vulnerability

I’ll Sit With You in the Pain

“I guess I thought if I prayed about it, I would magically feel better and suddenly have a group of friends with whom I could share my heart and there’d be a rainbows and unicorns.”

I woke up this morning still feeling very melancholy. It seems the last couple of weeks I’ve been experiencing a lot of ups and downs, and I find myself wondering

“God, where are you in all of this? Why are you leaving me alone? Can’t you hear me?”

I thought if I prayed about it, I would magically feel better and suddenly have a group of friends with whom I could share my heart and there’d be a rainbows and unicorns. This morning as I was scrolling through Facebook before I got out of bed, God sent me a message. Yes, it’s true – God sent me a message on Facebook. No, I’m not crazy, at least not now. I believe that God can speak to us through other people sometimes, and this morning he spoke to me through Brene’ Brown.

“I thought faith would say, ‘I’ll take away the pain and discomfort’, but what it ended up saying was, ‘I’ll sit with you in it.'” Brene’ Brown

You can listen to her 6 minute message here.

Another quote that really spoke to me this week was from author Lysa TerKeurst (I have never read any of her books, I just follow her on Facebook and I like her quotes. She is on my list of books to read)

“How to overcome that seemingly impossible issue… pray more words about it than you speak.”

I find that I’ve been praying about things, but not an intense, fervent, journal for hours, pour-my-heart-out, fall-on-my-face prayer. I’ve been thinking about things, things have been on my mind, and when they come to mind, I’ve said a little prayer.

That is not the way I need to be praying about things.

Prayers on-the-go are not the same as deep conversations with God.

Just as a text to a friend is not the same as an hour-long phone call. Or a message on Facebook isn’t the same as a handwritten card or letter. Or a “how are you doing?” as you pass one another in the morning isn’t the same as a heart-to-heart conversation over a cup of coffee.

It’s no wonder I sometimes feel that God has forgotten me in this move. It seems I have also forgotten how to have a deep relationship with Him. So I ask myself, what am I afraid of? Why am I avoiding heart-to-hearts with God? And deep inside, I know the answer.

He’s asking me to do hard things. I can feel that nudging in my heart and I keep trying to distract myself. I stick to prayers-on-the-go so I don’t have to listen.

He’s asking me to step out of my comfort zone.

He’s urging me to reach out in grace and love to people in my life who have been unloving to me.

He’s asking me to be patient. It took years to build the purposeful relationships that I left in Vancouver. It will take years to build new ones.

He’s asking me to remember the commonality of suffering in people around me, when I selfishly just want to focus on my suffering. Everyone wants to experience happiness and avoid pain. He wants me to love those around me, and remember that everyone has a story, and every story matters.

He’s asking me not to wait for other people to come to me, but for me to reach out in love towards others. And that puts me in a vulnerable position. What if I’m rejected? And selfishly, what if it’s inconvenient to me?

So, I commit to prayer this Holy Week. I commit to real prayer, kind of prayer that builds relationships. The kind of prayer that restores me and my heart. The kind of prayer where I don’t just pour out all my feelings and tell God what I think He should do, but the kind of prayer that sits quietly and listens, which is so hard for me.

And I’ll remember that in the discomfort, in the loneliness, in the hard things, in the quiet listening,

He sits with me.

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Help Me To Embrace This Vulnerable Season

*Background info: In the past 8 months, there have been many changes in my life. I became an empty-nester. My husband got a new job. Actually, he got one job, then was promoted to another. I sold our home where we had lived for 13 years. I moved away from the Pacific NW, where I have lived all of my life, to Louisville, Kentucky, 2300 miles away. I quit my job as a hospice nurse. I became unemployed (by choice, but still, unemployed). We moved to a new part of the country, a new city, a new house, a new church. 

