The History of Vulnerability

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.

 

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Our Greatest Fear: Mr. Disappear

Once upon a summer mid-morning, I met a guy at the retail store I was working at in between freshman and sophomore year of college. He wasn’t outlandishly beautiful – more like the Southern-traditional type with light-hair and light-eyes, and a little twang to make him a tad-bit sexy.

Being the go-getter gal I am, I approached him, and as he watched me casually drop subtle hints of my attraction – he responded by flirting in return. Within ten minutes, he had my name and my number, and a date was soon to follow. Let a few weeks pass by and Mr. Disappear and I became an item that was syndicated by Facebook and everything.

While we lived two hours away from one another, the fireworks bursting between us were too intense for us to ignore, so we vowed to just make it work. I made the first trek to his town and we enjoyed a weekend of snuggling, kissing, and going on mini-adventures to restaurants and amusement parks. All the while, he showered me with compliments and long lists of reasons why he adored me. In the weeks that followed, we spent countless hours on the phone, constantly exchanged text messages, and he did what he said he would do when he said he would do it.

I was a little afraid (alright, maybe a lot) of falling for him, but I allowed myself to because he gave me no other indication that I should do anything else. I accounted my fear of crashing to old emotional wrecks I’d barely lived through – and deemed that he deserved a fair chance.

So, we moved forward with the relationship – easily, forgivingly, and ever so openly. We never had sex and never took it too far, but I could feel the walls around my heart crumbling, and though my barricade was faltering – I felt protected by the promise he made to me in our intimate moments.

One weekend, he was supposed to come to my college town to spend a few days with me. My roommate was kind enough to go home Friday through Sunday so we could have the whole room to ourselves (remember dorm living?). Unknown to Mr. Disappear, I had planned on finally doing-the-deed with him because I felt comfortable enough to trust him and knew that giving that side of me to him, would feel right and feel wonderful with my newfound confidence in our union.

On the Friday he was to arrive, I had a class until 12:30 in the afternoon and we had planned on him being outside my residence hall around 1 p.m. As soon as my professor let us out, I sprinted towards my room, while my friends in the same lecture called out after me “Have fun!” I opened the door, automatically changed into sexy lingerie and put on a tight wrap sweater dress that showed off my every curve. I added some extra curl to my already-wavy hair, touched up my makeup, and dabbed a splash of my expensive, luxury perfume in selective places. A friend of mine who was over 21 at the time had supplied me with a six-pack of Mr. Disappear’s favorite beer, which I had stashed in my mini-fridge to surprise him with – so I checked on those to make sure they were getting cold.

I finally got around to looking at my phone and realized I hadn’t heard from Mr. Disappear yet – so I sent him a text making sure he was alright, while silently saying a prayer for his safety traveling up the mountain. Then, I sat down at my computer, checked my email, and then my Facebook. I noticed I had a new message, and never one to let any inbox get cluttered, I automatically opened it.

When I noticed it was from Mr. Disappear, I swear I could physically feel my heart break. I read through the message quickly, which was easy because it was simple and short, and read: “I’m not coming this weekend. I’m sorry, I can’t. Don’t hate me.

My first reaction, of course, was to call him. Shaking and my heart running away from me, I dialed him and his phone was shut off. I called him again, and it went straight to voicemail. Then, I started to panic and my stomach turned into deeply embedded knots –and I called my mom. When I heard her voice on the other end, I completely fell apart and any sentence I tried to make was indiscernible. The only thing she managed to say other than “Breathe” and “Calm down” was “Come home.” In haste, I threw a random assortment of clothes, my cosmetic bag, and one pair of shoes together, and rushed out to my car, tears violently splashing down my cheeks.

I’m not sure how I made it home without crashing, but the minute I reached my driveway, I ran into my mother’s arms, felt my body collapse, and then headed to my room to sleep. And sleep is what I did all weekend. I also called him several times in the day and night throughout the weekend, and his phone never returned on. He also didn’t respond to a text or to any Facebook messages. When it was time for me to head back to school for a newspaper meeting on Sunday, I blocked him from my account before I drove, and with a sullen-stance and sweatpants on, I made it through deadline without crying.

That night, he called and gave me a range of excuses that included “I just wasn’t ready for a relationship” and “Things were moving too quickly” and “You’re just too wonderful for me” – all of which did nothing but make me more depressed and angrier. I replied by calling him a coward and to be honest, we haven’t spoken much since.

I wouldn’t include him on a list of men I’ve loved or men who have meant the world to me. But he did have an everlasting effect and it is one that this journey is attempting to rid of. I’m sure this issue is rooted from more than Mr. Disappear – but in my book, he’s the one who intensified it.

