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Letting my underbelly be seen

Vulnerability by Chris Lopez

Vulnerability by Chris Lopez

“This is the beauty of real love. When you set other people free by allowing them to do and say whatever is real for them, they don’t abandon you or run roughshod over your feelings. Instead, they want to have you in their lives, the way they want fresh air or sunlight.” – Martha Beck

A few weeks ago I woke up cranky.  For no reason that I could identify immediately.  I stewed in it all day – despite fiercely adhering to my practices of connecting to community, pleasurable activities and gratitudes.  I could not understand what was fueling it – could not get under the low grade discomfort.  Thinking my way through was just not working.  So I did the next best thing:  I got out of my head and meditated.  I needed to ground myself, ask for guidance and be shown the underlying cause of my skootchiness.  In this meditation, I came face to face with grief and broke into tears.

But that’s not the reason for writing this post….

Card-Asking Man was supposed to come over to pay me a visit that evening.  I was a mess. I reacted.  Went into default mode.  Disinvited him wanting to crawl into solitude to lick my wounds.  I explained  to him that  I was in mid-meltdown and wasn’t comfortable having a witness.

Yet, part-way through communicating this to him, I recognized conflict in this, oh so familiar, pattern.  I began to question  the way I had always behaved regarding intense emotions and wondered: should I only share the “pretty” and “acceptable” parts of myself?  Was I limiting the relationship by limiting the range of who I show myself to be?  If this adventure with Card-Asking Man were to go any further, was I putting the kabosh on it by pushing my hand out in “stay-away-ness?”

I decided this struggle, too, was part of the research.  If I was desiring true intimacy, I had to be willing to show my vulnerability and say yes to him coming over.

As I did not need “fixing” (something I’ve recognized men are hard-wired to want to do instinctively), I acquiesced to his company not wanting interference of any kind.  I recognized the emotions that were surging for me as necessary – that dampening them with problem-solving was not the way to go.  I needed to dive deep into them, and stay there until they had run their course.  And he wanted to come over anyway.

I was anxious.

Saying yes to being seen so raw brought up every insecurity in me.  Every doubt: Do I deserve this man? Am I worthy of support? Does he really want me?  Will he run away when he sees the broken-down parts?

I had to find out.

When he arrived, he found me in front of a raging bonfire, cup of tea in hand, staring blankly at the flames.  With one hand he extended a bouquet of flowers (Stargazer lilies, my fave,) in the other, he held three bags of groceries.  He told me he wanted to bring me comfort, but realized it was was something he was not sure how to do.  He didn’t know what I liked in these moments, so he brought everything: dark chocolate, Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream, wine and the makings for a delicious dinner.  I was speechless.

Then he asked that I stay put by the fire and told me that he would take care of me that night.

I had never experienced such kindness, such compassion, such empathy from a man.

In truth, I’d never deliberately allowed one to catch a glimpse of this side of me.  That part that sometimes feels broken and unworthy always felt like it was meant to be hidden from view.

It made me realize how I had in the past created a habit out of, when sinking into a deep place, shutting others out.  How I had, unwittingly, in my selfish need to keep my true self locked away, denied another the priviledge of doing for me what I would do in a heartbeat on their behalf.  Comfort. Soothe.  Love.  Show gentleness. How often had I, while craving intimacy, unknowingly created the perfect environment for finding myself wrong and feeling dreadfully alone for it.

In this one courageous act of invitation, years of habit crumbled.

Card-Asking Man taught me something incredibly profound:  it is possible to fall apart and stay together. And, most importantly…

It is possible to be authentic and be loved, exactly where you are.  Beautiful beyond measure,


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