2020 has been a year that has exposed some of the most fragile aspects of the human psyche; fear, anger, disbelief. And for many of us it has exposed our vulnerabilities in ways we never thought it would; the things that keep us awake at night, staring into the dark as we play out myriad “what ifs” that seem to pale as soon as the morning light hits our faces.
As a writer, 2020 coincided with some events in my personal life that impacted my confidence – and my comfort level with vulnerability.
When I first began writing this blog, I never even thought about vulnerability. I just wrote what I wrote, blissfully unaware or uncaring what anyone else thought. The freedom was exhilarating, but like many freedoms, it did not last.
Over time I began to pull myself closer in. And in the last couple of years wound it down so tightly that I struggled to write because for me, writing is sharing. It is the height of vulnerability.
Recently someone posted something I had written a few years ago, with the intent to point out how misguided I had been. I read my own words and saw that freedom I once embraced. And I saw growth, and change.
Some of the things I have written in the past I still believe to be true. Others I do not. And thank goodness for that, because perhaps one of my only fears in life is that I cease to grow and change, becoming stagnant over time as I grow too old – or too stubborn – to change.
Someone who was once a friend said, at the point where our friendship was seeing its timely demise, that I had changed and was losing people who were once close to me as a result. And I recall thinking what a tremendous relief that was, because it meant that while they were once “my people” that I had changed, and for the better, too.
Change is not bad and not good; change is inevitable, and whether it is good or bad is often how we react to it rather than the actual nature of the change.
Over the course of the past year as I began to put pen to paper (or more accurately fingers to keyboard) I have hesitated; and more often than not I walked away, rejecting vulnerability and both the weight and the freedom it creates.
Until recently. I attended a course discussing vulnerability in leadership, and realized that over the past three years while I had remained vulnerable in my professional life I had moved away from doing so in my personal life; and with that change went my desire, and even my ability, to write in the personal, honest and vulnerable manner I have always done in this blog.
Like many people this year, I found myself in occasional dark spaces, not the physical kind but the sort where everything you see seems a bit more opaque and darker than it should be. And like many, I chose to seek some outside help to fight the darkness and see colour again, reaching out to a therapist I have spoken to before. Her suggestion?
Write again. Write about shoes or cats or snow globes or whatever crazy ass thing you want to write about, just write.
And so, here I am. It’s hard to know what to write about, which is perhaps why I have walked away so often. It is hard to know where to start again, and it makes me take a short, sharp breath when I think about being vulnerable again.
And yet what I know is that who I am – what I have and where I find myself – is because of writing with vulnerability. And I know that when my writing resonates with someone else I have always found myself at peace with being vulnerable.
2020 has been a blender. In our community – this place I love, this place that makes me crazy, this place that has been the best thing that ever happened to me – the challenges of 2020 have been compounded by a natural disaster and an economy that looks very different from just a few short years ago. We are in a very large blender, probably the Ninja kind with very sharp blades that whirl at light speed and could chop your hand off. And we know a bit about blenders, because many of us lived through May 2016, which was perhaps the most blenderizing experience one could imagine.
Which brings me back to change, and vulnerability. We have been through change. We have been vulnerable. We have seen the darkness, stared into the blackness and thought “what if”.
And yet, here we are. Shaken, but not broken. We have the chance to embrace vulnerability – the fears, the what ifs, the honesty – and come out of the blender whole, not in pieces.
Perhaps, just perhaps, if there is a lesson to be learned in 2020, this is it.