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