I remember a few years ago seeing quite a number of people post #nonewfriends on Facebook. I thought it was a bit absurd at the time. I now understand that it was from a song but because I am not always hip with the times, I seldom know where these new phrases and sayings originate. My initial thinking was to question why someone would close themselves off to new friends. Is not meeting new people and making connections an unavoidable part of the human experience? To be alive is to be human. To be human is to connect. To connect is to open oneself to the possibility of inviting others to share in this journey of breathing and being.
But it isn’t absurd. Opening up to new people and new friendships is like playing a game of poker. There is only one certainty and that’s the cards in your hands. You wait to see how others play the game. What bets they make. You pay attention to their facial expressions and body language. Are they honest? Are they bluffing? Do you go in a little more? Do you fold? Is what you hold in your hands good enough?
Is what I hold in my hands ‘good enough’?
Up until a few weeks ago, I held this belief that I was disposable. Not consciously or intentionally. It was a hidden yet powerful un-‘truth’, camouflaging itself as anxiety and fear of rejection. Bred during childhood, it bore offspring of low self-love and fear of abandonment that has continued into my adult years. Its DNA twined into behaviors, thought patterns and the way I perceive and interact with the world and people around me.
Surely, it would be understandable if I did not want to open myself up to new people? I can’t see what cards they hold. I don’t know if they will stick around. Why take the risk when I already have people who love me and have been a part of my journey? I have a few friends. I love and care about them all. Two are people I consider to be my best friends. They have both been in my life for over twenty years. They are loyal, supportive, honest, kind and I am about 99.99% sure they aren’t going anywhere. They have seen me in both my darkness and my light. They have witnessed much of my humanity. Its brokenness and its beauty. They understand my vulnerability and sensitivity. They don’t judge me or have expectations of who I am ‘supposed’ to be. They don’t attempt to mold me into what they want or need. They love me and I love them. They are dear to my heart. Dearer than anyone who has yet to walk this earth during the same time span as I.
Opening up to new people can be a vulnerable thing for most of us. It takes time to build relationships. To see what’s in each other’s hands and hearts. To know if it’s safe to trust. We take risks, little by little, because there’s no way of seeing the full picture. Sometimes you discover a person who is authentic and open and the connection becomes a positive part of your journey. And sometimes you find out a little late in the game that a person is dishonest or that they were hiding cards under the table and only showed what they wanted you to see. And the reality is that many of us, at one time or another, have been both of these people.
I do open myself up to new people. But it gets exhausting at times. It would be easier, I believe, to have a motto of no new friends. Safer, I suppose. Less vulnerable. Less risk. Less grief. I love hard and feel deep. I am sensitive, kind, expressive, intense, raw, a little rough around the edges and sometimes a little too honest for people’s taste. I will let you in if I feel that I can take a risk with my heart but in many settings, such as work, and with some people (dishonest), I will erect a wall so high and strong, you couldn’t penetrate it if you had a hundred grenades. I am finding it more difficult than usual to want to be vulnerable and connect. I am doing an immense amount of work to undo much of the damage done from years of childhood abuse and trauma. This means facing fears, challenging old belief patterns, showing up to therapy and being vulnerable when what I really want to do is cancel and never go back. It means sitting in yoga class doing poses while everything within my body screams ‘what the fuck are you doing?’ It means allowing myself to feel grief that I have suppressed for years and not rushing the process to get over being hurt and betrayed by someone I trusted and allowed to see me. It means not judging myself when my Scorpio claws come out. Admitting that the anger and claws are really just a way to avoid the grief and making genuine efforts to forgive. And I am a MAJOR work in progress when it comes to forgiveness. Minor offenses, sure. (maybe lol) But in some instances when I trust and truly allow myself to be vulnerable over a long period of time, the hurt of their betrayal can feel like being stabbed in a wound that was just beginning to heal. And knowing that it’s not just about this wound. But the wounds that were already there before they ever came along, doesn’t make it any easier to heal.
