I haven’t written anything for a few days over a week, but I have either been creative, organised creative things, or have been working for money. Creatively, I’m working on my first production pair production prototype pair of roller skates* and I’m scoping out activities and engagements for next year. I’ve also discovered that fundamental to any activity I participate in is the need to open up to vulnerability.
My Desire Map planner for next year arrived in the post… I freaked out about the commitment I was making to working on plans that matter most to me… I then played solitaire on the computer… the next morning opened up my Desire Map workbook and began the initial exercises again. What lifts me up? What do I crave? Where do I hurt? To my surprise, I still have the same drives that I had about 6 months ago – I thought that my earlier responses to the questions would have been shaped by the monumental changes that I’d been going through (ending a long and troubled relationship) and that recent responses would be shaped by the monumental changes I’m currently in the midst of (in-between houses, in-between jobs, in-between transportational freedom). Both sets of responses confirmed, though, “this is who I am, this is what I crave, this is where I am wounded”.
I am, like so many other people, deeply afraid of being vulnerable. Stories will differ, but someone has hurt us when our tender parts were exposed. People have said cruel and useless things, and we’ve been stung by their thoughtless and crappy behavior. For me, deeply engrained is the concept that being less-than-stellar at something is an invitation for verbal and emotional attack.
My peak vulnerability is when I am learning something new and am invested in improving my skills (eg yoga, sewing, and writing). To protect my vulnerability I am defensively (and aggressively) private, I focus on perfection, and I also hesitate to the point of not beginning anything. I’m stubbornly independent, I don’t let people see how much I still need help, and I have a fantastic mask in place about how-great-I-am-at-doing-things and that I’ve-got-my-shit-together. This behavior is isolationist – for me, for those close to me, and for my peers.
Recently I started working through own vulnerability by ensuring those I let in to my life are respectful and loving and honestly acknowledging that it’s okay when I get things wrong. In the past I’ve been terrible at respecting my boundaries for acceptable behaviour and have kept myself in distressing situations. Also, while I’m pretty accepting when other people get things wrong (except when they do so with blinding consistency and pig-headedness), I’m far less compassionate with myself. These days I’m taking good steps towards good mental health, but my actions are still internalised, invulnerable manoeuvers. I’m still fucking managing vulnerability, minimizing emotional fall-out.
By going back through the Desire Map and connecting with the feelings that underlie why and how I do things, I saw clearly that by not being explicit about the process of working through, and sitting with, the things that scare me I wasn’t able to do the one thing that really I do best – make authentic connections with others and open the doors to acceptance and forgiveness. Now I’m taking off the mask of I’ve-got-that-(self) compassion-shit-together and am honestly working with how tricksy I can make my life. I’ve been stumped by how many people are saying “I feel that way too!”, and while it’s a good feeling, I’m primarily doing this thing for myself. I cannot truly accept my vulnerability until I get down to the raw bones, to stop hiding behind masks (I’ve been working for a few hours about how to phrase these thoughts, but I know that I’m on the right path when my eyes start to prickle and my throat constrict.)
I have a powerful drive to help and encourage others, particularly downtrodden souls. The inexperienced execution of this drive has put me in shitty situations, and hurt others as well, but I’m not jaded; connecting with people is what I do most naturally. For me to help and encourage others, I need to be compassionate. For me to be compassionate, I need to be compassionate with myself. For me to be compassionate with myself, I need to acknowledge and accept all of me, particularly the aspects that are scared, that hurt. My focus on helping others work through creative indecision and uncertainty is hollow and unfulfilling unless I am explicit with how I relate to such feelings myself.
* I had thought that I had the production method down pat, then I swapped sewing machines and gave myself a whole new heap of things to deal with. Fuck.