Vulnerability is a delicate word. It has the ability to drive you out of your deepest fears, allowing you to reveal yourself to the big, diverse world around you. There’s a beautiful connection that manifests when you grant yourself freedom from the shackles of fear. While there’s so many alluring effects of letting go of your worries, a wave of uncertainty can sit in the tangled mess of butterflies in your stomach.
When I envision vulnerability, I imagine rain. Not the heavy kind that beats at your windows. It’s the drizzle that dusts the windshield and leaves dewdrops along strands of hair. I picture my sister’s fingers tapping on the wheel and a long stretch of highway that is all too familiar in my hometown. This vibrant memory is from my 15th birthday, shared with my sister, Catie. She is the person who truly understands me, and since the bones in me began to grow, I knew I was accepted and welcome in her eyes.
One of the most beautiful lessons she taught me was about love. It’s easy to assume she coached me on how to get a boy’s attention or prepared me for what to wear on a first date. But on this day, with the rain painting the pavement and the wind playing with her hair, Catie explained to me that her love was not meant for a boy, but for a girl. The waves of blue in her eyes were glossy with tears. The uncertainty of my reaction must have felt like fire in her stomach. I brought water to her flames of doubt as I smiled, knowing that all I have ever wanted is for Catie to be happy. I felt a deep trust permeate through our hearts, and I saw all her worries melt away like the rain gliding off the roof of the car.
Everyone in this world wants to feel understood. People desire this acceptance, especially from those who are closest to them. The sinking, drowning feeling of imagining the disapproval from someone you love is immeasurable, yet all too familiar. Catie embodied the strength it takes to look the people you love in the eyes, and be all you want to be. I have struggled with the concept of being vulnerable throughout my life, but with Catie as my model, I have been able to help myself and everyone around me feel understood and loved.
I was the kid in elementary school that cried when they forgot their homework. Constant worry and anxiety clouded my mind for as long as I can remember, so I stuffed all of my fears of failure deep into my stomach for as long as I could until the panic set in. I didn’t want anyone to know that I wasn’t okay, that I wasn’t perfect. I felt embarrassed to admit I wasn’t like everyone else. I could feel my vision go blurry during chorus when the song would shrink to a hum, fearing the audience could hear my negative thoughts roaring in my head. I couldn’t sit through history class without scanning the room to ensure I was the only one who could catch on to the hammering metronome of my heart.
My resentment for the persistent doubts in my head felt like a weight pressing on my chest. The wars between the angel and devil on my shoulders never seemed to end, the anxiety-ridden devil always victorious in the end. The realization that Catie sees beauty in the darkest parts of my mind brought peace to the conflicts resting upon my bones, because she, too, has been shaken by the misaligned definition of perfection.
There is so much grace in experiences that differentiate us from others, and it would be a crime within ourselves to not spread our vulnerability like clouds rolling in the sky.