Updated: Jul 2, 2020
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.” - C. S. Lewis
Vulnerability, eh. If you cringe at the word, take some kind of offence and your stomach is in knots— then rest assured you’re in very good company. As I write this, I am bundled up in my lamb wool blanket on the couch at home amongst the lush greenery on the property I live on. The open plan windows of my home look out to the rain that hasn’t stopped pouring for hours. Perfectly apt to how I am thus feeling. I am sipping an unusual drink of choice; reishi mushroom powder, cacao, tahini and honey. For all aesthetic purposes, I am living in pintrest board paradise. My internal world on the other hand is a different scene entirely. It is quite sore and tender, carrying the weight of grief in this present moment as it sits heavily in the pit of my stomach. My thoughts are chaotic and almost deafening, the chatter of an unwelcome party going on inside my head. Writing is cathartic as I find it helps me to navigate and sift through this muddled mess. The rain keeps pouring as I settle into this all too familiar feeling of anguish.
When I was younger I was an absolute little ragamuffin. Always getting up to mischief. I would climb trees. I would fall out often. I would come home covered in bruises. I had such calloused feet because I would hardly ever wear shoes, much to the distress of my mother. She would treat my wounds and would implore me to give it time to heal. I have a vivid memory of once painting nail polish on my eyelids because it seemed like a fantastic idea at the time. Then subsequently pouring nail polish remover on my eyes to try and remove the polish. Safe to say, I don't think I could see for a week. Imagine if she had just left me to my own devices without treating the wounds. What initially may have been just a scratch, or a little burn can turn into something inestimably worse if left untreated. How often do we address the wounds our heart carries? How often do we stop and ask ourselves, why am I in such pain? Is there something deeper going on here that this situation is triggering? Do we take the time to understand why and are we kind enough to ourselves and to others, to afford ourselves the arduous and beautiful journey of healing. There is no one reading this who is exempt from heartache. There is no one who hasn’t been both the one hurt and the one hurting.
“To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees—these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. But I’m learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude, and grace.” - Brene Brown.
Some of the bravest words one can ever utter is; “I am really struggling right now with this” To be courageous enough to show up in the midst of falling apart and to invite people into the process. You give permission for others to be real with where they're at and there in lies the connection our hearts yearn for. Only when we make space for ourselves can we make space for others. Oh, but to be sure, there is quite a difference with being "open" about how you're feeling and at the same time closing your heart off to any form of inviting anyone into that space. "Here I am! But this is the limit. This is how close you can get. Don't come any further. I have been too hurt before, I don't trust anyone now." There is no healing nor is there any true connection being made. The one thing you yearn for as all hearts do, is to love and be loved. Ironically and sadly, you push away the one thing you desire most of. I have struggled with and if I am to be honest, I still do with feeling ashamed with what I am going through. Fear that I am a burden. Fear that I will be hurt if I let someone in as I have been so profoundly hurt in the past. I am known as the wild, happy and fun loving rah! I can't possibly show people that my internal world is falling apart at the seams. I need to make sure everyone around me is okay. But how on earth am I able to help those around me, if I myself haven't tended to the very real issues of my heart that needs to be dealt with. I think of being on an airplane and one of the safety measures is making sure you first reach for the oxygen mask yourself before helping anyone else in an event of an emergency. I am so thankful for the friends in my life who I have been able to collapse into a puddle of weeping, of having the space to just be myself and not have to put on airs. I am learning to be kinder to myself about how I am feeling, about situations that trigger deeper issues going on and not feeling as though I have to suffer alone. Acknowledging areas I desire to grow in, people whom I need to forgive and those whom I need to seek the forgiveness of. Now this requires a level of vulnerability that we don’t always feel comfortable with, in fact it's something we do everything and anything else to avoid.
"Oh, gentle heart -
Take my honour in hand;
Be wrapped like an infant
In my care and nurture.
In your aches and your glories
I rejoice in you, truly,
As you fumble and flourish
In finding yourself."
