In my last post I described some of what I love about vulnerability, leaving the impression perhaps that for me, being vulnerable always either feels like Pop Rocks on your tongue or smells clean and alive like fresh cut tulip stems.
And that is perfectly true, at times. But I’d be lying by omission if I didn’t venture to share a glimpse of another way of experiencing vulnerability with which I’m also quite familiar.
The hurt hurts more, each painful particle throbs and seems to multiply without the emotional calluses built up to dull the pain, to curb and stifle its chaotic ricochet.
And when I’ve been jabbed or stabbed or scraped or pricked in any of those inner delicate places, I’m all instinct and reaction, filterless flow turned on full blast to let loose a current of offense and assault.
I get wildly irrational; or perhaps it’s actually perfectly rational to lash out when wounded, perhaps it’s the attempt at indifference that’s so much more lacking in rationality.
Because I do that, too; try to be indifferent about the hurt, or at least try to convey indifference to it. If I can’t convince myself of it, then at least I’d better convince you that you can’t hurt me, that whatever you did or didn’t do or thought or wanted to do didn’t just completely render me wrecked. By withdrawing myself and my emotions, I feel like I’m making it known that you were nowhere near enough my heart to hurt it, which lets my poor old hurt-hardened heart believe that I’ve managed to turn the pain around on you, while actually morphing it into an amalgam of anger and shame and resentment that I carry, the sum of which harms me less.
That visibility, the recognition of my pain by someone else, embarrasses me to no end; it makes me feel like the ultimate sucker of Life. Like I was fool enough to think I was worthy of something more, to think that you cared for me or respected me or loved me or liked me enough to be honest, decent, kind. For some reason I tend to think that the world is conspiring to make me believe that I’m better than I am, that everyone likes me more than they do; I expect that when I’m actually convinced of it, I will fall so crushingly hard on my face that pavement burn will be my scarlet hashtag of shame, broadcasting to everyone my indulgent and misguided naiveté, and in so doing, revealing just how little anyone actually thinks of me.
I’ve never admitted that in words that can be read or read aloud before.
It’s like talking about vulnerability makes you want to be more vulnerable.
Like maybe Tyler Durden got it either very wrong or very right, depending on your point of view.
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Sometimes vulnerability feels like when you reach up to grab something and your stomach peeks out from your shirt. Your flesh and your secrets exposed. Whether or not they are secrets at all, all those tender struggles that we futilely wish our silence will render unseen, inconspicuous, not real.
And sometimes vulnerability is spit spraying from your mouth as you speak, your unpretty pieces showcased and hanging from pins on the wall, wondering if the person you’re speaking to will pretend it didn’t happen or call you out, or worst of all, keep silent but judge you and carry it with them, that label of you as the icky spitty speaker, the disgusting grunt who can’t keep her saliva in her own damn mouth.
Threatens to take every accomplishment and grace and turn it into a reason for someone to look for a flaw, to knock the cocky full-of-herself girl down a few much-needed pegs. So I try to address my own flaws first, in an attempt to pre-empt the attack, to show myself as already down those few pegs so no one else feels like they’ve got to do it for me.
~ ???? ~ ???? ~
As I wrote in my last post, there is a part of me that finds it easy to be vulnerable – that feels some joy from it, even when it’s sticky and anxious and cold. But I’ve come to wonder if the act of proclaiming one’s vulnerability, of planting that flag firmly in the ground, isn’t in fact a way to reclaim control, to in fact lessen the degree of vulnerability being reached.
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