My friend Katie and I connected here in the blogosphere. She and I became pen pals after I had reached out to offer a beauty product for her to try and review. She suffers from Fibromyalgia and I from Lyme (both of us holding a side list of other illnesses), so our understanding of living with chronic illness instantly bonded us.
We’ve courageously shared from the most vulnerable places in our hearts because we’ve cultivated a safe place, devoid of judgment. I can come to her with fears, bouts of depression, honest reports of my pain levels and know she won’t turn away. She won’t criticize. She will listen and she will feel my struggle with me.
As I’ve connected with Katie and others through this blog, I’ve seen how instrumental vulnerability can be in understanding one another and experiencing grace on a deeper level.
A healthy dose of vulnerability, if we allow it, will guide us into the deep, dark corners of our hearts, coaxing out our worst fears, most honest thoughts and our (mostly) hidden imperfections.
It’s messy. It’s uncomfortable. It’s not something I’m naturally good at.
Yet in the right context…it can be one of the most beautiful things to experience or witness.
Writing here in my little corner of the inter-webs has stretched me in many things. It’s given me a space to process some of the harder things in life and it’s not so gently nudged me to go deeper into how vulnerably I share. About living with disease. Heartache. Pain. Grief. Shifting dreams.
Just about everything good, bad, ugly and beautiful in my life can come out while I’m putting pen to page (or type to screen).
Writing about my experiences, struggles, and deepest emotions has at times been brutally uncomfortable and I’ve felt like hiding away. Yet, slowly, as I’ve embraced an open heart more and more, vulnerability has made way for change in my life.
In those moments of sharing and then connecting with someone else’s story, we find that we aren’t the only ones who struggle with that.
Someone accepts me in my most imperfect self.
Another has been dealt their own deep sense of loss.
My heart isn’t the only one to have been broken.
My dreams aren’t the only ones to have shifted or felt shattered.
In that realm of sharing, we offer someone the opportunity to truly see us in the midst of all the mess and, in return, we have the gift of seeing them.
Together, we create neutral ground and foster a level of empathy that’s unmatched. It’s then we’ve entered sacred space, where we’re reminded how similar we really are at the core.
We all have felt pain on some level. While you can’t fully understand my personal experience living with Lyme disease, you have felt some level of sickness or physical discomfort.
With some imagination you can capture a glimpse of what it could feel like to live in daily pain and discomfort. As you are reading, you may be thinking of your own difficult situation and somewhere within that tension there’s a common vein of struggle, pain, or disappointment that will resonate with someone else.
Through the windows of perception that our own trials open for us, we are given tools that help us see into someone else’s sense of loss, grief, pain, or frustration.
Instead of comparing the struggles we face with a grading scale of severity, what if we were to consider the more important mission of coming together? To acknowledge a shared vein of pain and embrace another hurting soul.
I’ve realized that no matter how similar our situations, how we each experience something can be very different.
For me, accepting this truth means I do my best to avoid saying the phrase “I know exactly what you’re going through.” Why? Because we rarely, if ever do.
We may be able to identify with certain situations we’ve shared, but we each have very different lives, support systems, and a myriad of other layers that factor into our individual reality.
It’s through the broader themes of pain, loss, disappointment, or fear that we connect deeply. It takes the focus off of comparing our situations and allows us to sit with someone else in the middle of their storm.
“I can’t know exactly what you’re feeling, but I know how painful loss is to navigate” are much easier words to accept in the midst of grief. We avoid minimizing someone else’s hardship and dare to really listen, deeply feel and understand the weight of what they’re facing.
We let them know they’re not alone.
Entering into the land of vulnerability is challenging and sometimes, if I’m honest, it will let you down.
Not everyone can process the nitty gritty mess, and you will quickly learn who is safe. It can take time to build to that sacred place in a relationship, but trust me, friend: the journey is so worth it. The freedom found in that unguarded space is beautiful and sweet.
My prayer and hope for you is that you would find those kindred spirits in your own life.
That you would experience understanding, comfort, and solidarity through going deeper in relationship with your people, your tribe.
That you would feel safe to uncover the messiest, darkest corners of your heart and discover someone willing to walk with you through the challenges and sit with you in your grief.
Sending you love today, sweet readers.