Choosing to be Vulnerable…or Not

“We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are
when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved
and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed
and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time…
Our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world
but to unglove ourselves so that the door knob feels cold
and the car handle feels wet
and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being
soft and unrepeatable.”


~ Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

Over the past several weeks, the concept of vulnerability and its importance to intimacy has followed me like a stalker.  At the same time, I heard from a friend about how sad and hurt she is over my silence and disconnect; I swore at my sister (via text) for the first time in my life; and I annoyed another close friend with my narcissism (my words, not hers).

I believe without a doubt that I’ve lost the ability to listen deeply to others.  Compassion and caring used to be important to me.  They were qualities I purposefully cultivated and practiced.  I believed in the power of kindness to change the world around me.  I have also felt that belief dribbling out of me over the past decade.  I’m easily annoyed and impatient with other people’s problems. I avoid social settings and leave when I feel my tolerance unraveling. Mental illness has made me guarded, judgmental and mean.

There’s a reason therapists caution against isolation—not just because human connection is vital to all forms of health, but because the mentally ill are already vulnerable, and making real connections with others requires us to risk being more vulnerable.  It’s too hard, too painful.  So much easier to barricade behind thicker and thicker walls, then complain about being lonely.

I can see the path I’m on leading to life as a hermitic sociopath.  Maybe I’ve binge-watched too much Dexter, but I can identify with his lack of empathy and complete self-absorption.

Then, Tara Brach, or my therapist, or an article in a magazine suggests an alternative path—to “unglove” as Mark Nepo puts it.  It’s painful and terrifying.  It seems like too much work that requires more courage, more bad-assery, more, more, more.  To be fair, Tara suggests gentleness and tiny acts of willingness.  I’m not being asked to tear down the walls, just look at them.  Or sit with my back against them and feel their warmth and strength.  Still, I don’t know that it’s worth it.

And I don’t know if I have a choice.






18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Catherine Cheng, MD
    Jun 16, 2019 @ 18:35:25

    Sandy Sue, your writing does not feel to me like it comes from a judgmental or mean person. Just that you are willing to share this struggle on your blog shows that you can and do practice exactly the ungloving that is so f-ing hard, no? I know that when I am in the throes of darkness I have the hardest time remembering the light, and feel convinced often that there was never any light to begin with, and ungloving is the absolute last thing I want to do. Maybe it’s similar for you? Thank you for sharing your experience. Sending wishes for what you need most right now.


  2. Val Boyko
    Jun 16, 2019 @ 18:41:40

    With all the insight you have …. there is indeed a choice. Embrace it when you feel supported. Don’t go it alone my friend 🙏


  3. Carina Karlsson
    Jun 16, 2019 @ 18:44:33

    Unfortunately my dear, not making a choice is one. Blessings on you whichever direction you take.


  4. Kiki
    Jun 17, 2019 @ 01:42:44

    Sandy, as IF YOU HAD A CHOICE…. I like that 2nd last sentence very much – you’re leaning into that wall and feel the warmth and strength. Lean some more and then work with the gained strength and warmth.
    I had an emotionally pretty rough and both upsetting and downbearing few days behind me. This night I thought: I don’t know for how much longer I can love for two (and more) ….. We have to take our own decisions. And live with them. I wish you all the strength, courage and stretch of time you need for this. Nobody ever said that life is easy. Because it isn’t. But it’s SO WORTHWHILE 🙂


  5. Writer Lori
    Jun 17, 2019 @ 04:35:45

    Sandy, I cannot pretend to understand fully the struggle in which you are engaged, but I do know that I have felt you warmth and compassion across the miles. I believe that you are incredibly strong and oh so capable and can imagine that you are also weary. Be gentle with yourself and as Val says, embrace the choice when you feel supported. Many are holding you close in their thoughts….


  6. Robert@69
    Jun 17, 2019 @ 12:57:49

    i don’t know if you do either – all i know is it takes courage to be vulnerable and if anyone has courage its you!


  7. jinjerstanton
    Jun 21, 2019 @ 10:01:27

    Sympathy. It would be so easy for me to close myself off from society altogether. It’s why I need a job. It’s why I need to live with someone else who is also an introvert. It’s why I’m deeply grateful to teach yoga.


  8. Jonathan Caswell
    Jul 08, 2019 @ 20:46:01

    Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:


  9. Littlesundog
    Jul 16, 2019 @ 07:55:13

    This is powerful and straightforward writing, Sandy. I don’t know if this is something of our age – there is insight and wisdom in realizations about ourselves, or is it of the times and the frustration of all that is happening around us? Like the wild things I observe and work with, part of the experience of this journey is about being vulnerable and trusting again, and finding the nugget of gold in that person/moment that annoys the hell out of you. It’s crawling back into your den and licking your wounds for a while. Some days the journey is fascinating and beautiful, and others I know I’m better off alone with my wretched thoughts. I think it’s all ok, and it’s an evolution… an awakening. The connection of all life, well, I believe there is a reason for everything we experience.

    The raw honesty of your writing is something I cherish. You reach deep into the psyche of all of us in some way, and help us to “look at” ourselves. It’s a gift. Your friendship is a gift.


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