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Seeking Vunerability

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 “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” – Brené Brown 

 

The day my father died, I closed up my heart, shut out the world and the light….and plunged into darkness.  I was 40, had just been married (my dad could not attend due to his health), and now a pain, a loss too great to bear, had seared my heart.

 

But this covering up of my light actually happened 15 years before his death.  The day the doctors told us that our father had Alzheimer’s started me down that path of darkness.  And I could not bear to talk about it.  And who would or could talk to me?  Not my family.  If we didn’t speak about it, then maybe it would go away.  So we never did speak.  We still have not spoken about any of this even 16 years after his death, that is how painful it is to each of us.

 

I said my goodbyes six months before he died, when hospice was called in.  I flew from NY to AZ numb, so much uncertainty I just could not bear it.  We did not know how much time he had left so I wanted to see him even though he did not know who I was.  Do you have any idea how rip-out-your-heart awful it is to have your father not know you?  Not be able to talk to you even though he is sitting right in front of you.  It is a special kind of torture.  But that last time I spoke to him, he seemed to know me for just a minute or two…you could see the cloud lift from his eyes and the sparkle of life return.  I told him of the upcoming wedding, and he answered that was good…..which was code for I am glad you have finally found someone special.  And while his moment of recognition buoyed me, soon after I was plunged into a deep despair again knowing he would not be with me on my wedding day.

 

These deep rooted agonizing feelings have been with me too long now.  I have built up great pain avoidance so as not to deal with them…keeping them at arm’s length.  And with so much pain avoided, there was a lot of time wasted in my life.  Time where I just existed, but did not really live.  You see when I shut myself up, I avoided the world and all other feelings.  And that included joy, especially joy.  And while this is all natural you may say, I think it is the worst thing I could have done….because once started it is hard to stop the avoidance.

 

DSCN6056But even though the road has been slow and it took 16 years to work through, I have learned from these dark times.  I don’t avoid pain anymore.  Instead I embrace the pain and other discomforting feelings because they are an important part of me, and must be dealt with.  They do not go away if we avoid them.  They stay like a fog blocking the light from every part of our life.  And I have to say, I was pretty darned tired of the darkness surrounding my heart.  The high walls and shields built around me.

 

I no longer run from these vulnerabilities as they are sometimes called.  Please don’t call them weaknesses….being vulnerable is not being weak.  Being vulnerable is allowing your strength and courage to shine through as you embrace your weaknesses, your pain and sorrow.  Vulnerability is facing pieces of life that cannot be cast aside.  So how did I face mine.  I learned how to identify my comforts…what brought me to calm.  I learned to play more.  But I think my breakthrough came when I got to know my Superpower.  What is a Superpower, you ask?

 

In a course I took about vulnerability from Brené Brown, we were taught to look for this Superpower; our higher purpose, that which inspires us.  This was a life changer for me because now I could identify where my life flowed from…where my center could be found.  I found my Superpower was and is communication.  And this blog is part of that Superpower.  It all clicked for me one day, and I knew where I needed to head next in my life.  Where I had found my greatest joys previously when I was connected to this center….writing!  So now I write as therapy.  I write to stay in touch with feelings, good and bad.  I write to plumb the depths of my despair so I can shine a light on it finally…for when the light is there, darkness cannot stay.

 

And while the pain is still great when I think of my dad’s disease and death, I can talk about it now.  I hope to write about it in greater detail one day.  Without the darkness, my heart is open.  And life is renewed.  I am still feeling my way along the path as it is a bit rocky some days, but now I am walking down the road of life again.  Embracing all the uncertainties, seeking out those things I previously hid from…those vulnerabilities that now bring me the greatest joys in my life.

 

 

Note:  The Hepatica here represents Confidence in the Language of Flowers.

 

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I leave you with another thought about vulnerability and strength.  Feel free to download the photo and share.

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All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

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14 Comments

  1. November 27, 2014    

    A wise post. A post gained through pain, through loss – and finally through intense courage.
    Our vulnerabilities are only a weakness while we deny them and ignore them.
    Properly acknowledged they are a huge first step towards life – and away from existence.

