“Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”
—Guillaume Apollinaire:  French writer, poet and critic

Guillaume Apollinaire

The Night Call

Vulnerability

Vulnerability

“Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experiences.”
Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

The phone rang as I was getting ready to go to sleep.

“I want you to know that I’m more vulnerable than I seem,” she said.  “I can be hurt easily and if you ever want to stop seeing each other, all I ask is that you tell me.  Don’t just stop calling.”  Wow.  That’ll wake you up.

Some people consider vulnerability a state or situation wherein one is able to be hurt and is therefore a weakness to be avoided.  I think a lot of divorced people find themselves there.  But vulnerability is better characterized as a choice we make to intentionally allow ourselves to be open and able to be hurt so that, as Dr. Brown asserts, we can taste life and love more richly.

My wife Laura made this choice while we were dating.  We were both in the aftermath of painful occurrences.  Mine was the death of my first wife the previous year.  Hers was a very unpleasant divorce following which she told herself that she would never again allow herself to be emotionally hurt by a man.

Fortunately for me—and us—she changed her mind and I received that phone call.  I was very touched by her openness, especially considering the pain of her divorce and told her so.  I also said that if it was OK with her, I’d be sticking around for a while.  So far, it’s been over 10 years and we still feel the magic.

Happy Together

Happy Together

Laura made a decision to forego her previous conviction of abandoning vulnerability.  She did not do so lightly.  We had connected emotionally and were allowing ourselves to feel love again with all the joy and potential pain that love involves.  Because tearing down the walls of inhibition and surrendering our shell means that we have chosen to be open and vulnerable to someone else.  Love is vulnerability and love is surrender to someone we have come to trust.  There’s really no other way to get there.

BTW, if you haven’t heard—or heard of—Dr. Brene Brown, you must watch her two TED talks on vulnerability, shame, and courage.  You can find them here andhere.  Best to view them in that order.  She’s also written two books:  The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly.  You should read them.  You really should.

 

The Body Cries Out

Pain pressed in my chest, radiated down my arms; my breathing was shallow and rapid along with my pulse rate.

I knew I was having a heart attack.  Except that I wasn’t.

Too Much Pressure

Too Much Pressure

                                   Falling Apart

In the summer of 1976 and age 27, I had a series of “heart attacks” that I really never had.

Oh, I had the symptoms, classic symptoms.

But when they hooked up the EKG monitor, all the peaks and valleys were right where they were supposed to be.  On another occasion of chest pain, one of several, the doctor put me on a treadmill stress test.  My heart was strong.

So why was I disappointed?  Naturally, I didn’t want to have heart disease but if I didn’t, that meant that there was something wrong upstairs.  This was 1976 and the concepts of panic or anxiety attacks weren’t talked about much.   The closest we got to that was when some famous person checked into a hospital for what was termed “exhaustion.”

Yeah, let’s see some regular citizen try that:  Walk into a hospital and say “I’m exhausted.  Check me in.”  Hah!  They’d throw you out and charge you for changing the sheets on your gurney.

But I digress.

Six Start Signs

Start Sign

 

In my last post, we looked at activities to cease doing, to just stop because they interfere with being happy, content, peaceful, you insert the proper adverb.

But nature abhors a vacuum so you might also want to consider this list of ideas to start doing.  There are others you could add but it’s a start:

  1.  Start to express yourself,  possibly in writing, probably in private.  My Morning Pages and the writing I did after my first wife died were of immense help.  Letting off steam or emotion by writing or ranting to a web cam or voice memo can be very liberating.  Just make sure it’s not accessible to anyone.  Then erase it or post it once you’ve considered and edited the piece.
  2. Start discerning your calling.  Why are you here?  What are you called to do?  What gifts do you have?
  3. Start caring about something larger than yourself:  Some cause, some group of people, some organization needs help.  Help them.  Do what you can.  It will not only help them, it’s good for you in a number of ways:  You know they’re being helped, you know that you helped, it took your mind off your own problems temporarily, and reminded you that your life may look pretty good in comparison.
  4. Start taking time for yourself.  No wonder we feel overwhelmed sometimes.  We’re so busy doing that we forget just be.  Find a place that’s quiet and where you feel peaceful like a church, a library, or a park.  Go there regularly.  Clear your mind.  Let the light in.  You deserve it.
  5. Start moving!  If you’re not being physically active on a regular basis, begin.  Start slowly and keep at it.
  6. Start apps or classes in meditation or Tai Chi.  The cultures of the Pacific rim brought these practices to our shores and they have helped millions of people.

We frequently lead lives on someone else’s terms, usually involving our careers.  But we need to be spiritually, mentally, and emotionally refreshed.  We need to make sure we’re leading satisfying lives.  That usually requires change.  Change implies both starting and stopping.

Do you have another idea of something to start?