Sunday, June 23, 2013

Episode Six: Vulnerability

Recently, I declared this summer to be my "summer of vulnerability."

"Why, Jamie, would you have to declare something like that" you might ask. "Why would one have to declare a season for being vulnerable?  Isn't it just a natural part of the human experience?"

Perhaps, for some, being vulnerable is a part of the everyday, the coming and going of life, a part of what they inherently do. 

Perhaps for some, but not for me.

Because, dear friends, it's time for some truth telling on my part, time to share what I spend approximately 89.7% of my life trying to hide (the other 10.3% of the time, I'm probably thinking about good beer or quality chocolate).

The truth (please note the radical vulnerability that's happening here and congratulate me when appropriate) is that I am deeply insecure.  My biggest fear is that I am simply not enough.  My second biggest fear is that when people see me--when they really see me--they will somehow observe my not-enoughness and instantly translate that as unloveableness, as a lack of worth. This fear of not-enoughness makes vulnerability difficult.  What If I reveal something about myself to you and you decide you don't like it? What if I offer you a piece of me and it's rejected? I can't think of anything more terrifying.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not the only one among us who suffers from this fear of not-enoughness, this fear of inadequacy, this fear that somehow, if people saw us, they would find us inherently lacking.  And so, the "summer of vulnerability" was born.

My goal this summer: "to let myself be deeply seen, to love with my whole heart (even though there's no guarantee), to practice joy and gratitude in moments of terror and to remember," (see amazing TED talk from Brene Brown below), to remember that in those moments when I am feeling most excruciatingly vulnerable, that the aching in my chest, the sweatiness of my palms, the anxious racing of my heart, simply means that I am alive--100% alive and engaged in the practice of living with great intentionality.

Because surely there are more of us out there--more folks who are slow to open themselves up, hesitant to make themselves vulnerable, because deep in their core they doubt their own worthiness.  They fear rejection.  Surely I am not the only one.

So will you join me dear ones? Join me in a summer of radical discomfort and awkward pauses?  Weeks of opening yourself up and risking rejection? Days of expressing love and appreciation without any guarantee that it will be returned?

Try a "vulnerability experiment" on for size today. A few of your options:
  • tell someone you hardly know that you think they're pretty great, complimenting an aspect of that person that you deeply admire but are perhaps afraid to share
  • share a deep insecurity you've always tried to hide with a friend (not a particularly close friend, just someone you know and like), 
  • offer a genuine compliment to a co-worker or colleague without any expectation that they will offer you affirmation in return
And if, in your vulnerability experiment, the sharing or revealing feels dangerous and invigorating and chilling all at the same time, if you're scared out of your mind but also incredibly excited to be living with a little more boldness, sign up for this summer of vulnerability with me. Let's risk it all and go for broke.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Episode Five: Thin Space

Thin space.

It's a divinity-school-type term--theological jargon you're likely to hear thrown around at church conferences and other such settings where ecclesiastically-minded folk gather.

Thin space. 

A few weeks ago a colleague serving a small country church as interim pastor shared his recent experience sitting with a parishioner, an elderly woman, and holding her hand as he listened to the stories of her life.  He was with her just days before she died, in those translucent moments between life and death.  As he recalled his time with this woman later, over a shared meal with friends, he cried.  He shed fresh tears because those in-between-moments, moments when we are neither here nor there, alive nor dead, they are overwhelming, sacred, humbling, awe-inspiring space.

Thin space. 

A friend is preparing to move from Columbia--packing up boxes, hugging goodbye, turning toward a new, exciting job and a different life gradually taking shape in her soon-to-be hometown. Caught between the life she has been living here and the new existence she's carving out for herself, one foot behind her, one foot ahead--she waits in the transient, fluid, ambiguous space of change and transition--neither here nor there.

Thin space. 

