Vulnerable + Visible, Redux

My birthday was this week—and it falls one day after the midpoint of the year, so it’s always a good reminder to check in with myself around my intentions and visions for the year. It’s a good time to recognize and acknowledge what I’ve accomplished, and also a good time to notice where I’ve strayed away from things I wanted to be or do. I can look gently and compassionately at where I under or overestimated my ability or the time things would take. I can reevaluate and see where my desires have changed—and I can also be conscious of where I’ve begun to self-sabotage, avoid, and procrastinate.

And I’m very aware this week of the places and ways I’ve stepped away from some of what I’ve wanted to do and accomplish.

I’m trying to come at the feelings of failure, of “not enough,” with loads of self-compassion. I am not always (not often, even) succeeding. But I’m making a practice of it. I’m recognizing where I overshot and tried to take on too much. I’m examining things I’m doing that I don’t really want to be doing. I’m trying to remember and recognize creative and productive cycles.

To remember that the air is hot and thick right now—that the plants are heavy and drooping with life. That my body wants to be outside, to play, to relax, to find pleasure, to find water. That it is a time for acknowledging what’s there, what’s grown and is growing. A time of appreciation.

To pause, for a moment, and nod with delight at all that I’ve planted (or nature planted), shooting forth from the soil, winding upward, bending over the weight of what its born.

And also, I’m not allowing that to be an excuse. I’m also pushing beyond that, to what else is also happening underneath.

And what is happening underneath is my favorite flavor of self-sabotage: avoidance.

And what is happening beneath that—is fear.

Not fear of failure so much. Not fear of success either. Fear of rejection. Ah, that’s it. Fear of being judged. Of not belonging. Not being accepted, seen, valued. A fear it feels so embarrassing to even name. Especially in this world, this culture, with so much pride on being independent. (As I write this on Independence Day, lol.)

I mean, yes, it’s a deep survival fear. We’re communal creatures (current cultural injunctions aside)--and to be rejected by the group once meant to starve to death alone in the cold. But nonetheless, it feels painfully embarrassing to lay bare.

Especially as a person raised as a woman. I’ve done a lot of work around my inherent (socialized and ingrained) drive to people-please, to be liked, to make everyone happy. But it’s deep and extremely difficult to let go of. It is a scary one to transmute. It rears its head in so many forms.

And then, there’s another layer of shame: as a person who identifies as a woman, growing up in an era where being empowered meant being independent, able to stand alone, a lack of need to be needed or wanted (by men, at least). (And in a time and place where capitalism sold us the myth of the nuclear family, and feminism meant to destroy it, but hadn’t yet recognized what we needed to replace it with…)

And in many ways, that cultural shift toward femme independence was important to a generation of women. But it’s also ignored and erased—repressed—a deep human need for interdependence, community, and belonging. It made an either/or, where there needs to be both.

And ironically I find myself needing people’s approval, in order to be independent. I need people to believe in me and what I do enough to pay me to do precisely what it is I want to offer and do in the world. And the idea of this—offering up something so precise and so personal—and asking people to approve of my work and me enough to give their money for it—is so terrifying. So sticky icky. Such an easy place to get caught.

And caught here I’ve been. For some time. And I’m still very much afraid, but still, I’d like to move forward. I’d like not to get stuck here forever.

Because, while I’ve done a lot this year, one of the major things I’ve wanted to do is create a course on creativity and erotic/sexual energy—on the overlap and interconnection between these two ways of experiencing, relating, interacting and producing. On tapping into the powers of each through the other. On healing shame and toxic narratives around both.

And I haven’t started it. Not really. I can’t seem to start. I have lots of ideas, but when I sit to try to get them down, they get all slippery and weird, like trying to catch slimy tadpoles with two fingers. And so many voices, mostly related to imposters syndrome, crop up.

Who are you to do this? You’re not qualified. You don’t know what you’re doing. You’ll mess it up. You’ll mess people up. You’re out of your league. You’re not that creative/sexual/smart. Why do you have to talk about sex and shadow and taboos anyway? You’re messed up. You’re not even having sex right now! You’re not finishing your book. You’re doing too much. You’re not doing enough.

On and on it goes. I swirl in this eddy, go round and round. So lately I just find myself avoiding it. Avoiding the work. Avoiding sitting down with the blank page to start mapping out what it is I do know, to start giving shape to this nebulous “thing” that is this idea. Still just a foggy unshaped blob.

When I think about how I’m avoiding it, I feel depressed. When I think about doing it, I feel depressed.

It’s a very stuck place and it feels like there’s no way out. I know a way, though. The only way, that I know of at least. It’s a way I’d like to avoid, a way I’ve been avoiding for weeks or months, but finally, I think, the pain of the inertia is stronger than the fear. The pain of being stuck is finally worse than the pain of being afraid. So I’m taking the only way out I know. The only way out of any emotion. Through.

So today, I’m just going to own this very tender fear of being rejected and misunderstood and unheard and abandoned and alone. I’m going to very tenderly sit with it. Write this post, and try not to scare it off (it is a rather skittish fear).

I’m just going to let it be okay that I have this fear. Try not to add any more shame to the mix. Just: okay, you’re here. Here, sit, have some tea.

I’m going to let it wash over me. Take deep breaths. Let these voices of not good enough, too much, pass through. Turn down the volume on them. Let the scared little person underneath come out. Give her a hug. Hold her. Let her know she’s not going to die. Not today. Not from this.

I’m going to sit with the mixed-up churning of knowing that I don’t need anyone’s approval or understanding or witnessing of me and what I can do, to survive. And yet, that I do, tenderly, vulnerably, want to participate and commune with others. Want to share what I can offer, the bloody offering of what I’ve learned in trying to get here. Want to collaborate and give and receive and grow.

And I guess, what I’m realizing, is that what I’m trying to do with this course I want to make, is to not only share some thoughts and practices and conversations with the world—but also, on a more internal level, to grapple with my own doubt and insecurity and fear, to create my own sense of value and belonging in the world. To feel safe enough to take that risk.

So… today… I’m just going to sit and have tea, with my fears.

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash