Raw Vulnerability and Connection

“And I feel like I am naked in front of the crowd ‘cause these words are my diary screaming out loud and I know you’ll use them however you want to” Anna Nalik ~ Breathe

As this New Year begins I am thinking about how we often impose our perceptions on other people’s words and conceptualize those words into making sense in our world, rather than asking questions and really, deeply listening to one another. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is difficult enough, but feeling a need to meet others expectations really creates a wedge between true vulnerability and self-acceptance. To live abundantly and joyfully we need deep human connections, and truly connecting with one another requires raw vulnerability. How often do we miss the opportunity for human connection because we are afraid of “being naked in front of the crowd?” I have found my “naked” moments have revealed to me the ability of some open and self-accepting people to not only allow, but also sit comfortably with my vulnerability. On the flip side, some people’s inability to accept vulnerability comes from their own perceptions getting in the way of acknowledging that it is not about them and thus, insecurity ensues.

The desire for meaningful connection can lead us astray if we are trying to fit in and be accepted rather than being open, raw, and understanding. Trying to meet other’s expectations only creates a perpetual cycle of failure and missed opportunities for true human connection. It has been my experience that more often than not, people struggle with accepting raw vulnerability because they are equating it to their own self-worth instead of realizing it is not about them. With that said, it has been moments of raw vulnerability that has led me to the most meaningful relationships in my life. How very difficult that we have an innate need for self-protection of our ego and an innate need for connection, yet the two work like oil and water; they don’t mix. Which leads me to another quote that begs consideration:

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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An open letter to the victim blamers of the world:

 As much of the world continues to consider domestic violence a woman’s “fault” for being weak and not walking away, I know better. I will fight until my dying breath to change perceptions of domestic violence, it is one of my missions: to educate, to inform, to change perceptions, and to fight for those who cannot.

I am angry. I am angry at the displaced blaming, the sheer ignorance and bias that permeates our society. When did it become a woman (or man’s) fault for the violence perpetrated upon them? How did society turn someone’s violent, controlling, obscene behavior into “why didn’t she leave?” “she should have taken the stairs” “she married him didn’t she” “she must have made him angry” and “he seems so nice.” 

Fuck that. “She” most likely grew up believing love is anger, love is control, love is conforming to make everyone happy, love is manipulation. She most likely believes that she is unworthy: because she is a woman, because she has been told she is crazy (over and over again)…until she believed it, because she has been threatened to have her children taken away, because she is told she couldn’t survive without a man, because she just. does. not. have. any. sense. of. worth.

So before you cast your stone, think beyond your nose. 

Disingenuous at Best, Manipulative at Worst

Being able to recognize the signs of a manipulative person is sometimes difficult. It is important for us to have tools in our repertoire in order to be cognizant of behavior that is  disingenuous and/or manipulative.

Manipulation is often used to coerce a conversation, instead of engaging in one, and can be used to intimidate and control.

Often, we go along thinking the best of folks and second-guess ourselves instead of second-guessing another person’s motive. We all need to be more attentive to our ever-present, and often disregarded intuition. If it just feels yucky or off, it probably is.

I have compiled a short list of signs that might alert us to manipulative behavior. Face it, we all are guilty of manipulation on some level, so we need to keep these in mind to guard against other’s subtle or aggressive manipulation, as well as our own possible conscious or unconscious motives.

These are but a few tactics used, and some of what I have found in my research over the years:

Feigning innocence: Quite often a person who is being manipulative will be adept at pretending they have no idea what you are talking about when confronted with their manipulative behavior: Who me? Be careful not to question your own instincts.

Shame and guilt: “You don’t care enough about me”, “I would never do that to you” or “You are selfish” are a few phrases used to shame or guilt a person. This is also an attempt to deflect the responsibility away from them.

Minimization: When you attempt to explain your feelings, a manipulative person will assert that his/her behavior was “not that bad.” Meaning: you are wrong to feel the way you do.

Victim Blaming: Turning your circumstance, tragedy, etc. into their triumph: “Oh, poor so and so, I hope they manage to get their life back together.” This is an attempt to make themself look compassionate, yet it is a dagger thrown at the victim while simultaneously claiming a self-righteous stance.

Anger and Control: “This is the way it is going to be and there will be no discussion about it!” Slamming of doors, walking out, and yelling are tools used to manipulate and coerce a person into submission.

Remember, you have a right to your feelings so don’t give your strength and power away.

On Becoming an Adult Orphan

I sit sipping my morning coffee feeling unmoored from the loss of my mother. I am now forced to contemplate my life without a mother, without a father. I close my eyes and imagine myself as a young child whose balloon has escaped my tenuous grasp. I begin to weep as I look down at my unfurled hand, the same hand that held my mother’s just one short week ago as we laughed as if we had all the time in the world to share. I feel a penetrating void slowly burden every inch of my body. My eyes look skyward and trail the balloon as it floats aimlessly. Now what? No one is left who intimately remembers the day of my birth, no one who loves me unconditionally and imperfectly, as only a parent is able to, and no one who remembers my fears, silliness, challenges, and triumphs quite like a mother and father. I capture my last glimpse of the balloon as it bumps between tree branches and temporarily gets stuck as it meanders on its journey. As quickly as it gets stuck, the balloon breaks free and I watch it float out of sight. I understand. My life is forever altered, and nothing will be as it was. Goodbye sweet Mother

100 days of what makes me happy, with photographs. Day 26: A gift from the heart.

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100 days of what makes me happy, with photographs. Day 26: A gift from the heart.

Sometimes you are lucky enough to have someone in your life that is unselfish, someone who loves you despite the past, the hurt, the pain of a misguided heart. A gift to remind me of my connection to my father, unselfishly given out of the goodness of her soul. Thank you Cathy, for being a blessing in my life.

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
~ Mother Teresa

100 days of what makes me happy, in photographs. Day 25: My friendship with Elaine.

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100 days of what makes me happy, in photographs. Day 25: My friendship with Elaine.

To my best friend I pass along a friendship tree, so that when I am far away, she can look our her window and know that my heart is always with her. I am most grateful for her unconditional love and support. How lucky am I to have found a friend that I am completely at ease with, someone to laugh and cry with, to discuss books and trials and tribulations in our lives. My life has been forever altered for the better with her in my life.

I may not always be with you
But when we’re far apart
Remember you will be with me
Right inside my heart”
~ Marc Wambolt

100 days of what makes me happy, in photographs. Day 20: Recognizing how many people have been an integral part of my life.

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100 days of what makes me happy, in photographs. Day 20: Recognizing how many people have been an integral part of my life.

As I prepare to move to a different state and start anew, I have been reflecting on the myriad of people who have changed my life for the better these past few years. I am feeling incredibly grateful: for those who believed in me, pushed me past my limits both intellectually and spiritually, for those who saw me at my best and worst and loved me just the same, for those who challenged my thought process and inspired me to open my mind to consider alternatives, to those who sat with me and shared coffee and time, feelings and thoughts, love and loss. What is filling my heart today is pondering the wonderful people in my life who have supported me and allowed me to be authentic. I am very fortunate, and will pay it forward the best I can.

“Let others see their own greatness when looking in your eyes.”
~ Mollie Marti