I’ve lived some days in the last little while, almost as if existing via an out of body experience. The experience of losing a dear friend has been a stand out moment in my life for several reasons. First and foremost, I only ever experienced this much grief as an adult twice; in the diagnosis of my son with Cystic Fibrosis and now secondly with Jess’ passing. Sure I’ve experienced grief on various levels losing grandparents and older family members, but somehow, that didn’t feel so gut wrenching, not because I didn’t love them dearly but because they had lived a full life for a really long time.
As the last 3 weeks have rolled by, I’ve had to step into a really busy period of time. And whilst life goes on, I felt as though it was all going on around me, yet I was stuck in-between it all, like some parallel universe. I had speaking gigs, patients to attend to, a household to run, a clinic to direct, staff to watch over, a family to care for and all the while, I was sitting in my stuff; stuck. I can tell you this much. One of the most challenging things I’ve ever had to do is grieve with kids at my ankles. Not allowing ourselves to fully feel emotions as they sweep over us, is a recipe for disaster. I remember reading one of Brandon Bay’s books – The Journey, in which he speaks about the grieving process and that it must be FULLY embodied for 3 days. It blew my mind and any previous level of understanding of the grieving process I had. Looking back though and in my recent experience, it makes sense – because how many people do you know who are still stuck grieving something they dearly loved and lost, a lifetime ago? How many people are stuck in their stuff? Because the alternative, is vulnerability – and as it seems, when trying to push on and get through the day-to-day priorities and commitments in life, allowing all those feelings to surface and to step in and embody that vulnerability isn’t our default or the nicest place to sit..
For these past few weeks, I’ve remained mostly shut. I shut down my emotions. I shut down my heart. I shut down on my usual levels of good nutrition, I shut down on adequately feeding my body, heart and soul. And even though I probably knew I was shutting it all out, whilst in it, I couldn’t identify with it. It was a place I wasn’t used to hovering. I went about delivering the same corporate presentation that I’d done so many times before, but this time it was such an effort to get the words out. I struggled to deliver on the level I would ordinarily be proud of. In the three years I’ve been on the speaking circuit, I knew this day would likely come – I just didn’t expect it to be now. I wasn’t bringing ‘it’ to any area of my life. As days have slipped by, I’ve been able to grieve a little more, but my heart has remained shut off.
I’m ok admitting that I totally dislike being in that vulnerable space. Logic wouldn’t ordinarily tell me that in my vulnerability there was strength and I needed to step into it’s swampy realm, when in it I was too closed to see it. I thought what I was doing was stepping up and getting on with the job – to give to others what they needed. This was actually, in hindsight the polar opposite from the truth. Even though I felt as though I was getting the ‘job’ of day-to-day tasks done, it was only with a part of me. You know, my ability to speak and bring it to the stage has always rested upon my openness and vulnerability. For my audience to experience authenticity; that has always been my connection to my listeners. Take out the key ingredient and something pretty big is missing. If my cup isn’t full, I don’t have anything to flow onto others.
Stepping into vulnerability can take strength because until we are able to step outside our comfort zone, we simply can’t grow. Until we can own our stuff, admit our feelings, our downfalls and our weaknesses, we’re acting via a shopfront. Pretty for all to see, but what’s hiding back there in the store room?
True strength and leadership lies in owning our not so great stuff along with ALL the good stuff.
I read this in the Huffington Post, in an article by Viral Mehta. He said, “if we embrace our vulnerability, we can fully accept the discomfort and learn to observe our entire reality deeply and intimately – just the way it is.” He also went on to say, that in being authentic in any given moment in which we feel wounded, we have to honestly acknowledge the places where we feel hurt and then muster up the strength to just be with that pain. This takes tremendous courage because as humans it isn’t like us to choose or allow pain. But here’s the best part of what he tapped out, it’s that it takes courage to be vulnerable and that courage is what opens our hearts to be filled with love. He says, if you are full of love, you can’t have fear – because love is courage. True vulnerability, in its most profound form, is an act of love.
In realising this, everything clicked for me. I got my cook back on in the kitchen and filled my fridge with the usual nourishing food I know and love. How was I expecting my body to thrive without that basic nourishment? No brainer I know, but I was literally living on eggs. Eggs are a wonderful source of protein and fat especially on the fly, but not one single food on repeat will provide us with the array of nutrients our bodies require. I stepped into my vulnerability, I stopped pretending I was ok when I felt broken. I owned how I was feeling and I shared this with others close to me and so on it flowed.
I have learnt that I must remain open for myself to grow and heal and for people to learn from my experiences and for me to deliver my knowledge in my ‘Kringo’ way. I suspect, this lesson simply came at the time I was ready to learn, just in time for an upcoming presentation where I will tell this very story and show others how in vulnerability there is oh so much strength.