Letter from the Director, January 2023
Vulnerability is a Super Power
The year began unseasonably warm and I walked the trails through the colony’s winter-brown fields coatless. The ground was damp from past rain and the seep that joins the water of the top ridges to Flat Creek was flowing full. I squatted beside the small pond at the southeastern edge of the property and watched the stream surge from beneath a rock against the sun-warmed bank. My heart was hurting.
The water collects underground for many yards, filling a natural cistern before gushing out at this place. I found a seat on a thick fallen tree limb and noted the steady music of the flow. The sound was softer that I thought it should be given the force, almost as if the natural world sensed my ache and was tiptoeing around me. I folded my body, pulled my knees to my chest and breathed.
I don’t think there’s anything that can heal a wrong except time. There’s no antiseptic for unkindness, no bandage to wrap around emotional wounds. Nothing can really dull a gut kick, metaphorical as this one was. I had trusted someone. I had believed in them. I had allowed myself to be vulnerable and found a blade (also metaphorical, thankfully) stuck in my back. With the benefit of hindsight, one can hope to glean wisdom from such experiences, or at least to not make the same mistake twice, but I don’t know the trick to erase the pain. I think you have to lean into it, live in its skin, open yourself to it even more than the openness you offered to what caused the pain. Easier said than done.
The cost of vulnerability can be high, but I think there’s value in the purchase. You might not get what you want, but what you gain in understanding your own tenderness is worth a lot. Vulnerability is not weakness; in fact, it’s power. Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” Poet David Whyte says, “Vulnerability is the underlying, ever-present and abiding undercurrent of our natural state.” This feels like power to me.
I think it also comes down to trust and openness. You can live your life with your heart locked tight as a vault or you can share the key code knowing there’s a certain risk that comes with that. There’s risk in everything – risk in loving, risk in trusting, risk in sharing, risk in daring to be your truest self. I think the worst outcome is not when we’re open and trust someone, even if it ends badly, but when we don’t ever allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to take the chance.
Isn’t it the same thing with writing? You can’t direct all your words from the safe haven of your intellect; indeed, some of them, maybe most of them, have to come from the heart. When you write, you’re trusting the world to hold your language carefully and kindly. You’re offering a piece of yourself. Believe me, I know the courage that takes. I know as well, how frightening it is to be vulnerable within a world so often harsh. I know the cost of risk. I think you should risk anyway.
By the pond, even as I was hurting, I watched the water from the land rush beside me. I felt its energy and purpose, its renewal. I felt a sense of my own deep waters, an undercurrent rising through me, independent of anyone else’s acceptance or permission. That’s what these words stand up for, and why, when I sensed the sun’s warmth on my shoulders, I pushed myself to my feet and walked back to the farmhouse. There was still a lot of work to do.
May you feel your own power in vulnerable moments. May you take the risk.