I’m afraid of being left. Of being abandoned. Of letting myself love without boundaries, without hesitation, and with the fruit of hope – and then having this person I trusted with so much…just walk away. And even worse than breaking up with me is completely disappearing to the point where it feels like I don’t matter, like anything we shared, or anything that was special and unique…was really just an illusion. Just a dream that turned into a cruel nightmare.

Ever since Mr. Disappear, I’ve had this irrational (but maybe rational?) fear every time I start liking someone new that they will just get-up-and-leave. That for whatever reason – that I will become not “good enough” or things are will be “just not right” or “I’m not worth staying around for” – and then, any investment I made into the relationship would become obsolete. The men who followed Mr. Disappear did everything in their power to reassure me that they would stick around through the thick-and-the-thin, the good and the bad – but to no avail, I haven’t been fully comfortable with a man ever since. Even if Mr. Disappear wasn’t a man who I loved, he was a man who left – and as great as love feels, when someone decides to leave, it hurts to the same degree.

Going through this journey, I’ve discovered how many people, men and women alike, have this fear of abandonment and I believe it’s due to the fact that to be in love, to feel magic, to explore relationship-territory, you have to be vulnerable. You have to let yourself take a risk and you have to trust in the unknown. But just like a child learns not to touch a hot stove after they’ve felt the initial sting – once you’ve been burned once, you’re hesitant to extend your hand out again.

I’ve also realized that no man, no blog, no woman – can make taking that dive any smoother. I’m still going to hold my breath, bite my tongue, and take a while to let someone in. I’m still going to have an alarm that goes off in the back of my head that begs, “Well what if you never hear from him again?

However, this step process to gain self-love has taught me something about listening to my rational side instead of my emotional one. And when that fear of being left enters my mind, I think: “Alright, Lindsay – so what if you never hear from him again? Would your world come to an end? Would you go home crying to your parents? Would you put your life on hold?

And now, at my age and in my city, the answer to all of those questions is no. Because I’m no longer that 19-year-old girl who wants nothing more than to be loved by a guy who she was smitten over. I no longer make a man the center of my world. I no longer depend on a guy to bring me fulfillment and happiness. While I would be upset if certain dudes disappeared – I know myself better and I surely know what I deserve in terms of love, and thus, while I may crack, I won’t be broken.

Because no matter what – even with a ring, even with a title, even with saying those damned three little words we all desire – nothing is guaranteed. A person can always leave. But if you’re lucky, and if you’re smart – you know that regardless of who comes and goes, who breaks promises and who keeps them, at the end of the day, at the end of the path, there is always one person who will never leave you. And that’s yourself. So, if you can depend on that constant, on that relentless love, then you can go forward to the next partner, the next fling or even The One – and know that if they do decide to disappear, you’re still never alone.

The Battle of Belief

The beauty of a new life. New York’s ability to give me a glimpse of hope in the most unusual places.  The comfort of my father’s chicken noodle soup. The smell of my mom’s hair when she gives me a heart-to-heart hug. The lines on my best friend’s face when she smiles. My puppy’s ever-lasting and faithful playful spirit. The peacefulness of the first leaf falling in Autumn, first bloom in Spring, first tiny fluttering flake in winter, and the first warm ray from the summer sky. The feeling of reaching something you thought was unattainable.

There are many, many things I believe in.

And in myself, I also believe in many truths. I believe I was born to be a writer. I believe I am brave, diligent, and strong. I believe in the power of my dreams and my power to turn my dreams into realities. I believe I am capable of doing anything I put my mind to –physically or emotionally. I believe I am blessed in so many different ways. I believe I can turn even tiny spaces into homes and I believe I was given the heart of a humanitarian.

Step 2 is about belief. I have to believe all negativity and fears of being single forever or being hard on myself can be lifted away. I have to believe that something higher than me can lighten my load and ease my worries.

I have to believe.  And I don’t.

This isn’t to say I will always feel this way –but Step 2 is going slower and is full of more difficulty than Step 1. I get to a point where I start to feel like everything will change, that I will grow and mature, and not let self-defeating thoughts and fears get to me. I’ll have a day where I feel completely secure with just being me-and-only-me, and then the next day, I see something that makes me lonely…and the sense of longing is right back where it was –the pit of my heart rocking my everything.

How do I make myself have that sincere feeling of complete trust all the time? Why can’t I just believe that a higher being can just take all of this away? Is a feeling of contentment something that’s not constant? Is it always just going to come and go, make me hopeful and then scared, together and then messy?

Belief in something out of our hands. Why is that so much more difficult than things we see, things we touch, things we’ve experienced to be true and real? Why is belief in something that is not proven, not guaranteed, not a matter of fate –so difficult to retain?

Why is the constant battle between faith and fear a fight we have to go through? Why can’t we just believe that all that is meant to be, all that’s meant to happen, all that we’re meant to be part of, feel, and endure –will just happen.

Why can’t we just let the control go? Why can’t I believe?