I’m so absent-minded lately, my husband is afraid I have early on-set Alzheimer’s. I lose my way when I drive to the health club. I leave for an errand and come back without the item I was supposed to get. I ask my husband repeatedly about the dates he is going out-of-town. I leave eggs boiling on the stove until they almost blow up (it’s not as cool as it sounds). I remember once my kids were convinced that I had early dementia. I was so scattered, I was almost convinced, too. So I made and appointment with a doctor friend of mine who is an expert in the area, and after some testing, she assured me that what I was dealing with was just stress. She told me that if you are stressed or sleep deprived, you can exhibit similar symptoms. However, this was the best test – If you forget where you put your keys, that is normal. If you forget what your keys are used for, that is not normal.

And on top of that, I have become a wishy-washy mass of insecurity. I have little to no sense of self or where I belong, and I have lost my sense of purpose. An acquaintance recently asked me, “What do you do?” I am currently not working, so she asked me “Well, what do you like to do? Do you have any hobbies?” I started blankly at her.

“Well, I like to write.” I seriously couldn’t think of anything else to say. I write, but I have a little blog and it’s probably not what you would be interested. I longed to say something interesting, to have a fabulous answer as to what I am doing with all of my free time. I stammered and stuttered and finally looked at my husband and said, “What do I like to do?”

WHAT? WHO is this person? What made me become this shaky leaf of insecurity?

THIS IS NOT ME.

And I miss the old me. I miss being able to have dinner with my kids. I miss the woman who worked hard as a hospice nurse liaison to make sure her patients were well-informed and well cared for. I miss supporting my colleagues, working shoulder to shoulder to advocate for our patients. I miss being an expert in my field. I miss my tribe of women, whom I purposely gathered over the years – women with whom I could share my heart, who would pray for me, cook with me, or just come sit and talk to me while I did my dishes. I miss feeling like what I was doing on a daily basis was purposeful. I miss the structure. I miss familiarity.

I don’t like feeling so uncertain all of the time. I don’t like having all of this time to fill, but I also don’t want it to be filled. I’m tired and feeling lost and out-of-place all of the time. I’m tired of feeling lonely. I’m tired of having one small incident – like getting looked over for a job, or having someone not return a text – shape my whole day.

And honestly, I tire of hearing myself whine about it. (You are probably tired of hearing about it, too). As a matter of fact, I hate even writing about this, but it was one of those times I just have to vent or go crazy. So I’m not going to post this blog on social media. I am just writing for me. So if you have somehow stumbled upon this, you were meant to be here. This is one of the few times I will leave open the comment section, so if you’re reading this, I’d love for you to leave a comment. 

It’s coming up on one year in just a few months. I thought things would be settled by now, figured out. I thought I would have a sense of community, a structure, a sense of purpose. I just want everything to feel okay. Some days it does, but honestly, most days it just doesn’t.

And to be really honest, not all of this has to do with the changes that have happened in my life. I could just as easily be feeling this way back in the Northwest. I would just have work and friends to distract me. In any setting, I am a seasonal person. And I know this is simply a season.

As always, the thing that helps me get centered is to get back to the basics:

Mindful breathing when I first wake up.

Eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising.

Looking at what I am feeling, discerning what is a lie and what is the truth, and being thankful for what I have.

And I am finding what I am lacking the most, and what I am in deepest need of – time with God and remembering who I am in Him. Being okay with where I am because he has brought me here for a reason.

I find that I am often drifting down the stream and entering into a spinning whirlpool before I remember that I have had a lifeline all along. 

Lord, I need help. I know that as I look back on my life, I’ve learned the most from times of struggle, when I am pushed out of my comfort zone and am learning to rely on you, to love you in a new way, and to let you love me. Those times are what has made me life so much richer. Be with me, give me peace and strength and joy. Help me to reach out and be your loving touch to those around me. Help me to embrace this vulnerable season.

“I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that  are right with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity, to name a few.”  Brene Brown

Part 2 – Testing the Waters and Vulnerability

October 7, 2014 by Kristin Meador
 
Day 7: For the month of October, I’ve joined over 1600 other writers in a 31 Day writing challenge. You can read more about it and see the participating blogs at write31days.com  Here is the starting page for 31 Days of My Search for Balance: Body, Mind, and Soul. From there you can find all of my October posts. 
 