What I discover is that some people want the sunshine but not the rain. One of the things that always baffles me about living in California are the people who incessantly complain about the weather on days where its not the perfect amount of sunshine and in the 70’s. And that’s how some human beings are. They want charming, funny, kind, adventurous Kai. But the reality is that I have complex ptsd and still lots of healing to do. It does not define me and until a few weeks ago, I truly believed that my wounds made me disposable; that somehow I was broken and damaged by my past. That it was understandable for a person to invest in the easy and back away when they see the pieces that are ‘not so easy.’ Or when I don’t fit into the picture that they painted of me. And my trauma has been a major source of the shame that I have been carrying. But I refuse to believe that I am disposable. I have a lot of work to do but I am showing up and truly doing the best that I can. I am facing what feels impossible and moving barriers that I once believed were indestructible barricades. What I now understand is that I have no control over another person’s perception or actions. If they walk in on chapter eleven of my journey with no understanding of what has come before or interest in what will come after, they can choose to put the book down. Or they can keep reading. And I am learning to be okay. I am realizing that I am valued and loved and that my scars don’t make me disposable no more than anyone else’s. I have never looked at a person and thought they were less than because of what they have been through. Why then did I hold that belief of myself? Am I not just as human as the next person? I am not an expert on being vulnerable. But what I know is that vulnerability is needed for me to heal. That within my humanity is the capacity to be vulnerable and I get to choose whether or not, I want embrace it.
I think of humanity and vulnerability as an onion. Cutting into an onion… peeling through its layers is not an experience that many enjoy. Who wakes up and exclaims “I can’t wait to peel this onion later when I cook!” Now an onion in and of itself, uncooked, does not do much for me. I would be hella shocked if I were to encounter someone who goes around snacking on onions. When added to a recipe, however, it enhances the flavor. It is a necessary ingredient to some of the most savory and well loved dishes that many enjoy: Chili, stuffing, burgers, an array of soups and stews and the list goes on. Some of us truly enjoy cooking and we find pleasure in not only the finished product but the process itself. But when a recipe calls for an onion, we don’t look forward to the peeling, the tears, the unavoidable sting as it reaches our eyes. We attempt to shield ourselves from the discomfort. abbreviate the ache.
look away. cover our eyes. move faster.
I have even gone so far as to try to ‘psych myself’ into trying to control the affects of cutting an onion. I kid you not. I made a serious effort to convince myself that ‘this time’ I will not let this onion get the best of me. Laughable right? Surely, it is an inescapable by-product to which I cannot avoid if I want the full experience of the dish I am preparing.
The same can be said of vulnerability.
To be vulnerable. To open up and allow someone to see the hidden, beautiful, complicated, raw and sometimes deeply scarred layers that exist within…
Is hard. uncomfortable. scary. almost grueling at times. It carries with it an unavoidable sting that penetrates the soul in a way that makes us want to take cover. We attempt to shield ourselves from the discomfort. abbreviate the ache.
Look away: We distract ourselves with things and temporary solutions that numb our need for love and connection. We spend hours on social media and more time looking into a screen than we do looking into each other.
Cover our eyes: Truth is light, so we wear shades every chance we get to make ourselves more comfortable. We filter things through these lenses without wondering if perhaps, there’s a better view.
Move faster: We take on a lot of ‘projects’ and responsibilities and pride ourselves in ‘being busy.’ We don’t slow down because to slow down is to feel.
But there is more than just discomfort when being vulnerable. There is freedom. Growth. Healing. There is light and love and an inexplicable beauty. When I am vulnerable with someone who is safe, I feel empowered. If I am able to move beyond the ache: the shame, fear and insecurities, I become that much more closer to being fully who I was born to be. And in doing so, I am able to hold a little more compassion and love in my heart for not only others, but myself as well.
It is an inescapable by-product of humanity to which I cannot avoid if i want the full experience of being human and truly connecting to myself and the world around me.
Love and be loved, dear ones
See and be seen.
Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash