A lot has been written about vulnerability and the strength it requires to allow oneself to be open, exposed, vulnerable. Researcher Brené Brown has an excellent TED talk on the subject. The older I get, the more this resonates with me. When I was in my twenties, striking out as a young adult, a young wife, a mother of two, an undergraduate and then graduate student in social work, a volunteer for a women's crisis center.... all of those things seemed to me to require a certain stoic strength of me. It was hard to admit when the world was too much to bear, though there were definitely moments when those feelings arose. I never had a hard time allowing myself to cry, but I did so mostly when watching movies or listening to music that stirred my soul. I had hardened myself to a certain extent, as a form of self-protection. Early experiences had taught me that the world was not exactly a safe place, and so I was often guarded and unsure of others at first. It took me awhile to let others in.
Twenty years later, I have certainly learned a lot! I have known losses and loves, joys and sorrows, that cracked me wide open, shaking me to the core of my being. Sometimes in this life there are things that happen to us over which we have no control. Losing my son was one of those things. These losses make us vulnerable, and there is no escape from the intensity of feeling.
I now see that as a good thing. Rumi said, "The wound is the place where the light enters you." When I allowed myself to be vulnerable, I allowed that crack to burst wide open, and the light came flowing in, bringing with it a deeper capacity for love, love of self and love of others.
Perimenopause, a state which I now find myself to be in, brings a new and different level of vulnerability to the table. Waves of emotions can arise from nowhere and bowl us over. It also forces us to confront that we are growing older, to ponder questions about our femininity, our desirability. It is a time of dramatic change for a woman, one which leaves us exposed to the forces of nature. Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice said, "Time is contagious; everybody's getting older." So true, Damien. Sometimes we are more aware of that fact than others.
Being an artist requires a certain level of vulnerability too. It requires of us to embrace the risks that people won't like what we do, that they won't understand what we do. We risk judgment, criticism, and in the worst cases, contempt.
Driven by the need to express emotions, dreams, impressions, bits of self, I continue to make art. And in doing so, I continue to embrace my vulnerability. It's not always comfortable, not is it always easy, but it is authentic and honest. To me, that is far more important. Making art helps me traverse these strange waters, it is my lifejacket when they seem to want to overtake me.
Thank you for being there to help me through this process. If you feel inclined, please drop me a note, letting me know how you navigate this territory. Together, we can help and perhaps inspire each other.
Until next time...