I'm 29 years old.  It seems important somehow.  Not because I fear getting older or am worried about what's to come but because it's different. No longer a 20-something, not a thirty-something quite yet.  It's the space in the middle, stuck in between what was and what will be. Scary, exhilarating, happy, sad, space.  Space full of things I didn't get around to and tasks I might accomplish one day.  Space for all that I have become.  Space for all that I one day hope to be.

Thin space. 

We're done with our home study.  We've created our online adoption profile.  Our "dear birth mother" letter has been printed and is being sent to the adoption agency at this very moment.  So now we wait.  Not yet parents, not yet even in relationship with the young woman who will bring this one-day-child, this-one-day-child who will be both fully hers and fully ours, into the world.  But we're already thinking about cribs and changing tables, first steps and late night tears.  Neither here nor there, somehow lingering between the "what-was" of a life for two and the "what-will-be" of a life built around three.

Thin space. 

Life and death; here and there; young and not-so-young-anymore; a family of two and a family of three.

The dusk. The dawn. The twilight. The translucent membrane of the already-not yet.

Terrifying, beautiful, holy, sacred, mundane, spectacular, thin space. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Episode Four: How do you wear your brokenness?

Recently, during a shared meal with friends and colleagues, we began discussing the link that's been found between Facebook and depression.  You can read a bit about it here. While the research has since been disputed and is currently up for debate, the main premise makes sense to me.  When we look at Facebook, we see the "highlights" of people's lives--the gatherings of friends, the happy moments, the good times filled with joy and laughter.  But what if you're not in a joyful, exuberant state when you log in? What if you've had a crappy day?  Some researchers are suggesting that looking at everyone else's "highlights" during a "low" time in your own life may lead to discouragement and perhaps depression.

I'm as guilty as the next person when it comes to selectively sharing more "highs" than "lows" via Facebook.  In fact, the day after we had this conversation and I vowed to be more transparent with my posts, I posted the following status update without thinking: 

Listening to the new Patty Griffin album (thanks to Jason Gerig), putting up mint leaves picked from our herb garden, and planning what to do with all the beautiful swiss chard I picked today for supper....I'm in a sweet spot y'all. Life is good.

Now, it was true, life really was good. Patty Griffin rocks my world and our fresh mint and swiss chard was quite lovely.  But just a few minutes after I posted this, the conversation from the day before came back to me and for at least ten minutes I debated whether I should add a disclaimer to my post, something along the lines of "life is good right now but I have plenty of areas of brokenness--I worry about nothing and everything all at the same time; I think too much; I have a huge pimple on my chin and my right ankle kind of hurts from my jog earlier today."  Ultimately, I didn't add the addendum but I wondered if I should.  Would it have somehow been more honest?  

So now I find myself with a question: how do we wear our brokenness?  

I know brokenness is a dangerous word theologically and I'm not using it to refer to any type of inherent wrong within us, I don't think we are inherently flawed. We are not inherently broken. No,  I'm using the term to refer to the "stuff" of life--the heart breaks and the failures, the awkward conversations, fights between spouses, mistakes at work, and the list could go on forever.  How do we wear this? How do we share it? How do we have real conversations that involve both our highs and our lows, our places of great joy and our spaces of real sadness?

In another conversation with a new friend just a few days ago, I was asked how open I was in friendships--how much did I share?  Did I allow folks to see the hard, rough spots as well as the beautiful, joyful patches or did I "protect" my "lows" and hide them as somehow secret?  Essentially, he was asking me, how do you wear your brokenness? I wasn't able to answer the question well in the moment but I know how I would like to answer it someday.  Someday, I'd like to be able to say, I wear my brokenness proudly, boldly and courageously.  I share the highs and the lows with those I love.  I am my whole self--good day self and crappy day self, best self and worst self--all the time.  

I'm not there yet but I think it's an important thing to strive for if we want to be in authentic, meaningful relationship with those around us. 

And so, my dear friends, I pose the same question to you that I was lucky enough to be asked a few days ago: how do you wear your brokenness?