Posts tagged vulnerability
Processing life in times of trauma - 'When Only One Can Love'

Today I am being kind to myself. I have thrown away my to-do list. I am sitting on the sofa in my hoodie, with a blanket over my lap, sipping banana smoothies and mint tea, tissues at the ready and writing to you.

Writing to you. Writing to me. Writing to let it all go. Writing to process and make peace and move through…

sofa blanket laptop.JPG

I hadn’t planned to share this post.

Writing it wasn’t even on my to-do list (the to-do list that I have pretty much written off for this entire week).

It felt a little too raw, real and vulnerable.

But a little voice whispered ‘that’s your gift to the world, what if it helped others too’, and so I surrendered to that possibility. Knowing that in doing so it would also help me. That’s part of the beauty of it all.

The outcome was that I wrote some words that helped set me free (scroll down to see them) but first let me give you some context. That part feels important too.

Last week I wrote this post. It centred around my powerful experience at Osho Leela, of choosing to re-write a story that had been holding me back. Towards the end of that post was this paragraph:

“The shift was immediate. As the festival unfolded over the following three days, I felt myself feeling so much more connected, having conversations with ease whereas previously I struggled to initiate, forming close relationships with the girls in my dorm room, meeting people that I've met over the last couple of years and allowing myself to relaxing into their company, and even feeling the exciting spark of potential once again.”

‘the exciting spark of potential’ was actually a guy I connected with. And over the following week that connection took me to a deep and totally unexpected level.

If you’ve been in my world for some time or have read My Why (my ‘about’ page), you’ll already know that this blog, quitting my corporate career, my transition to a plant-based diet, my spiritual journey and a whole host of others powerful parts of my life were ALL as a result of my relationship with a guy with Aspergers. I even wrote about the time in my life in this bestselling book - ‘Thresholds’

I left that relationship over eight years ago, but it took me almost seven years to truly process the impact he’d had on my life and feel ready to embark on another relationship (which then broke down last year due to his complex mental health issues).

To be honest, over these last few months, I have been enjoying finding myself again, enjoying being me, enjoying flings without commitment, self exploration, travel and transience…

Then at Osho Leela I met a guy, who in oh so subtle ways in his mannerisms and way of being reminded me of Paul- the guy with Aspergers.

We connected… it was intense… it was beautiful… then overwhelm hit… then it all backtracked and my brain imploded (ok, slight exaggeration but ya get the point)

It cracked me open and triggered me at a deep level.

I got intense flashbacks, trauma that I thought I had put to bed many years ago engulfed me.

These last few days I have had no appetite, having to force feed myself smoothies and fruit. Broken sleep, waking in the middle of the night and recording voice notes to vent and process the swirling noise in my head. Writing, writing, writing. Sitting alone in the quietness of my house so that process without censoring.

I reached out for help from two friends who i knew would hold space for me. They helped me see things with more objective eyes. It was wonderful and I am glad I was able to reach out to them.

Through my conversations with them, I was hit by a new found (but now so obvious) awareness of the fact that I am always attracted to guys who display ‘aspergic tendencies’* so my brain had a freak out - it flew back to the ‘extreme’ scenario of my previous relationship and dramatically painted every possible future relationship with the same brush.

*there is no intention for labelling or judgement in that phrase- I am simply referring to personality traits, probably something to do with the fact that since I have ADHD, I too am technically somewhere on the spectrum so there is a resonance.

I’d gone down a spiral of worrying that I’d spend my entire life loving without being able to be loved in return. The pain felt so real as I re-lived my traumatic experiences with Paul in our darkest days. When I loved him so deeply but he did not have the emotional capacity to return that love, no matter how much he wanted to.

I woke up yesterday morning and re-listened to a voice note I had recoded in the middle of the night. I transcribed and tweaked it’s message to create the piece of prose below.

This is what it feels like for me when ‘only one can love’ - my experience with Paul. The experience that I have never shared openly before or even acknowledged to myself. I first shared this piece within a private group and so many people thanked me for sharing as they too could resonate with my experience of unrequited love, whatever it’s source or context.

So this is is for you if you have struggled with unrequited love.

If you resonate with my words and my feelings. Know that I hear you. I see you.

Today I am being kind to myself. I have thrown away my to-do list. I am sitting on the sofa with a blanket over my lap, sipping banana smoothies and mint tea, tissues at the ready and writing to you.

Writing to you. Writing to me. Writing to let it all go. Writing to process and make peace and move through.

It already feels lighter. I already feel more empowered. I already feel that so much more space has been created within me. I feel me.

Debris dislodged and shifted. A newfound respect for myself and my self permission to process without censoring. A spark of excited hope for my future.

