To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength. ― Criss Jami
I don’t do vulnerable. I just don’t. I don’t feel it. I don’t want to feel it. To be vulnerable is to be weak. That’s what my head tells me. I don’t want to be weak. I am not weak. Therefore I am not vulnerable. Done. Moving on.
It is in vulnerability that beauty lies. In those soft, tender places, the exposed underbellies, is the heart of it all.
Perhaps my need to be invulnerable came from my parents. My father was abusive to my mother. Eventually she freed herself from him, but he left her with an awful financial mess. That was never going to happen to me. I was going to be strong.
The good: I’ve stood up to bullies, stalkers and others who would have made me a victim. The bad: I don’t always get what I need emotionally.
As I am transitioning into the next phase of my life, I am beginning to dance with my vulnerability. And I’m finding it a bit uncomfortable. But that’s okay because I’m learning how to be uncomfortable. Not only to be uncomfortable, but to seek that discomfort. Because it is there that the magic happens, that change occurs.
Call it growing pains.
This has come from what I think is an unlikely place: exercise. I’ve been exercising for many years. It has always been all about strength. But in January I started a regular yoga practice. And not just any yoga. Ashtanga yoga. I didn’t go looking for it; it found me. This is not the peaceful, restful yoga I’d been toying with for years. It’s sweaty, hard work. I don’t always look forward to going, but I’m always glad I went.
My shoulders have been tight for years from writing. My hips and hamstrings followed suit when I started running a few years ago (I’ve since stopped). This, of course, makes yoga even harder. That I have always been fairly flexible, that I loved backbends and handstands for most of my life, frustrates me now. I have to make modifications. There was a time that I would have powered through, without “cheating,” persistent in my quest to “get” a pose. And yeah, at first, I was doing that.
But then I stopped.
I always try the “right” way first (otherwise how will I know I’m ready?), but I will modify so that I get the form right. And I’m finding that, even with modification, I am frequently uncomfortable.
That’s a good thing. Really, it is.
The discomfort helps me find my limits, then push past them. The discomfort allows me to accept assistance from the instructor. To be vulnerable. To not be strong and able. In front of other people (who are not paying any attention to the redhead in the back corner anyway, but still).
Now I find myself looking for that discomfort, because I know when I get there, when I feel like I want to pull back but don’t, that I am not standing still. And while my breathing is labored and my legs are shaking and my brain is screaming stop, I look my vulnerability, my weakness, in the eye. And I say hello.
I’m getting to know it. Maybe even learning to love it. And I hope, soon, that I will be able to share it.