Last week, I posted a very personal entry. I told about my inner process while it was still unfolding, not waiting for anything to settle so I could package it. Since the topic was vulnerability, my own path of it, I was at one and the same time being on my path and writing about it.
I got more views on this piece than just about any other previous post. I also got many comments, especially on my own blog (I am cross-posted on two other sites), and even a number of personal emails from friends and students. Overall, I was deeply nourished, by people near and far. In my state of confusion when I finished that piece, I didn’t have sufficient perspective to sense whether and how much of a contribution to others my writing on this topic would be. Now I know: it was, for many, a source of inspiration, or relief, a way to make more peace with their own humanity, or with mine, for that matter. I also received, pure and simple, expressions of love and affection, warmth, encouragement, and lots of tenderness.
I also found more to learn as I examined my responses to all that came. I got to notice what nourished me, what challenged me, what I could receive with grace, what was hard to digest, what I could let go of, and what I felt an urge to clear up.
I am human. All humans have a need to be seen for who they are. I, too, have that need. Considering how often I wasn’t seen, how often I was seen inaccurately, differently from how I see myself, I remain quite sensitive in this area. More so, though by far not only, when how I am perceived paints me less appealing to me than how I perceive myself. I also am quite uncomfortable when seen in brighter colors than I see myself. I want to be seen accurately. I have some small impatience with this desire, I want to be more able to rest within myself when someone perceives me in ways that don’t add up, in ways I don’t want to be seen. I want my self-acceptance to stretch further and hold, comfortably, those moments. I do have enough self-acceptance to recognize that this is exactly where I am.
And so, with that acceptance, and with some modicum of entertainment, I am accepting my urge to clarify a few things.
One is, as I already mentioned in a comment on Tikkun Daily, that although some people understood me to say that I struggle with being “enough” in comparison with others, or that I am a “perfectionist”, neither of these characterizations fits my own self-perception. I don’t generally struggle in either of these areas. I have found that all of my years of being on this path have contributed to a profound and deep and solid sense of self-acceptance. I wish this level of self-acceptance on all humans. My own way of relating to myself is the most solid and reliable solace I have in this life. I enjoy much of who I am, and I have compassion and tenderness toward almost all the aspects of my being or behaviors that I don’t enjoy. The bit of perfection that I expressed in my earlier piece is only about a very specific aspect of my human interactions. It is a remaining form of protection from so much pain and loss that I have experienced in my life in response to people having a hard time with me, and in response to being severely and harshly criticized in my family of origin.
The other bit I want to clarify is what makes this new frontier of vulnerability so challenging. Because one reader thought it was about exposing my tender underbelly and being seen as needing something, I want to express more clearly what it actually is. The exposing of the underbelly is precisely what I have mastered through my path, as the writing itself hopefully demonstrated. The more terrifying aspect of opening myself to that new direction of receptive vulnerability is that by making myself available in this way, by letting go of holding myself, I risk not being held and losing in the process my own capacity to hold myself. It’s the prospect of being left alone, defenseless, and unable to care for myself. This is deeply embedded in my cells, not in my consciousness. I can feel my body tensing up in certain moments despite my absolute spiritual and emotional clarity about wanting to be open. This is why I want to aim for mending my inner relationship with the whole, not with myself or even with others. I want to find a way to overcome the most fundamental form of separation that has been lodged in me, so I can experience spiritual reunion with the world.