Love= Being Vulnerable

I’m vulnerable and I loathe it.  But I love it more.

Let me share a favorite love story with you:

I fell in love.

I felt loved back, he definitely loved me and he said so, often.  He showed me by acting like it too.  After a while I got to a point where I was wondering if we were officially a couple. (The dreaded exclusive).  I finally forced the conversation with him about what direction our relationship was headed.  He wasn’t having anything to do with a commitment!  Even worse, he told me he was still in love with someone else!!  I was mortified.  It didn’t occur to me that he could feel like that about anyone else when he made me feel like the only person in the whole world.  At the same time, I knew it.  His words confirmed what my instincts knew already.  But my heart ached.  I was literally crushed.  It was the first time that I voiced my love out loud in years.  I felt like I had failed in earning love back.

A few days later, I woke up and realized that I did something incredibly hard for most of us to do.  I took the risk to tell him everything I felt.  I was so proud of myself.  It didn’t matter anymore that he didn’t feel the exact same about me that I felt about him.  I had told him and that is ALL I can do.  I was still hurting but I respected myself for taking the leap forward in my life, for breaking through on a new skill.  I was true to myself.  I knew I couldn’t sit back and wait for others to make progress in my life anymore.  I learned that not everyone needs to like me the same way I like them.  Or love me the way I love them.  And it’s okay for me to be the one who loves more.  In the days that followed I developed true empathy.  A little for him, those are hard confrontations to converse about, but mostly for me.  I learned to be okay not being bulletproof.  I was okay with failing.  It’s going to happen over and over.  Everyday.

Today, he is one of my dearest friends.  It turns out that our love for each other was supposed to be just what it is now.  And it’s wonderful.  What was seen as devastating and heartbreaking became a lifelong friendship of the best kind.

I spent too many years of my life not telling people how I felt.  When I was released from that stage of my life, I told everyone how much I loved them.  Or sometimes how little I loved them.  I have zero shame in telling now.  It’s how I feel.  I get to own that feeling.  However, new experiences creep up on me, then shyness and fear set in, walls go up, and I have to learn to be vulnerable all over again with the new person.  It’s hard work.  I imagine when I have a relationship where I risk it ending by voicing my true feelings, it’ll always be difficult.  While it devours me in the moment to say the word “love”, it always feels better on the other side no matter what the outcome.

Is there someone out there that needs to know that you love them?  You should tell them.  Right now.  The world sometimes sees vulnerability as a weakness.  I only see it as a strength.  And while I fail at it all the time, it is exactly what makes me feel the most alive.

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My biggest fear

My 2017’s list of resolutions means I get to grow and change and explore.  This is the reason most people make lists for themselves.  We all want to improve.  Two years ago the most important thing I did for myself was that I took ownership in all my feelings.  If I felt mad, I’d ask myself, “What about this actually irritated you?” or “Why does it matter, how will it affect you?”  If I felt sad, I’d ask myself, “What it was that made me feel this way and how could I change or prevent it in the future?”.  Or even questions to myself like, “Is it okay to feel like this, even briefly, to learn something?” (I know what YOU are thinking right now,  this is too deep.  BUT those questions are helpful when you’re an over-thinker).  Typically, I’m in great control of my feelings and emotions.  I get angry sometimes, but it passes quickly.  I learned at a young age that anger doesn’t serve me any valid purpose beyond what it was exactly that upset me and how I can move on.  I never liked that feeling of contention that settles in your stomach when you are angry at someone, something, or most importantly, yourself.  I never enjoyed that loss of control feeling from overexcitement, sadness, and even bliss.  I avoided it as much as possible to prevent myself from an emotional upheaval.  It’s time to change that.

Last week I had two quiet hours with my friend.  We discussed lots of things like the past and the future and our children and our hopes and our plans.  I had a small issue (and by small, the kind that brings me to tears and I never talk about because, well….. I avoid it) and needed to sort some things out in my head.  One of the only true disadvantages of being single is making every decision on your own.  I have no one to always bounce options or ideas off of and so my friend got to be my sounding board for the night.  To tease you just a little, my problem involved running away from something because it was causing emotions.  The easy way out would be to ignore and forget and remove myself from the problem.  But in reality, I was the problem.  My feelings were just too big for me to acknowledge.  Running was the easiest thing to do to avoid being hurt.  I knew that if I ran, I wouldn’t learn anything. I wouldn’t experience any growth.

I remember that urge to run right before I jumped out of the plane when I went skydiving.   I didn’t hesitate to get into the plane.  I was calm and relaxed the entire time we were gaining altitude.  But the moment the instructor asked me to step out onto the wing while my feet were still safely planted on the inside of the aircraft I lost it.  I was visibly shaking, the blood rushed from my face and I thought, “How could I have been so stupid?”  then “What is wrong with me?”  I urged myself outside anyway.  The goggles were anti-fog but not anti-tears.  I was crying against my will and the moisture slowly created a film along the edges.  It wasn’t a sobbing but the terror consumed me.  In a total of maybe 10 seconds, from stepping out to jumping off the wing, I pushed past the edge (literally and figuratively) from my biggest fear to one of the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done.  I was flying without a care in the world.  It was magical.  But if I had let the fear stop me, I couldn’t have experienced the thrill.  That’s not say that the whole jump was perfect.  I landed and vomited twice before I could stand up.  I was still shaking for a while after and I made my friend drive me home.  I suppose it was because I was so worked up with emotion and the fear was so great that my body just reacted that way.  But one thing I knew;  I had done it.

It hurts to even write this, knowing I’m declaring out loud this resolution.  My heart feels squeezed and perhaps I have a punctured lung because my breathing is short and shallow.  My friend told me during our visit, “Just let it be. If it hurts, it hurts.  If it doesn’t, it doesn’t”.  I screamed “NO” at her, but only in my head and then sat quietly for awhile.  I want to feel stuff.  I’ve lived being numb to most things.  I can testify that feelings and emotions are so much better than nothing.  The thing is, I’m scared.  Being brave.  Standing up for myself. Standing up for others.  Doing what I know is right when everyone else thinks it’s wrong.  Chasing my dreams.  Being nice when I am not treated the same.  School. Making mistakes.  Work. Free time. Love.  Being loved is paralyzing.

I’ve got a plan.  I’m going to Face My Fears this year.  I’m going to jump off the wing over and over again.  I’m going to make tons of mistakes doing it and will most likely get hurt a lot.  But for the few times it’ll work out, I know it’ll be worth it.