An Awaking to Vulnerability

Photo by Caryn Noel @ http://www.carynnoel.com/

Opening ourselves up leads us to deeper, more intimate relationships, but it is dependent on us being vulnerable.

Have you ever noticed that when we open ourselves up to one another it often leads us to a deeper, more intimate place and that being vulnerable is essential to connecting? Dr. Brene Brown, Professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, explains this phenomenon: “Vacillating between I am here and I love you…and I’m going to reveal my innermost to you…and I am scared to death that you’ll reject me.” Ironically, the vulnerability we try desperately to avoid may be the key to a successful relationships.

What does it look like to be vulnerable? Honestly, I’ve been doing some soul searching to better understand and grow in this area myself, especially since it has come up numerous times in the last three months. Yes, God has my full attention as I hope I have yours. 😉

In August I had someone review my blog as my desire is to be the best at whatever I do. Surprisingly, the feedback I was given said, “your writing is authentic but you are not vulnerable.”

My initial response was, “Why of course I’m not vulnerable, it’s scary and I’ve been burned too many times.” Because of previous hurts I had erected a wall of protection around my heart. While trying to appear perfect and having it together, or intelligent in order to connect with others, that actual pretense tended to have the opposite effect. Fear makes it hard to be authentic. (Fear becomes an obstacle in creating authenticity and connectedness.)

Our culture bombards us with messages to be strong, bold, and powerful while frowning upon being vulnerable. However, vulnerability is not a sign of weakness, rather it is understanding our identity in Christ as God created us to be without pretenses. It is in acknowledging our weaknesses that God is able to work in our life, for His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in our weaknesses. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Last weekend I attended the Idea Camp on Human Care, where Mark Horvath shared how being vulnerable was one of the most profound lessons he had ever learned and suggested that we listen to Dr. Brené Brown’s audio tapes. In fact, several other speakers mentioned the importance of being transparent. Yes, God has captured my attention. Daily I am asking Him to show me what vulnerability really looks like and what messages are lies I have come to believe.

As I reflected on my childhood and past hurtful relationships I realized some of my faulty thinking, “I have to be perfect” and “I should only share pleasantries.” I was unable to turn off the broken records that fill my head with messages like “You’re not good enough” and “What will people think?” These messages were impeding me from fully connecting with others for fear that I would mess up or be rejected, as I have experienced abandonment issues in the past. I had considered abandoning this article out of fear of being too real, too vulnerable. However, God has had me on a love journey and is continually showing me the areas in my life where I need to be more open to fully love others.

I like what C.S. Lewis said, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

If connection gives purpose and meaning to our life I feel that social media is breeding a false sense of being connected as the underlying premise that interacting with more people is better. Jay Baer said, “Fundamentally, technology and our use of it isn’t – as we’ve all hoped – bringing us closer together. In fact, it may be driving us farther apart, as we know more and more people, but know less and less about each of them.” Our computers, Smart Phones, iPad, etc allow us to hide behind a screen and never truly be known.

I’ve only watched a few Ted Talks, one of which was Brené Brown’s, The power of vulnerability.” She defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.

WOW! I want all of these.

If you haven’t listened to this talk, I highly recommend it as there is a reason that more than 10 million have listened to it. Next week I will share what stood out to me plus a few ways I personally plan to be more vulnerable.

Do you struggle with being vulnerable? If so, what has it cost you?

Routines

Psalm32-8

Goodbye laid back summer days. Hello September routines!  I am thrilled with the prospect of what a more structured routine offers as a new school begins.  That said, I will miss summer, which was incredibly adventurous, full of spontaneity, and far from daily deadlines or constraints.

I’ve tended to be very structured and orderly most of my life. My two eldest daughters would tell you that when they were young I was all about structured routines. We had charts for each ¼ hour of the day that detailed school, chores and bedtime routines.  I’m a “Type A” personality married to a completely relaxed husband.  Thankfully, he has rubbed off on me these past 28 years and with time I’ve mellowed tremendously.

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There are no easy routine recipes that will suit every family. Each routine needs to be based on your child and your family dynamics.

My husband works out of the house, which is both enjoyable and difficult at the same time as he is physically home but his mind and attention can be in another part of the world. He travels about 40% of the time, which is disruptive to maintaining a consistent routine for Cayley and I. Our two grown daughters live in different states as do our parents so keeping up with them oftens means they are traveling to see us, we are traveling to see them or we are all traveling to some exotic destination.  Sorry Facebook, but having real face to face time is uber important to this family. Originally, we wanted to be available to travel with Jon on his longer business trips so relying on structure took a backseat to being flexible thus the idea of having routines seemed constraining to me and I fought them.

Recently, God has shown me that our youngest daughter, Cayley, desperately needed more order in her life. She likes to know what’s next and will often ask, “What are we doing next?”  Disorder, spontaneity, and chaos created stressful situations for Cayley and sometimes a bit of anxiety.  Schedules and routines help her make sense of her day thereby reducing anxiety and apprehension.  I discovered that Cayley handles change best if it’s expected versus stressing over how to fill her day.  She has dealt with many unpredictable changes – her dad’s frequent business trips, sisters moving to Detroit and San Diego, death in the family, six moves before the age of 8, our love for travel, etc.  Thankfully, I’ve come to realize that all of these changes have slowly eroded her sense of security while playing into anxiety issues.  As I continue to study my daughter I better understand her specific needs, thereby providing her with the best home and school environment to thrive in.

Studies have shown most children do best when routines are regular, predictable and consistent as they help bring order and structure in the home allowing kids to thrive and become well grounded.  Structure and routines teach kids how to effectively control themselves and their environments.

Routines well planned and written out tend to work best.

As I embarked on the new school year I evaluated the previous year by looking back on strengths, weaknesses, and areas of growth for Cayley.  I sought God, hubby and Cayley for direction and input. Together we agreed on establishing routines to help achieve our goals for the year. Being visual and having a passion for making charts, Cayley and I created a weekly routine. I’m in the process of training her how to keep a day timer where she will put her school assignments, upcoming appointments, her next sister visit, dad’s travel, etc., so when she inquires I can simply say, ‘go look at your calendar.”  Also when we have our weekly family meetings she can participate and write in future events.

For those with little ones make a poster with the written schedule, including photos of each child doing the activities in the right order, to empower them and make your life easier.

It helps to reevaluate your routines regularly. We have a family meeting on Sundays to preview our upcoming week.  It helps me greatly to know when Jon has phone conferences, meetings out of the house, and future business travel. Having Cayley part of our family meetings helps her tremendously as she is able to see what’s coming down the road and feel more connected as a family.

Routines take time to become habits.  We’ve been getting up a lot earlier as we’ve added exercise to our day.  Getting out of bed at 6:15am to exercise has been a struggle but each day it’s becoming easier and now has become something we all look forward to. This has made our evening dinner and bedtime routines more consistent as we are ready to be in bed by 9:30pm if not earlier.  If it takes 21 days to break a bad habit I’d venture to say the same holds true for creating a good habit 😉 Don’t be afraid to tweak a routine if it’s not working for your family.

Lastly, having a routine doesn’t mean that every minute of the day must be rigidly scheduled, whew! Remember a good routine should work for your family.

I’ve found a way to embrace routines that work best for my family and now I’m reaping amazing benefits such a peace, a less stressful child, direction, and a better understanding of expectations.

What are some of the routines in your home? What have you found to be the main benefits of maintaining a routine?