There is so much beauty available in pain when you allow space for it and are willing to open your heart to the lessons it has to teach you.

As I sit here, I also see the beautiful irony in having this corner of the internet in which to share my pain in all it’s raw and beautiful humanness, a corner I would never even have created if it hadn’t been for that series of events that unfolded over eight years ago.

And I feel incredibly grateful.


WHEN ONLY ONE CAN LOVE

I get to hold your hand on the outside, but we never get to go in.

I see the party going on behind the windows, I can even hear the muffled beat of the music and I know what an amazing time everybody's having. But I'm standing outside looking in. Holding your hand, standing outside looking in.

I could let go of your hand so that I can go in on my own.

And I can have some fun, I can smile, I can listen to music and I can dance.

But I know you're still waiting outside and it always feels just a little bit empty.

That's what love is for me. When only one can love. It's always just that little bit empty.

Having someone to 'do' life with. Having someone to take my hand with laughter in their eyes as we dance through the house oblivious, having someone to hold and sway with to the music... creates a depth of connection at a whole new level.

I want someone who feels the rhythm with me. When i'm no longer just listening to the beat on my own, not just standing and dancing amongst other people in the same room when they're dancing in their own way, to their own rhythm in their own little bubbles.

They are not in ours, not in our special bubble. But you are not in ours either because you're standing outside. You were never able to come inside with me. Even though you wanted to.

But because I know you're waiting outside it still hurts and I can't fully immerse myself in what's going on around me.

It hurts. Loving someone who can't meet you in the space of that emotion. Who can hold your hand, can maybe even dip a toe in the waters edge but can never dive in.

It's always just a possibility, a dream. I can almost touch it but not quite.

Worse than if I wasn't standing at the edge at all.

If I wasn't standing there at all, the dream, the vision, the possibilities would have never even existed for me.

I wouldn't know what I was missing.

So close.

So close.

Yet once again not quite close enough to hold.


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Courage is in the choosing...

A couple of weeks ago I was very privileged to be invited into conversation with a good friend - a wonderful coach and fellow creative Ann Skinner a.k.a. The 'Heartworker'She was leading a 7-day challenge called 'Awaken Your GREATfullness' ahead of the launch of her Heartworkers Academy. I was invited as the very first guest speaker on the theme of courage!

So many things running through my mind when she reached out to invite me, namely the first being; "but I'm not courageous".  I had to sit with that thought for quite a long time, and reflect on what courage meant to me, before admitting that it wasn't true- I have indeed shown a lot of courage. 

If you'd love to watch the whole conversation here it is below, it is a wonderful exploration of what courage means (I join in the conversation around 25 minutes in).

 

 

Upon reflecting on courage what first came to mind is whether there is a difference between courage and bravery. My conclusion is that there was.  Bravery is facing a physical fear where is courage is facing an emotional fear. These are the two extremes and in reality, there are huge overlaps but I feel these are the subtle distinctions.

A moment of courage might be very insignificant to others yet holds huge meeting for us. Courage is a personal recognition and is often present in life's small moments. Whereas bravery is typically something that everyone could recognise- a physical act that we could all relate to being tough to deal with.

I then took to Google to see what there else there was to say. This idea stood out to me:

Courage and bravery are generally considered to be synonyms, yet philosophically, the two nouns differ in meaning. Courage involves the presence of fear, while bravery lacks it. Courage entails a cause, most commonly love, passion, compassion, concern, etc. Bravery maintains its essence even without a cause. Courage is a result of mindfulness; it is one’s decision to fight despite one’s fears. Bravery is an inherent characteristic; it doesn’t involve much thinking and manifests itself as second nature in those who are brave.

I love these distinctions between the physical and emotional fears. There is a much greater emotional risk attached to courage, which is why it feels easier to be courageous on behalf of others instead of ourselves.

There is also an intrinsic link between vulnerability and courage, indeed one of my favourite quotes from Brene Brown, a wonderful pioneer in the realms of vulnerability, is: 

You can't get courage without walking through vulnerability - Brene Brown

I have long found the studies around vulnerability fascinating, having written about it before. For me, showing vulnerability has become quite familiar, a daily practice. As such, to an extent it has become part of my comfort zone and the vulnerability around sharing those parts of me has subsided.

In my conversation with Ann, we discussed that initially when we do difficult things we feel the fear, yet after we have done it, it becomes the new norm and therefore we don't even think we have courage. We forget that we are courageous. Looking back and recognising that we have shown courage throughout our lives helps us to reclaim it as we go forwards.