    • November 29, 2014    

      Soosie how perfect your words: ‘Our vulnerabilities are only a weakness while we deny them and ignore them’….if we can learn this and have a bit of courage our life becomes so much more and we finally thrive! Thank you for your beautiful words!

  2. November 27, 2014    

    Wonderful post Donna. It does take courage to be vulnerable. It is always so interesting to me that when I both own my vulnerable heart *and* share it with others, that they warm to me more! Everybody wants a real person to interact with. I guess we hide those vulnerabilities out of fear. I’m still trying to understand why I do that at times. Love on Thanksgiving Day! Susie

    • November 29, 2014    

      I think Susie we are taught to be strong and showing fear makes us weak so we hide it all away….I feel so much more authentic, happy and alive when I feel it all and show it too….I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We are with family and that has made this Thanksgiving the best!

  3. November 27, 2014    

    I think it takes courage to be so revealing and you certainly found your superpower Donna as this is such an honest account of pain and loss and illness and coverups and all without the twist of pathos or the safety net of detachment p.s. Hepaticas are divinely tender looking so was surprised by their flower meaning of Confidence – perhaps it is the liverish emotion of anger which gives vulnerability its strength!

    p.s. Happy Thanksgiving Donna and my thanks for a blogging friendship

    • November 29, 2014    

      Laura I am grateful to you around this holiday time as you continue to be such an incredible blogging friend. I love your take on hepatica. It is delicate and yet it blooms bravely in the cold of early spring here which I think may be one reason it exudes Confidence. This post was a long time coming and being with family who read it, very healing.

  4. November 27, 2014    

    This is so brave of you to share…It must have been terrible..I am glad you were able to build strength of that.. Happy Thanksgiving.. Michelle

    • November 29, 2014    

      Hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful Michelle. It took a while to find that courage and stop hiding these raw feelings, but now that they are finally out my healing is beginning.

  5. November 27, 2014    

    Hi Donna, oh my, this is thought provoking, I read your post this morning and have thought about it on and off all day, today, I am sorry to read that your Dad had Alzheimer’s, my grandmother had the same condition. We were very close and the last year of her life was spent in a home, I have always regretted that I did not visit her more than I did, even though she did not know me anymore. I could of, we lived 30 minutes drive away but I was very busy with my head in the sand. I can relate to your feeling of pain avoidance but for me thats pain at my guilt avoidance. I am very glad you found your Superpower too, I am enjoying these thought provoking posts.

    • November 29, 2014    

      Thanks Julie….I had lots of guilt around my Dad’s illness because I couldn’t bear to visit with him for very long or often because it was so painful…but that is another vulnerability I am working through too.

  6. November 28, 2014    

    Donna, This is such an important insight. It is so tempting to avoid pain by numbing ourselves and blocking it out. But that emotional anesthesia doesn’t just block the emotions we are trying to avoid, but also the positive ones like joy. I love the idea of finding your superpower as something that will allow you to feel the pain and thereby begin getting beyond it.

    • November 29, 2014    

      Jean, it is amazing when things finally click in our lives if we just let them…but that blocking and numbing are so easy to do and I was a pro at it….now I find letting the emotions flow is so much more joyful. I am sure many people may not understand that with the pain comes the joy. But the pain is lessened and your life simply soars with happiness once you allow pain in…thanks Jean for your wonderful comment and friendship!

  7. November 30, 2014    

    Donna, thank you for this. You’re so lovely and brave. I find myself often doing the same — trying to bury pain — or worse, maybe, trying to talk myself out of it: “I shouldn’t feel this way. I should pull myself together…” It’s another avoidance tactic or form of denial, but disguised as an attempt to be strong. I really appreciate what you say about the difference between vulnerability and weakness — it’s very helpful right now. Warmth and light to you, my friend.

    • November 30, 2014    

      Stacy I am so glad you found the post helpful. The most healing thing I have done so far has been to write this post. And if it helps one person, I am joyful my friend. I wish you many hugs, and much light and peace!

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