Words & Vulnerability

Hafez (or Hafiz), the 14th century poet said, “The words you speak become the house you live in.”  I was reminded a few weeks ago, of how powerful our words (and our actions) can be.

I started Thriving Thursday (newsletter/blog) because I wanted to share my thoughts, fears, and ultimately, my learning journey of life.  It was (and is) a risky endeavor for a strong introvert who values her privacy.

However, I want to share my thoughts, tribulations, and general anxieties with others because I believe it creates a connection that is precious and delicate.  The connection?  That we’re not alone in struggling with our fears, frustrations, and stumbles on the journey of life.

I read a variety of articles, magazines, and newsletters and I find that rarely do the authors share their vulnerabilities.  What I see are answers, life hacks, the 5 (or 7 or 10 or 42) tips, tricks, or practices, and suggestions for how to improve my life.

Granted, it might be my choice of reading material, but it seems like everyone is an expert on how to live life.  I wonder if they have fears or anxieties.  Do they ever feel unsure of themselves, or have questions that they struggle to sit with over time?

Where am I going with this?  I asked a friend a few weeks ago, to give me feedback on a Thriving Thursday article.  Specifically, I wanted to know her response to the edition in which I wrote about poetry and included some of my newly discovered poems and poets.  It felt very risky for me at the time I wrote the article.  Therefore, I wanted to get her perspective.

She paused, and I watched her face change.  She had been smiling throughout our conversation, as we shared with each other what we’ve doing since we last met.  She took a slow deep breath.  My first thought was “Uh-oh.  She didn’t like it.”

My Inner Critic popped up and began to spew all my concerns when I wrote the piece and now when I was in this conversation:  “I told you people wouldn’t like it!  Why did you think it was okay to foist poets and poetry on your readers?  Who do you think you are?  You don’t even know that much about poetry!”

I sputtered “You don’t need to answer if you don’t want to.  I was just curious.  But never mind….”  “I’ll answer the question, but not in the way you expect,” she replied.  Her manner had become serious.  The muscles in her face softened and yet seemed to solidify at the same time.  Her eyes changed color to a dark granite gray and she looked straight into my eyes.

I took a deep breath.  “Okay Carol, you asked for feedback.  Remember it is a gift,” I thought.  My friend waited a few more seconds and then said passionately.  “You don’t know the impact you have on people!”

“Oh crap!  I’ve screwed up this time,” I thought.  However, she then proceeded to tell me how the article had caused her to make a decision. (I’m leaving out the details to respect her privacy.)  She went on to explain the details behind her decision and what it meant to her.  I was unprepared for what I heard and didn’t know how to respond.  So, I said nothing.

I’ve thought a lot about that conversation.  I asked the question because I had listened to my Inner Critic during and after publication of that article.  And my Medusa-like ego was begging for validation.  I was afraid of rejection, was hoping for praise, and I received something more important.

My friend gave me a wonderful gift that day.  She reminded me that the more vulnerable I can be, the more my intention for Thriving Thursday is actualized, to connect.  I want to remind people they aren’t alone in their struggle to be open, authentic, and vulnerable.  That to falter in their efforts can open doors to new understanding.

Words are powerful.  Let’s use our words to create connections, share our vulnerabilities, and in the process, open a door or two.