So yesterday I wrote about our desire for community, the lesson I learned about making my life count, and the clues I look for when searching for someone with whom I might share my heart. You can read part 1 here. So how do you test the waters when searching for community, for someone with whom to share your heart?

3. Testing the Waters.

In my search for balance, I have learned that while it’s important to share your story, not everyone is worthy of hearing it.

So when you think, “Hmmmm. This is someone I could possibly share my heart with.” The next thing I usually do is to test the waters. I used to just blurt out my story to anyone and everyone, but I learned that not everyone is worthy of my story.

“Being vulnerable means being open, for wounding . . .”  Stephen Russel

Being vulnerable and sharing your story can be scary. It is scary.

(I want to talk with you who are so afraid, or who have been so wounded that you have decided to build a wall and never share. Maybe those you trust have let you down, and you have decided. “That will never happen again.” I know that place – you feel safe, and if you never share, no one can hurt you. I want you to know this, if you build a wall, not only are you keeping out the possiblity of pain, you wall yourself off from you, and  the possiblity of connection.)

So I test the waters by sharing a piece of my story. Which piece depends on with whom I am sharing. I try to listen to my heart, and

the heart often whispers, so you need to listen carefully.

When I get the courage to share my story, I see the following reactions:

  1. “Oh” or a blank look, and then they make a joke or change the subject. This is not a person who is ready to hear any more of my story.
  2. “I know just what you mean” and then they proceed to tell me how that have been through the very same thing, only much worse, trying to one-up my story. I don’t have the energy to mess with that.
  3. Some people are so shocked, they don’t know how to respond. If someone has a need to hold me in a certain light and doesn’t want to hear about my mistakes or my flaws, well, they are living in dream land, because I am all about revealing my flaws. I find that this makes many people uncomfortable, not because they want me to be perfect, but because they have a deep fear of admitting (or sometimes even looking at) their own perfections.
  4. The person who hears part of my story, especially when I talk about my marriage or parenting mistake, and feels shame for me, then sits there awkwardly, not knowing what to say. Then I have to make them feel better. No, that is not someone with whom I will share my heart. I am learning to become friends with my shame, and that is excrutiating for many people, because shame begats shame, and when our shame is reflected back to us, it can be unbearable.
  5. The person who tries to fix it, make it better, or make a cliche’ out of my story.

So what do I look for?

I look for someone who can connect with my story. Someone who is brave enough to sit with the shame, or the pain, and just let it be. Someone who doesn’t run from it, or try to cover it or fix it.

Someone who says, “I see you, you didn’t scare me off. I may not understand where you’ve been, but I’m just going to walk alongside you.”

I have to be honest, those people are few and far between. But when you find them, they are pricelss gems, and worth hanging on to.

So  what does this look like?

Say I meet someone, and they have some of the clues I mentioned in my last post, and we decide to get together for coffee. I don’t sit down and say, “I’m so glad you joined me for coffee. How about this weather? Hey I just wanted you to know that I was abused as a child, I am a Christian but I havent attended church regularly in years, sometimes I feel like my life motto is “I hate people”, I have been through the 12-steps as a recovering bulemic and survivor of sexual abuse, I betrayed my husband and almost killed my marriage, my son moved away once to become a drug dealer, and I sometimes feel like lying to make myself look better in they eyes of others. And you?”

Embarrassingly enough, there was a time when I was so raw that I would berbally throw up on almost everyone I met. But I have learned that not everyone is worthy of my story, and that some pieces are meant to be shared with only the most precious. In conversation, I will just put out a little bread crumb, “Such and such happened when our marriage was going through a really tough time.” “We had a tough time when my son was using drugs.” “Sometimes I just don’t feel like God is listening.” And then I see if they follow the trail. If they do, then I put out another crumb. If they don’t, then I listen to their story, and go from there.

Brene Brown has done some amazing work around the concept of vulnerability. I love her words:

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.”
Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are