Let me start by saying that being emotionally transparent and vulnerable does not come easily to me. My mom reports that she and my dad would call me into the living room when I was little to explain that everyone has emotions and that it’s ok to show them. They talked about their own emotions and demonstrated them to me, hoping that would open me up. But instead I stood there hugging my bunny stoically looking at them with a poker face and walked out of the room.
At some point I realized that if I wanted connection, freedom, expression, or generally anything fulfilling in life, I was going to have to take down the walls I had created to protect myself. Obviously this is a life long process of unwinding, but I got the momentum going by spending several years in counseling working on this. And eventually, like every quality or skill we seek to develop, I was given an amazing rite of passage experience that helped me GET how powerful being transparent is, and integrate this approach so I could claim it as my own.
In the spring of 2007 the man I had been dating on and off for two years let me know he had met someone else. We broke up and the next day he posted a picture of them passionately kissing as his Tribe.net profile picture. I felt hurt by his choice to do this but it helped me unequivocally see what direction he was moving in.
A few weeks later a friend was having a small wedding both me and my ex were attending. The day before the wedding I found out he was bringing his new woman with him. I felt hurt and scared because I didn’t know how to behave around them while feeling emotionally vulnerable in such a small social setting. Should I act cold? Should I be fake and friendly? Should I avoid them? I spun all sorts of ideas around, came to no conclusion, and decided to watch a movie on Netflix.
I don’t know about you, but it’s often through art – music, books, movies, paintings, etc. – that I receive Life’s messages. So somehow I was directed to watch Klute, in which Jane Fonda plays a prostitute who is excellent at being whatever character men want her to be, but when someone authentically approaches her, she has no idea how to be herself or how to be open to a real connection. In seeing this I got the message:
Don’t try to be “something” – be myself. Be sad if I feel sad. Angry if I feel angry. Do not put on a show, or hide behind a persona. Be transparent. Be real. Be vulnerable.
So I went to the wedding and did just that. For example, during the ceremony my ex and his woman sat next to my date and me. Yes, really. Unsurprisingly seeing them snuggled together prompted all sorts of emotions to run through me but instead of acting “ok”, I let the tears flow and had a really cathartic experience being present and allowing with what I felt.
I felt positively about saying yes to this opening opportunity I was being given, so I kept going with it and saw there was a possibility for deeper healing. I asked Life for help, saying: If there’s something for him and I to speak about to bring us greater closure, please bring about an obvious situation for us to speak. And if it’s better for us to leave well enough alone, please bring that about as well.
Barely an hour later in the middle of dinner I went into the kitchen to make tea. The house was completely empty. And out of the bathroom walks my ex. He comes up and asks how I’m doing. I say I feel vulnerable, sad, and awkward. He asks if I want to go be vulnerable, sad, and awkward somewhere and talk. Thank you Life for the clear sign and opportunity for healing – why yes, I do want to go talk. We spend the next 45 minutes sitting in a side room acknowledging what we each got out of our relationship, appreciating each other for the time we spent together, and consciously ending it by putting a container around the completion process.
It was beautiful. It was real. And I got it – there is nothing more powerful than being transparent to move our emotions forward and heal our connection to ourselves, others, and life.
“Healing is opening what has been closed, softening what has been hardened into obstruction; Healing is learning to Trust Life!” – Hala Khouri
Photo: Krissy Venosdale