Vulnerability is one of my most treasured virtues. It's something I've proudly embraced as an actor, but have struggled with greatly in my romantic relationships, as well as several close friendships. My go-to defense mechanism is "fight or flight" in conflict. When I'm triggered, the idea of running or firing off my justified thoughts to whoever "wronged" me, feels SO satisfying. This fiery Irish woman loves to play the hero of her own story in the heat of the moment, and then fantasizes about even better zingers she could have come up with, after the event.
Can I get a "ME TOO!" shout-out from my fellow retaliators please?
I am happy to share that I've grown a lot in the last few years-- which isn't to say that my hot head no longer wants to pop off or run when someone gets under my skin, but I now (for the most part!) incorporate mindfulness tools like pausing or turning to a safe friend who will lovingly hold the space for my conscious complaining before I respond to the F-er who sets me off:)
However, like all humans I am far from perfect, and there is one treasured friendship I messed up on big time, three and a half years ago.
I met Liz when I was 17 at a high school summer theatre program, and I girl-crushed on her immediately. She was this adorable blue-eyed southern blonde belle with incredible style, and her personality lit up every room.
We lost touch during college, but the Universe clearly wanted us to be friends-- in our early twenties, we bumped into each other at the most random places three different times in NYC, and the rest was history.
Every time I hung out with Liz, it was a BLAST. She had the BEST dating stories, knew all the hidden spots to get the perfect latte or cocktail in New York, and made me feel like everything in my life REALLY mattered to her.
And it did.
When I found myself in a very emotionally abusive relationship, Liz did everything she could to save me, including taking me into her home when I could barely face my family and most friends. I was at my lowest of lows and her patience and heart were too huge for words. She even had the balls to take it upon herself to confront my ex about the lies she discovered he was saying about me.
Liz embodied #bestfriendgoals at its finest, which made the dissolve of our friendship a complete shock at the time.
But what I now know more than ever, is that our closest relationships--even the supposed safe ones, can often be our most triggering. There's an option to work through them if both are willing to be seen and heard, or go separate ways and see if the Universe will perhaps throw you together in a huge crowd a fourth time...
Ironically, despite our shared passion for self-help and spiritual growth, both of us wanted to be seen and heard but neither of us wanted to see or hear each other. And although the last thing I wanted was for the friendship to end, I couldn't bring myself to heal the situation when I heard from her months later. I was protective of the new chapter I was creating in LA, and didn't dare look back on my most painful chapter to date.
Today, I cringe at how Liz was her most vulnerable self and I wouldn't let her in. I missed her engagement celebration. Her big move out of NYC. Her wedding. Her new job. Her pregnancy, and God knows what else.
Time kept passing, and I continued to gain perspective on my responsibility in the mess through my work as both a coach and a client, but I couldn't let go of the story, "She'd never want to pick up where we left off after I missed the two biggest events of her life."
Through some deeper digging and inquiry, I realized the real truth-- I didn't want to pick up where we left off after I missed the two biggest events of her life. The guilt. The shame. The thought that if I ever got married or pregnant, it would be unfair to have her support me when I wasn't there to support her.
Valid feelings? Yes. Valid reason to never reach out to a friend who was like family? HELL NO.
Upon seeing a glowing picture of a very pregnant Liz that a mutual friend shared several months ago, (#stalkationnation) I ripped off the fearful pity-party bandaid and clicked send on a perfectly imperfect email-- the reality was I was never going to express my full truth in writing.
It makes my heart so full to share that we had the most mature, respectful, and healing conversation. Liz's feelings at that chaotic time were totally valid, and to be forgiven about how guarded I was when she wanted to reconnect, was such a relief.
Moral of the story? Don't tell yourself a story as an excuse to hide and potentially lose the most important people and opportunities in your life. Yes, there's a chance you'll get shut down, but you'll never know if you don't try. And REAL PERSONAL growth lies in doing the best you can with your carefully chosen set of values-- not necessarily for the outcome to go your way.
I'll leave you with this quote from the queen of vulnerability research, Brene Brown: “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
I'm so grateful to discover the infinite power of light with Liz again. There is no time like the present, and I KNOW in my deepest of hearts that this monumental learning lesson unfolded exactly the way it was supposed to.
Who or what in your life are you avoiding out of fear of having the door slammed or learning about a weakness you don't want to own? Is the fear of loss or having that difficult conversation worth never knowing how much fuller and happier your life could be?? Dare to be vulnerable and share below!!
And CONTACT ME for a phone session-- especially if you're feeling a little too late to the 2017 party, like I was.
Happy Claire Your Mind Monday.