‘Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of Courage’ – Brene’ Brown
It’s been awhile since I last wrote, and the topic of the time was courage. Over the weekend I watched an incredible Ted Talk from Brene Brown. She explores the characteristics of shame and vulnerability (from one of her previous talks). I have been on a journey recently that has helped me to be vulnerable and discover the time to let go.
In the wake of the passing of my mother earlier this year I was most definitely out at sea. The world didn’t make a lot of sense and while I felt cocooned with love and support from friends and family, I was very vulnerable.
My natural reaction as such times is to run away, to drop what’s in front of me and take a journey. I did the same this time, but the journey was already planned – a trip to an entrepreneurial conference in Mexico. I was excited to meet the many people I’d talked with during the past year, and yet I remember the day I left for the bus to the airport I felt a deep anxiety. I still feel the moment I stepped out the door, as I turned looked back and forced myself to close the door. My wife left by herself with the night’s darkness. I felt alone in the world, and still I took those first steps.
I had been looking forward to this event for over a year and arrived with high expectations of a lot of fun and excitement, challenging situations and exponential learning. Three quarters of the way through the event, an incredible anxiety came across me. I didn’t feel as strongly connected as I thought I would, I was concerned people might judge me, and that I didn’t have a strong story like a lot of people. I felt weary. I felt like retiring to be away from the crowds. It was overwhelming. I kept my barriers up, the anxiety built, and quietly I couldn’t wait for the end.
Have you ever hugged a stranger? Like in a situation where just somebody has been there at the right time. In that moment we have to open up and let go and become vulnerable. As social creatures we welcome connection, but in this complicated world we have been presented with storylines that enhance fear, uncertainty, lack of trust, caution and protection. The social conditioning enforces that we are to keep up our guard, to hide behind a barrier and treat people as an enemy first – not to be trusted.
I’ve hugged a lot of strangers. I enjoy it. If there is something that will make me smile inside for the day, it will be that I gave and received (a hug). Some people come forward with a willingness, others with trepidation. While attending ‘The Foundation live event’ in Mexico, I must have hugged over 50 people. That’s a good way to learn how to let go and to be vulnerable. Some friends were kind enough to quietly listen to my sensitive story – I would be travelling with that story during my entire journey.
The time I spent travelling post the event allowed me to breathe and take stock. Something was holding me back, yet I couldn’t be sure because emotion and negative mindset had infused so deeply that I couldn’t experience it. Fortunately I’d come across a transformative event to be held around the same time in the USA.
Years ago I swore I would never travel through Los Angeles Airport again. The last journey was simply humiliating and there are enough good airlines, that I could in all earnest just avoid the experience. Here I was on a Delta flight headed from Mexico to San Francisco and you guessed it, I had to go via bloody LAX again. I wasn’t disappointed. I was vulnerable. I gave up my fingerprints (I thought that was reserved for criminals), my mugshot, answered 50 million stupid questions and legged it to the connecting flight. My journey was to Santa Cruz on a different mission – to discover more about my background and personality at the Enneagram workshop. I’d been convinced that Ben Saltzman’s event would be life changing (and challenging).
The next day I was faced with a direct assault. Not from the LAX customs guys, but from a group of strangers. I felt an incredible tenseness, like being on the edge of a cliff without anything to hold on to for support. Here I was letting out some personal secrets to strangers, internal challenges and closely kept thoughts. A storyline began to emerge.
Months earlier my Mum passed away. It wasn’t a sudden thing and it was expected sometime soon – I just didn’t think it would have been this year. I made a connection with my grief, my deep emotions, my raw self and with support of these strangers learned to start the process of letting go. I could recognise in an instant how my holding the grief back was affecting every decision I made.
It was the reason I felt disconnected in a crowd of people, why I felt the need to take a journey to Central and North America, the reason why I felt a strong need for support and why my voice had gone quiet. I simply couldn’t think clearly. I had become anxious, alone, and disconnected (in my head), even though many good people were around me.
In that moment of letting go the tears came. I managed to get my story out; the feelings flowed, the story was told, the support came. Many people with generous spirit connected and offered kind words. This is for me and this is for them, for all of the people who remembered my Mum.
photo credit: Tjook on flickr