I have a happy personality with a heavy soul. Sometimes it gets weird.
This morning on a podcast I heard someone say, “there’s a thin line between neediness and vulnerability, and it’s hard to walk because no one wants to be viewed as needy.” How incredibly relatable and true is that? It made me think of all the ways people shield their vulnerabilities and put brave faces on for the world around them to look at yet never really see. We live in a culture filled with filters: digital AND real-time. And the comparison game is cutthroat, further masking the truths we live with, but dare not share.
I am a stay at home mother to three children, a housewife, and an owner of 5 indoor pets and 11 outdoor chickens (read: glutton for punishment in the form of mess). Of course, I am many other things, too. It’s just that the requirements of those roles don’t really leave a lot of room for the other things to shine. Currently, I struggle sometimes to fight off the world view that everyone around me is killing it with their own individual gifts and skills while I fold laundry and clear the dishwasher like a robot. Does that sound like a pathetic pity party or what?
On the outside, most of us appear to have it all together. Even if we don’t have social media to spy on the lives of everyone around us, we can gather bits and pieces of observation and convince ourselves that everyone else has it figured out. I wonder how many of us think this, but never say it? How many times have we asked someone ‘how are you? How are things?’, and really received a true, open answer? How many times have we been asked and given a true, open answer? The perpetual script passed between us and the patrons we run into is nauseating. But look at the reason: there’s a thin line between neediness and vulnerability and it’s hard to walk. It requires an almost out of reach level of trust. So, what do we do? Avoid the line all together and stand beside it, offering generic responses in the name of staying safe and skirting connection. The irony here, of course, is that connection is what we all crave.
Recently I began a creative writing class at the college in town. Little did I know that we would be writing short pieces, in 5-10-minute bursts, from different types of prompts, and then share them, out loud, with everyone in the class. Talk about vulnerability! I found myself genuinely enjoying the stories my classmates wrote, and even connected with a few of them. However, when it came time to read my own pieces, my inner dialogue was having a mental breakdown. Calm, cool, and collected on the outside, I read my writing every Monday night. I have no idea if what I have written has resonated or been appreciated by any other person in the class, but I can assure you, it has been mental gymnastics for me. While the INFJ in me is cringing from overexposure, I still find myself musing that this very exercise is the type of thing that strengthens the connective tissue of humanity. Although we all have unique experiences that shape our outlooks on everything, we really aren’t all that different.
For me, there is so much to be said about an introspective conversation with a dynamic friend. I value learning from external perspectives and diving into subjects that might have a sticky top layer, searching for the soft place to land beneath it. It is remarkable to me how calloused with defensiveness that we, as a society, have become. The fear of offending someone silences us on multiple levels, and we brave the public with a smile and a script, heaving as we cradle the heavy soul within us.
This is a place for vulnerability. It’s the soft landing place beneath the sticky top layer. It’s here that we will brave the wilderness of the human condition and share the infinite similarities that bind us. I hope you will join us in the quest of breaking down the script and admitting that we are all just majoring in improv, hoping it works out.