My heart has been heavy since my last post in which I committed to opening up and dissecting my life for any and all to see. There were a few (well, more than a few) moments when I thought to myself, “Are you
nuts?” It’s possible and completely subjective. Honestly, I’m scared. Being vulnerable is, by far, not one of my strengths. There are some incredibly painful experiences in my past which I’m not too eager to revisit, but I’m committed to the road for which I’m being lead, and this is part of the journey.
When I initially sat down at the computer this morning, I began with the title, “Freeze, Flight, or Fight.” As soon as those words hit the screen, I felt an overwhelming sense of fear take hold. Immediately, I
removed myself from the situation. I went inside and began preparing the spaghetti sauce for tonight’s lasagna, checked to see if I had any “Words with Friends” to play on my iPhone, texted a few folks, checked the laundry in the dryer that’s been sitting there for two days (as if another two or three hours is going to matter), and then I headed toward the back porch and began stocking the recently purchased Diet Pepsi’s into the outdoor mini-fridge. About half way through the Pepsi pile, I realized what I was doing. I had taken flight. I didn’t want to dive into today’s thoughts; so instead, I opted to create a
diversion…admittedly, several of them.
I immediately stopped what I was doing, went into my husband’s home office and proceeded to get down on my knees in front of him and ask for a big honey hug. You might be asking yourself, “On your knees?” Well, I’ve learned in the past year that when I physically get down on my knees assuming a position of vulnerability and submission and allow him to wrap his arms around me, I succumb to a sense of overwhelming peace. I am allowing him to comfort and reassure me. I’m not talking about submission in the sense of superiority; rather I am reaching out to the Earthly man who loves me more than
anyone and allowing him to exercise his role as protector, provider, comforter, and encourager. Not only does it feed me, it nourishes him by allowing him to serve in a manner for which he was designed to by God.
I was now ready to face me.
Based on what I know today, I exhibit two major behavioral flaws; fear of vulnerability and stuffing and/or masking my emotions. Trust me when I say there are many more flaws than that, but we have to start somewhere.
I have always viewed vulnerability as a weakness and weakness resulted in being a victim; therefore, I must not allow vulnerability in my life. Am I hitting a nerve yet? Maybe so, but what I have come to
understand is by being vulnerable you not only open yourself up to hurt, you also open yourself up to love. Somewhat of an oxymoron if you ask me. But in order to heal, you must allow yourself to feel – that’s where stuffing my emotions comes into play. I cannot heal from the wounds of my life unless I am willing to feel the pain resulting from those injuries. It’s a vicious cycle.
I just caught myself checking “Words with Friends” again. “Don’t run, Elle. Stay in the moment!”
April 2011, I began working with a phenomenal therapist named Diane. There’s been more “ah-ha” moments in the past several weeks than I can begin to explain. In one of our sessions, Diane asked me to recall my first memory when I experienced fear and vulnerability. I had to think about it for a moment…
“I must have been around four, maybe five years old. My parents had taken my brother and me to some friends of theirs’ home in the Indiana farmlands and left us in the care of an older child while the adults
went out for dinner. This was not uncommon practice in the late 60’s. I don’t recall who these people were, but it was not an uncomfortable environment as there were other kids there to play with. As the sun set and the dark of night fell upon the house, a very loud knock coming from the front door rattled the small house. I could hear a man yelling on the other side of the door at us to let him in. I now recognize that he was intoxicated, but up to that point in my life, I had never witnessed anyone in a drunken state. My parents were never much to partake in alcoholic beverages, even to this day, so intoxication was
not a state of being I was familiar with. We gathered together and crouched down behind a large chair as to not be seen through the window. I can remember shaking with fear just wishing he would stop. As his patience grew thinner, the banging grew fiercer, and the yelling escalated. It seemed to go on forever. In my little girl voice I can remember thinking, “Daddy where are you? Please come back. I’m scared. Daddy? Oh, please Daddy…I need you.” My thoughts went unanswered and little Elle remained frozen in fear.
Eventually, the man exhausted all of his attempts at entry and decidedly left. While the incident may have been over, the fear remained at the forefront of my mind. To this day, I can still feel the fear of that
fateful night. Who was he and what did he want? That remains unknown. But what I do know is that my first memory of fear and vulnerability was met with having to self-protect, self-comfort, and swallow the fearful tears that so desperately wanted to flow. Inside was a little girl who wanted to scream, “Go away and leave us alone!” but the undeniable terror that he could possibly unearth our miniscule hiding place was more than enough power to shatter the innate desire to fight. Instead, I internalized my fear and remained frozen.
It was at that moment the critical, fear of vulnerability; behavioral flaw set itself in stone and continues to plague me to this day.
As Diane and I processed through this event, it became clear to me how a single moment in one’s life can set in motion an emotional and physical response to life’s tragic events, no matter their significance. I
challenge readers who are struggling with the fear of vulnerability or stuffing emotions to examine their first memory of such experience. You may be surprised at what you find.
As for today, it has taken me four hours, two loads of laundry, five stirrings of the spaghetti sauce pot, four glances at my iPhone, three trips to the bathroom to address the over consumption of Diet Pepsi, and
eight cigarettes to get through this first look back…but I did it. And for that, I am proud.
The journey continues…and I am not alone.