“It is only by letting go of all your defenses that you become invulnerable,” Jessica Macbeth writes.
There may be no better time to write about vulnerability than right now, in April, this very moment, as the land becomes soft and supple again, as seeds start to sprout and roots start to take hold. The process of growth can only be accomplished if the seedling allows itself to trust the ground it was planted in, allows itself to be exposed to sunlight and water, trusting that these elements exist in the world and they’ll find their ways to its growing ground. These are all forms of vulnerability; we can learn a lot from seeds and spouts.
In comics, television, movies, just culture in general in the United States, invulnerability is lauded one of the best powers to have. It appears people, especially women, are supposed to strive to achieve a specific kind of invulnerability in their daily lives. “You’re too sensitive,” is an insult. “Don’t take it personally” or “It’s not personal, it’s just business.”
But there is untold power in vulnerability.
Vulnerability is the kind of superpower that we can all learn, and it starts by giving yourself permission.
There is power in giving yourself permission: what would you make if you gave yourself permission? What would your life look like if you did the same? Allowing yourself to dream, and then sharing those dreams, as well as championing them in others is a skill not only do not many people have, but often we’re taught we’re not allowed to dream about certain things. What if you gave yourself permission to dream? What would your dreams look like?
There is power in loving honesty: lots of people pride themselves on being brutally honest. I don’t know why, brutal honesty is just a masquerade for laziness. Loving honesty takes more effort and energy, but, also, can be more true than the brutal kind any day. Often loving honesty comes from a place of tremendous vulnerability, exposing the parts of your soul to someone that you may have hidden even from yourself.
There is power in rebuilding: sometimes we have to tear down old structures before we can properly rebuild them. Stripping ourselves, our souls, our work down to the bare bones and exposing the copper wiring underneath, and letting the world take peek takes a special balance of not worrying about what other people think, but being conscious enough to know what to re-vision about ourselves and our work.
There is power in asking: asking for our needs to be met is an incredible act of vulnerability. And sometimes, the person we’re asking will say no, or will be unable to meet our request. It’s okay to be disappointed. Don’t let that stop you from asking. Preparing for the worst case scenario, expecting the worst from people, steeling yourself against disappointment is a fiction we tell ourselves about why it’s okay that we don’t have deep, soulful connections with ourselves and others. Give yourself permission to ask what needs in your life need to be met and how you can ask others to help you satisfy them.
There is power in loving with wild abandon: love is like fire, it doesn’t diminish when shared, but increases in size. Are you love starved? Lovelorn? War torn? How would your life and your work change if you gave yourself permission to love yourself and the people you’re closest to in complicated ways, without definitions, without constraints? What if you took the leash off your love and let it run freely in the wildflowers, collecting petals and pollen along the way? We’re only on this planet for a short time, a blip on the geological timeline. Do you really want to waste another moment not telling people you love that you love them?
All of these are forms of vulnerability and there’s power in each of them.
So dig down deep into the earth this month, kindred. My wish for you is that you’ll find sprouts of your own.