One thing I have become very aware of in recent times, is that when someone else sees something in me, I don’t dismiss it. Who am I to say ‘I’m not courageous’, If you see that in me then it holds truth. It’s not for me to cast away your perception. Just because I can’t see my greatness, it doesn’t mean it's not there. I have slowly learnt to allow that in despite my inner dialogue often telling me otherwise! It is having an incredibly powerful impact on my life and my perception of self.

I still find myself with a battle in my mind "people don't wanna hear this stuff, I'm just a recipe blogger", ...no, "I'm a life architect and I help shift peoples thought processes and awaken creativity".  

I do that mental dance back and forth every day and it takes courage to choose the latter.

A game changer for me was The Crossroads Of Should And Must. A book I was gifted last Christmas- see the original Medium article by Elle Luna that inspired her book.

Courage is in the choosing. 

...This is what is expected of me, this is what society dictates, this is what has been done before BUT actually this is what my heart is telling me.

There might not be obvious reason and logic, the decisions that you take are often ones that don't make sense to somebody else. This takes huge courage, to forge ahead regardless.

This feels very true for me and my vegan story. I shifted to a vegan diet whilst in a previous relationship, so when that relationship ended and I fell back into my old life and routines, everyone around me expected me to snap out of that 'phase' of my life. It took huge courage to stand up and say 'this is who I am now'. The need for courage kept on growing- the first time I ate out at a restaurant, my first Christmas as a vegan, gifts from friends and family that didn't fit into my new life perspective. It was a huge act of courage in those moments which has become easier and easier over time.

Every time we wake up in the morning, whether we are conscious of it or not we have a choice, and one path is always going to require more courage than another. It’s about what we choose to lean into that in any given moment.  

It also takes courage to recognise and own the times where we didn’t choose courage and accepting that. 

Thinking back to the 'crossroads' - we might not choose the path of courage every time, we might only choose it 1 in 10 times. But, that doesn’t mean we are not courageous. If in every moment there is some aspect of choice, and courage involved in that choice, then of course we are not going to choose courage every time- we are not super heroes- we are only human.

We all have days where we choose no courage at all. It's not about all the times we didn’t, it’s focussing on all the times we did and recognising that.

Like vulnerabilty, courage has a ripple effect. It is permission giving. If you recognise and share your own courage it enables people to step into their own. This is so incredibly powerful for me in my work as a coach.

I will end these thoughts on a final quote on vulnerability by Brene Brown, something I'd love you to consider and to reach out to me if you'd like to explore more how this might be showing up in your life.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” 
 


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Showing up is saying 'YES' to life
 

I've been listening to a lot of audio by Brene Brown recently. I also have her book Daring Greatly which I am just beginning to read. She talks a lot about the concept of vulnerability which is something I am increasingly passionate about expressing in my own life buy also through discussions with others.

If you haven't come across Brene before, I highly recommend listening to this TED talk… It went viral and I can totally see why. I think she speaks to everybody.

The idea of life being a celebration of the 'journey' and not the 'destination' is not a particularly new concept, I see it bounced around in quotes on Pinterest and on the web in various forms. Yes I'm all about embracing the moment (though like most people I get caught up in the rush of life and I forget!) but I really loved Brene's spin on things.

'Showing up' is an incredibly powerful statement.

Sometimes we can fool ourselves into thinking we are stepping into our power and living up to our potential by making plans, thinking about what we will do, reading all the books, speaking the speak....

BUT 'showing up' is in the doing. It's the stepping out into real life and putting those thoughts into actions.  Showing up is the tough part; the real crux of vulnerability. It's the risk taking and the potential for failure.

Showing up is saying 'YES' to life.

It takes us out of hiding- whether that be physical or mental, there is no going back once that step has been taken. Showing up is how you present yourself to the world… Do you play big? Or do you keep yourself small? Of course it can also be a mix of both.

I have had recently been digging deeper into this in my own life. I am aware that I show up so much more powerfully in so many areas then I ever did before, yet in others I still play it small and so have been working through why that might be. I've uncovered a few key things that really stood out to me and that will form another separate post in coming weeks. I realised that in the areas of my life that are most important to me, the aspects of life where I could stand to lose most of all, the expectations of myself are so much higher that the risk of failure is the greatest.

I'd love for you to take a moment to reflect on how are you showing up in life. Are you where you want to be or are you holding back? I'd love to have a conversation with you on this, a totally complimentary brainstorm from a space of curiosity.

Get in touch if you are ready to step out and get curious.

P.s that photo is of me half way round the Tough Mudder obstacle course when I'd just climbed out of a huge vat of ice water... at that point i'm not sure if the pain was more mental or physical!!

 


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