Collectively and statistically, the number one fear is public speaking. Regardless if it is a crowd of strangers or a group of those who know us our very best, putting ourselves on display gives us the heebie-jeeibes.
While I personally don’t have that anxiety – I do have one I would like to argue is even more difficult to overcome, and that is the fear of vulnerability.
Mr. Google defines “vulnerable” as “exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” So while it isn’t exactly being on a stage giving a motivational speech or a wedding toast, allowing yourself to be vulnerable exposes something so precious we have to deeply inhale just to admit it: our hearts.
I thought incredibly long and hard before publishing yesterday’s post about Mr. Possibility. He has been a part of my life for a while now, but by keeping the intimacy we share away from this space – I was protecting myself. Somehow, if I didn’t type it out or read it with my own two eyes – I wasn’t actually allowing myself to fall for someone or be open to the hope of love. But then, there it was, in black-and-white (and pink), before not only the World Wide Web, my collection of friends and family members, Mr. Possibility himself – but also, it was glaring back at me.
I read and re-read the post over and over again like the true obsessive person I tend to be (hence the blog). I questioned the words I used, wondered if I gave too much or too little, if I said the right things or if I was being clear enough – but still romantically vague. I lingered on my own sentences, analyzed my own feelings, and even though I was reassured from friends, fellow editors, the man the blog was about, and readers – something in me still felt uneasy. And it was a feeling that rooted so deeply, I could feel my stomach in knots and my heart on fire nearly the entire day.
I took me until close to 6 p.m., after I glanced over the post for about the 20th time to realize that it wasn’t actually the article that bothered me. It wasn’t what I was saying or how I said it. It wasn’t about the fact that I introduced Mr. Possibility to my journey. It wasn’t that something changed between him and I, in the tone and purpose of the path I’m taking, or in the goals I’ve made for myself.
The only part of my life that did a 360 was that instead of being Ms. Single (which I still am, for the record) – in my eyes, I became Ms. Vulnerable. Instead of keeping my feelings and my current romantic endeavor under wraps and non-serious, I revealed that it does have merit. It is something with meaning. I am feeling these feelings, I am accepting the risks that come with kisses, hugs, and making love – not to mention allowing someone to know me for who I am, no questions asked or excuses made.
And let’s be real honest- I’m terrified.
Anytime someone is a possibility or you feel those inevitable butterflies bounce around crazily in your stomach – you know that the time will come when you have to put all your cards on the table. That to be able to fall in love or to start a relationship or as I prefer currently, just keep experiencing this amazing companionship – I have to be vulnerable. I have to open up my heart – even if it is just a little bit. Because no true sincerity or passion or honest-to-goodness love (in any form) – is without liability.
When we walk down a road, holding a new person’s hand, admiring a new smile, and feeling new feelings – there is something faimiliar about it. Not because we’re on round two in a relationship, but because most of us, especially as 20-somethings, have been in love before. We’ve felt those things. We’ve crawled out on that limb, risking our bodies, our hearts, our sanity – to take a chance and give a piece of ourselves to another person.
And then, we’ve been burned. Disappointed. Hurt. Shattered, even. Completely led on. Misread signals, given mixed signals. Fallen in and out of love. Been amazed by the idea of someone, but not who they actually were. We’ve had someone pick another girl over us.
So, even though the man is new, the feelings are distinct – we know what’s ahead of us because we’ve been there already. And each time we become a little vulnerable, only to feel that sting of pain a tad bit deeper and harsher – we’re more hesitant to agree to try it again. If the Master of Time makes us go through another heartbreak, another disappointment, another man who doesn’t live up to what we pray he will – then we know the exact actions that’ll follow the demise. We know even the messiest parts of ourselves, the ones that not even our best girlfriends or family know about. We know the girl who is going through a heartbreak: she’s crying, sobbing, snotting, screaming into pillows, eating pasta that’s swimming in pure butter and salt, watching a ridiculous romantic comedy that’ll give her an excuse for the detriment she’s entertaining. We know that girl, we’ve been that girl.
So that’s why, when a tingle in our soul begs us to be a little vulnerable, we have to catch our breath. Because as we gaze up at this person, who maybe has shown no signs of departure or deceit – we are silently screaming in our heads: “Okay! I like you! I think this could be something, but please, my darling, don’t go break my heart. Don’t let it happen again.”
But maybe, it is okay if history does decide to repeat itself?
As I was sitting at my desk, realizing it was vulnerability that was getting to me, I thought about my past and the hurt I’ve endured. I saw images and flashbacks to those moments where I thought I would never feel the way I did about that guy. I thought I would never meet anyone more perfect for me. I thought that I was going to be in a constant state of lonely, of depressed, and pathetic – for any forseeable future. I thought I would never get up off that floor, wash my terribly sad puffy face, and move forward.
But guess what? I did.
So, if history does decide to turn the tides against me with Mr. Possibility – won’t I just endure again? Won’t I just pick up the pieces, wherever and no matter how hard they shatter, put on my super high heels, and push towards tomorrow? Like I always have? By being vulnerable, I’ve allowed myself to feel with my whole heart. To look past the fear, look past the anxiety that comes with any new adventure – be it love or just moving to a new city. And wouldn’t I much rather feel everything – the bliss, the temptation, the passion, and even the frustration – then to not feel anything at all?
My history with vulnerability has given me a couple of scars and a ton of tears – but it has also allowed me to feel those feelings that we all crave to feel and to know that if those two arms wrapped around me, pull away – I know I can stand without their support.
So with that realization, with my vulnerability naked and open before the whole world (including me) to see – I made a decision to just go. To feel. To be. To hope. To dream. To just go with it – wherever it may end up. And though I’ll lock my door each and every night, sometimes, I may possibly give the key away to those who I think deserve an entrance. To those who may have the power to take the lock off completely.
But just so we’re clear – I always have a spare.