ways. Art saving my life. Always.