Recently a series of things have crossed and intertwined and made me realise the weakness that I have let grow and fester inside me. Now I don’t mean a weakness like my love of pizza or my serious obsession with Hellmans vegan bacon mayo (put it on EVERYTHING, seriously!).
I’m talking about something that might have traditionally been perceived as weakness but is actually a strength. I’m talking about vulnerability and the thing that has grown and festered inside me is the inability to be vulnerable.
I used to be one of the most positive and optimistic people you could meet and I don’t mean the toxic positivity of never having a bad day. I mean I was hopeful. I brimmed with hope. I was filled with the stuff. Things can only get better after all, or if you want the sarcastic version ‘well they can’t get any worse.’ Being hopeful and optimistic is hugely made up of being vulnerable. You open yourself up to disappointment by being hopeful and optimistic. If you’re pessimistic there’s no vulnerability because you’re either pleasantly surprised or knew it was coming. There is no shield of ‘I knew it wouldn’t work out’ in hope.
Despite the hope that wouldn’t seem to die inside me, I had bad days. Dark days, weeks and months. Though use of dark suggests there was a place to hide and there wasn’t. I was shrouded in these instances, in a burning white so bright there was no room for anything to blossom. The land was barren, nothingness stretched out for miles. That nothing was laid bare, stifling imagination. There was no dark for monsters to hide in and the stark clinical brightness that seemed to take me over was more depressing than anything.
Even with dark days, with heartache, with poor mental health. I was a person who let her heart break over and over again but always moved onto the next thing with wild abandon. Trusted the next person like I’d not really been hurt just months earlier. I was open. Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t a great adventurer, I wasn’t trying weird cuisine or jumping off waterfalls but I was open hearted. Ready to love the next story, friend, animal or thing that came along like nothing before had hurt me.
I don’t know what happened but somewhere along the way I started to shut down. So much so that I wouldn’t even be vulnerable with myself. I haven’t allowed myself to become involved with fiction, with the same wild abandon I once had in a long time.
Over 24 hours I had a sort of epiphany guided by the media I’ve consumed and I feel like, in the wall of thorns and cracks built around my heart flowers are starting to grow. Deep blood red roses that are reigniting green passions once lost.
Firstly I watched the Call To Courage by Brené Brown on Netflix.
The special is a talk from the shame expert about what it takes to choose courage over comfort in todays culture and in turn choose vulnerability.
Watching it I felt shame at first. Shame because I no longer seemed to be the courageous person I was once. I always used to choose courage over comfort, and though I haven’t gone against my principles and followed the crowd, I have in a sense retreated into a cycle of the same thing over and over because it is comforting and I already now the outcome.
Then, once the shame dissipated there was a wide-eyed, lightbulb moment. A moment of clarity as I began to unravel and unpick my creative blocks, my relaxation blocks, my inability to find those moments of pure crystallised joy in the things I once loved.
It helped me realise that my strength. The strength I had before was born of the ability to be vulnerable without caveats. To walk into the unknown and devote myself to it. My strength came from being hurt over and over but still coming to the new situation with an open heart.
Later that day I went to see Black Widow.
“Pain only makes us stronger.” Melina says to Natasha and Natasha says that lesson ingrained in her has kept her alive but also allowed her to keep her heart.
Melina is not wrong.
It reminded me of a quote from another film I love; ‘The person who risks nothing, has nothing, does nothing.” Evelyn Greenslade proclaims in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. What is vulnerability if not risk? What is hope if not the risk to look foolish in front of the cynical. It’s all risk.
The reason my life feels like it might have been so much richer 5 years ago is because I always got back up and moved onto the next thing. I fell in and out of love with fiction, (listen I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I have a relationship with fiction the way people have relationships with…. you know actual human beings), with abandon. Knowing that there would always be another to love, to obsess over, to learn everything about.
I did things I enjoyed because I enjoyed them and I rarely assessed and pulled apart the risk.
I sincerely don’t know what happened. I think part of it could be down exposure to toxic positivity, part of it could be due to the exposure to people telling me I’m not allowed to put a positive spin on the things I’ve experienced. Some things in life are horrible, but at the end of the day I wouldn’t be here and who I am if not for the very specific events that led here and I’m sorry but pain really does make you stronger.
Pain makes you wiser, deeper, it makes you appreciate more, without pain we wouldn’t have the art we have, without pain I never would have honed my fiction writing skills. Pain is a necessary evil that we all must endure to grow.
The most important thing is that we take that pain, even long lasting and we still move on with an open heart.
Pain isn’t wrong. It’s essential. Just as anger and sadness and grief are. Pain is where you find courage, to push through.
There’s been a trend recently that I’ve seen online of people saying we shouldn’t call people dealing with pain and grief and strife brave. And I’ve realised I fundamentally disagree with that. People are bravest in their pain. They come out of pain with courage and resilience.
And no I’m not saying crippling depression, abuse, or anything serious is necessary but I’m saying that pain, heartache, loss and all those things that cause us pain are important and the message to keep rising is important. The message to dust your knees off and try again is important.
I realised that this message of ‘these things happen but they shouldn’t’ has started to take it’s toll on me. It’s infiltrated parts of my brain because no they shouldn’t happen but they do and so we get back up. We fight back. You’re allowed a break and self-care and all that stuff but you must get back up and try again. You must get up and fight again.
Going forward I’m going to actively try to transform my brain back to this pattern of risk taking and vulnerability. Utilising the courage to act a fool, to grow, to leap into things without knowing the outcome. Because in general the worst thing that can happen is I end up hurt or embarrassed and really neither of those things is so terrible.