Show Up, In Vulnerability

 Image credit: Dylan Spitz

Image credit: Dylan Spitz

"Speak truth to bullshit but be civil"

There’s a necklace around my neck that tucks itself into my bra every morning. It took me 15 years to know that it was the Bleeding Heart of Jesus. It took me 5 hours after learning it was the Bleeding Heart of Jesus to know that the Bleeding Heart of Jesus is me. 

“The sacred heart is a symbol of great self sacrifice and unconditional divine love for all beings captured in the actions and deeds of Jesus Christ.” So the Internet tells me. 

“When our love and compassion overcomes and sacrifices our own ego, our spirit will be liberated and transform our entire being.” You don’t say. 

“This great symbol can become a gateway for us to change the world through our expression of unequivocal, genuine love. So let us love one another unconditionally.” Already there. 

There’s a heart in my body that knows real love, real hurt, and has room for more, of both, of either, but it prefers the former if you must know. 

I’m a month back into writing for an audience and the text messages, they’ve piled up. Some I ignore, some I answer, all have the same theme — “are you okay?” Some are anchored in curiosity, others in genuine concern. Most are still rooted on the reality that I’ve spent my career fighting — why are we so damn uncomfortable with someone sharing their middle? Are we that accustomed to drowning in other people’s highlight reels that we read any indication of real emotion as a cry for help? 

I’ve had to sign end of life papers, I can promise you that if I’m writing and publishing it’s because I’m standing by my own volition, living my life in my own right, and more often than not smiling when I get a really good sentence down. 

Here’s my truth, I show up as is. It’s hard, but I do it because I don’t know how to do anything else. We’re tangled up in feeling the need to save face, like somehow it’ll erase the fact that we feel real emotions? Like somehow having real emotions is a bad thing? 

I spent months watching someone I love with my entire being alternate between saving face in a room of two and in a public forum, it was eviscerating to see how they didn’t trust themselves enough to know that they could survive anything, that they would never get a high reward if they bet so low emotionally. But here we are. They saved face, but didn’t save anything else. 

When it’s pride over vulnerability, the sacred heart around my neck apparently has known all along that I’ll choose vulnerability. When it’s numbing all feelings over feeling sadness and longing, I choose sadness and longing on my way to finding joy. 

Who I am, my writing, it allows me the freedom to do it in a public forum, but my writing is at the end of the day still for me and it showcases my humanity because I’m human. I have stories and they speak truth to bullshit. They speak real feelings to real life moments. Some can even rip apart the highlight reel of some of your favorite “Instagrammers” and all they would leave behind is the humanity they seem to be so embarrassed to embrace. 

Most of my essays come from sitting with myself and noticing the world around me. The way a mom props up her toddler on the bus seat. The way the little buddy turns on his knees to look out the window and notice the way the trees move with the wind and the way the fire trucks light up. The way humanity comes alive at the intersection of beauty, happiness, and pain. 

If I’m not embarrassed noticing how the world around me functions, why would I be embarrassed by the way the world inside of me lights up and dims on any given day? 

I thrive on that humanity. I sink in it. I listen to a song, I don’t hear the hook, I notice the fifth lyric in the third verse because that felt like someone poured into it. I let him kiss me, let that light me up like a Christmas tree in July, I let it change me. 

I’m a person with feelings and relationships and days of needing to be held. I’m a person who in the back of a car when she’s crying gets the most validating job offer. I’m a woman who is layered, who knows how to wear Elf pajama pants and llama socks with the same confidence that she wears a rose two piece lingerie set with the teddy attached.

Because I hone my confidence through vulnerability. I show up emotionally like it’s my battleground and I’m at war with myself. I look for validation in my soul before I look for it in the eyes of the man who wants to unzip my corset. I do it because the alternative is emptiness and anchoring myself in other people’s opinions of me. It would be questioning myself and my sanity every time someone asks if I’m okay simply because I showed up in my writing. If you don’t see bravery in my writing, it’s not because of my writing. 

If you don’t see bravery and strength in the way I carry myself, in the way I show up when we’re sitting face to face, it’s not because of my person. 

I navigate two realities, my own and the one I let people into online. The venn diagram for both of those overlap on “vulnerability” because it has to. I don’t know how to show up as myself if I don’t show up as my full self. Yes, there are some stories that I’ve left for pillow talk, others that only my family know, but other than that - my middle, it’s my reality. 

Do I still like really nice pictures? I do. Will I pretend like my way with words hasn’t helped me heal in one of the most emotionally confusing seasons of my life? I won’t. I don’t feel the need to pretend to be happier or sadder than I am at any given moment because I’ve never felt the need to be anyone other than who I wake up as at 3am when I talk to ceilings at God.