When you are a child there is never a qualm in being honest with how you’re feeling at all times. As we get older we are conditioned subtly and not-so-subtly by the culture around us that you need to make sure that no one knows what is reaaaallllllyyyy going on beneath the surface. We have the tendency to live such filtered lives. If people really knew what was going on, it makes you vulnerable and therefore vulnerable to hurt. Our whole culture is built around avoiding pain at ALL costs. Medicate this. Sleep with this person. Holiday here. Binge watch this show. Take up this hobby. Anything and everything to avoid dealing with the very prevalent and real issues of pain. There is nothing wrong with some of the things this world offers, but we have to ask ourselves— am I trying to fill a void with these things that I am pursuing? We live half alive. Heavily induced by the entertainment our culture affords us to numb the pain of the reality of living. All temporary seemingly easy fixes that cause more damage to your soul in the long run.
“I am absolutely convinced that meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain; meaninglessness comes from being weary of pleasure. And that is why we find ourselves emptied of meaning with our pantries still full.” - Ravi Zacaharias.
What you present to the world ends up being your least authentic self. Shrouded in shame and the walls you have encased yourself in, you suffer silently. Alone. Encumbered by offences and bitterness. I know that what I have touched on is a can of worms. It is the sting of dettol or tea tree oil your mother would cover your sores in, to bade off infection so as to allow fully formed healing to take place. I know I am barely even scratching the surface in speaking on such tender and personal things. I don’t know who is reading this. I don’t know what you are going through. I don’t have all the answers as to why and I am truly so sorry if you have suffered for so long, alone. What I do know and what I can offer, that is entirely yours to either reject or accept and personally encounter, is hope. Hope that is powerful to comfort and motivate. For we may not understand everything we see with the limited and finite capacity that we posses, but there is a hope that stands above it all and is able to save us from the pit we have found ourselves in. Regardless if it is self-inflicted or not. For me personally, what has helped me through suffering and sorrow is my faith in the God of bible whom-
“...is near to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”— Psalm 34:18.
He has infinite capacity to carry you through the despair you are in. He is more than able to restore that which has been broken and retrieve that which has been lost. He is not exempt from your pain, He is not disengaged with the suffering of humanity. No one can can carry the insurmountable burdens of humanity but I know He who does. Only He alone is able to bestow unto you beauty for ashes. No one and nothing is ever too far gone, not even death itself has the final say. I realise how often I say this but for as long as I am able, this will be the song my soul sings.
It is okay to not be okay. It is okay if the actions of another or their lack of has hurt you. It is okay if you have regret. It is okay if you are ashamed of how you are feeling. It is okay to fall apart, come back together and fall apart again. There is no rush, there is no hurry. Allow yourself time to heal. Create. Walk along the beach. Yell at the sunset. Weep in your bed and then weep some more. Eat well. Take time off social media. Rest. There are so many practical things that we forget are of such value that aid in the healing of our souls. I implore you though, to not stay in this valley of weeping, do not make a home in suffering. There may be resistance and difficulty at first in facing your wounds, but as this exert from one of my favourite books so eloquently puts it—
“…gradually we learn something very precious under the tutelage of these wounds. We learn a compassion for others that replaces judging, self-loathing, and the compulsion to find someone to blame. We learn a reverent joy before our wounds that replaces the condemnation of and comparison of ourselves with others that used to fuel our anxiety. We learn that consummation of self-esteem is self-forgetful abandonment to the Silence of God that gives birth to loving service of all who struggle. What could we have learned without the help of our wounds, our brokenness, our failure? They have been the source of so much wisdom.”— Martin Laird ’Into the Silent Land’
I feel that there is still so much yet to say, the perfectionist in me dies a slow but necessary death. I can only share that which I have lived through and continuing to do so. Ever-learning how to be as authentic with the journey that I am on with myself and others. May you find solace for your heart and a semblance of hope amongst these words. Oh, can you taste the freedom we all so desperately long for! It is not far too far off, the sweet meadows of liberty for your soul to abound in.
photo on film taken by yours truly, paradise cafe, brisbane, november 2019