Risk Feeling Vulnerable
Originally published on 10-30-13
Last week as I was organizing our bedroom, I came across Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection. I wondered how it got there. “Guapo, have you read this?” “Maybe…I don’t remember,” he answered. I thought it was such strange timing to find the book on that particular day. I mean, it was on a book shelf that I organized and must have walked by 500 times. I thought, well I guess I’ll take it with me. It was Wednesday and I had started to pack for our Sunday trip to Costa Rica. I figured it would be light enough material to read beach side, so I tucked it in my bag and continued packing.
I knew I’d be a fan of the book since I had already read and loved Brown’s book, Daring Greatly. I knew I’d be a fan, but I did not know that I would empty a pen of ink underlining line after line. Each passage was better and better. As the chapters flew by I could feel puzzle pieces falling into place. The amount I learned from jumping on a plane in Houston to landing in Costa Rica was incredible. Brown’s teachings provided me with deep understandings of my day to day experiences.
As we got to Costa Rica, I got busy and put the book down. Yesterday, on my first full day in CR I decided to do a little exercise and head down with our group and surf in the Pacific. The water was so inviting and the waves looked manageable and I was excited about the experience. My optimism was unbridled even though I had only surfed once, seven years ago. “No lesson for me, thanks. Oh and I’ll take that surf board, not that one.” With board in hand, I made my way to the water.
As I paddled out I thought, “Hmmm…this surf board is awful hard to balance on, even on my belly. Agh! No big deal, it’ll just take a few minutes for my muscle memory to kick in.” I tried and tried and tried. I knew I was doing several things wrong and I wasn’t ever able to get it together. Everyone else in the group of 10 seemed to be fine while I was getting pounded by the ocean. I was pissed.
My eyes were burning from the salt water, my hair was a mess. Every time I went down off the board my bathing suit would roll up and I’d have to adjust. I was blowing snot left and right. It was not a pretty sight. A LOT of energy was being expended. My frustration grew with every passing wave. It was a battle with the salt water and it was winning, 45-1. Guapo offered me help but I wouldn’t take it. I hate sucking at things in front of him. It’s just uncomfortable. After about an hour of the ocean kicking my butt, we came in for lunch.
I had a quick order of ceviche and a coconut smoothie and I headed back out. I was not going to be defeated. I knew I was angry but I thought maybe I could channel it into surfing success. Laird Hamilton is it?
When I was at it alone I realized that I was trying more. I was falling more, but I was also giving it a little more gusto, not so worried about my hair and bathing suit, or looking silly. I even willed myself up on a few of the waves. “This is the wave! This is THE wwwwaaaaaaaavvvvvv…….” It was not going well.
After about 15 minutes on my mission impossible, a local said, “It’s nice to see someone so dedicated.” I thought, “Ok, at least I’m getting a gold star for something.” I felt a little better. Then he said, “Can I offer you some tips?” “What the hell,” I thought. He proceeded to give me some tips about being decisive and foot placement, and bam! I was up! I was up and laughing and feeling like a million bucks. Ok, not a million, but at least half a million. About an hour later Guapo picked me up and we shared in my new found happiness and then we went for a cappuccino.
As I walked into our vacation abode the group asked me if I was successful the second time around and I relayed my story. They were so sweet and encouraging and even offered me another tip or two. “This is great, now I don’t have to You Tube ‘surfing’!”
After I came in from the beach I had some down time and picked my light reading material back up. Page 95, page 96, and then page 97.
The comparison mandate becomes this crushing paradox of “fit in and stand out.” It’s be like everyone else, but better.
Brown goes on to say, Comparison is not a to-do list item. For most of us it’s something that requires constant awareness. Creativity helps us stay mindful that what we bring to the world is completely original. Risk feeling vulnerable and new and imperfect. Try something that scares you or something you’ve dreamt about trying.
I immediately started to cry.
I realized that I‘m up for new things with most anybody but I am really afraid of not doing things well with my husband. It’s like I’m afraid he’s going to say, “Hey, you were false advertising! I thought you cooked, cleaned, loved, were always in a good mood, laughed, played dominoes well, surfed well, weren’t clumsy and could do math problems without a pen and paper!” I existed afraid of disappointing him because I wasn’t an immediate success at any certain activity.
And then, it all clicked. I wasn’t wrestling with the ocean yesterday, I was wrestling with my vulnerability and compounded, with my vulnerability in front of the love of my life. Vulnerability was what I was feeling all day yesterday. I was raw and exposed and unsure.
A piece of me had been uncovered.
I found Guapo and spilled the beans. We hugged it out and then he told me that this was all part of a partnership and that he loved me for moments like this (moments of growth and introspection and self-awareness) not because I may or may not be a good surfer or chess player.
I thought, “Thank God! I can bring you moments like this all day long because….this is me!” What a relief.
It can be intimidating to let people see us as we are, with no forewarning, no Instagram filter to hide our flaws, and out of our comfort zone. I get it. It may be scary but we need to know that even if we show up just as we are, we are worthy of love and belonging. We must be brave is so called ordinary moments. That is how we grow into our best selves. That I believe is how we become fulfilled.