Embracing Vulnerability. I no longer want to just settle for the booby prize.

Businesswoman shouting her victory to the world

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”― Howard Thurman






At 56 years old, I’ve accumulated an abundance of knowledge.  I have spent the better part of my adult life being, what I would call, “a seeker”.  I have always been curious about life – all sides of it.  Life is a contrasting mixture of pleasure and pain.  We are not able to truly feel joy without feeling pain.  To deny one, is to deny the other.  Meaning can only be found through accepting “what is”; then feeling the feelings and emotions, allowing them to flow through us.  Only after allowing the pain, can we find the adaptive ability to create new visions which enable us to create and have more joy and creativity along the way.

 When I don’t allow my pain to surface, it becomes stuck inside my body and surfaces in various destructive ways.  For me, one of those ways is self-destructive eating.  I have to remind myself of this over and over.  Like so many, my default of compulsive eating came from a survival instinct at a very young age, to resist or deny pain of any kind – physical or emotional.  I learned to shove it away, so not to be perceived as weak (or what I thought as weak) by others.  I learned quickly that being stoic was greatly valued by my family.  I was often accused of being “too sensitive”.  When I was really young I learned not to talk about my pain or show my emotions.  Vulnerability of any kind was not acceptable.  I still wrestle with this beast even now, from time to time, though I know better.  I have known for many years that these stoic values are not true strength.  I was simply unwilling to open up to this truth in myself.

 Jung says, “What you resist not only persists, but will grow in size”.

 It is a paradoxical quandary,

 “Unexpressed emotions tend to stay in the body like small ticking bombs—they are illnesses in incubation”, Marilyn Van Derbur.

 Coming from a difficult childhood I never wanted to be a victim of; in my early twenties I set out on a journey of understanding.  I was not afraid to ask the hard questions of myself or others, when it really counted.  I am afraid of many other things but not that.  I have always been curious about humanity in general and how we end up thinking and doing the things we do.

 I consider myself spiritual, although, sometimes I lose sight of Spirit.  However, no matter how far I’ve ever felt from Spirit, I always knew it was there, waiting for me.  I would eventually manage to find that stillness and land in that space of clarity, in the depth of my soul.  This sustained me for many years.

 Through the years, I kept reading and learning.  Taking course after course, I became certified as an Integrative Shadow Life Coach and, for the most part, I thought I had figured out who I was.  I was not particularly what society would call “successful”, neither in my career nor my health (especially with weight issues), even though I had learned from some of the best spiritual teachers on the planet.  None the less, I felt somewhat content in my life.  I always felt one of my greatest gifts was empathy and I enjoyed helping others find their own light in the world.  Little did I know, it can also be a powerful way for us to keep from looking inward at our own truth. Crisis has a way of holding a mirror unlike anything else.

 Then, in July 2014, we had a hurricane.  What a wonderful metaphor for my life that has turned out to be.  During that time of no electricity for 96 hours, something happened that sent my world into a whirlwind. While running from the barn to the house in the rain I slipped and fell on my wet deck and my then body of 245 pounds came crashing down onto my knees, injuring one of them to the point of extreme swelling and temporary debilitation.  Fortunately, the pain and swelling only lasted a couple of weeks, however, a month  later, while walking on the beach, the swelling returned, this time worse than the first.  From that time forward, my knees continued to cause me intense pain and, at times over the next two years, were bad enough that I had to rely on crutches or canes.  After many physiotherapy sessions and chiropractor visits (for a painful spine from my large body being so out of alignment from limping so much), I became bitter and somewhat reclusive.  Oh, I put an outward positive spin on things because I was very good at that game for a while – I was raised that way, after all, and I reinforced that mask with all the knowledge I had accumulated over the years.  I had to walk the talk, right?

 Much to my frustration, I felt more and more helpless and steadily grew angrier toward my condition.  I hated feeling like a victim; that’s what I thought vulnerability was.  Mostly angry at myself for the weight I still carried, for knowing all this knowledge and living only part time in what I was teaching others to do full time. I discovered just how much out of integrity I truly have been throughout most of my adult life.  It’s so strange, the illusions we can create to keep ourselves unseen.  I spent most of my life warning others about what would happen with their health if they lived a life that was unauthentic but, really, all that time the lesson was mine to hear.

 I constantly see examples of this in service careers; men and, more often, women suffering from exhaustion and stress related illnesses.  People who both care for others and teach them how to take better care of themselves, behind closed doors beat themselves up either consciously or unconsciously and secretly carry out their own destructive habits.  Do you ever wonder what you truly believe about yourself?  I was taught: “Just look at how you show up to yourself when no one is looking.  Listen to the thoughts you have about yourself.”

 This winter of 2017 I realized that for a couple of years now, I had been just barely moving – literally and emotionally -, each day for over a year.  I hated who I was becoming.  I could no longer play the game very well and became that person who I did not like. The person you want to walk away from who is constantly complaining about their body ailments. Last year, I had gained an additional 40 pounds and suffered in a mild to moderate depression through the summer of 2016.  My health had continued to decline.  I could write an entire chapter on what is going wrong in my body but that is not the point of this blog.  I knew something had to change.  Little by little, I began to listen to my own inner voice more often, once again.  I am now very slowly coming back to life, even with all the body issues, and I realise that, maybe for the first time, I have not truly been living authentically most of my life. I have only settled for a mediocre life.  I have carried a vision of who I would love to be and even managed, at times, to uncover her and live in that passionate place – but only for so long before I reverted to that false frightened self.  One can possess all the knowledge in the world but without the wisdom of self-care and self-love in action, it doesn’t mean a damn thing.  If I’m not willing to do the daily practices that enhance my life and health, I am only talking a talk.  I’m regurgitating knowledge.  My mentor, Debbie Ford, used to say that “knowledge is the booby prize” and I have come to understand that I have only settled for the booby prize for most of my life.

 I really did not want to admit that I have been way too afraid to really own all of who I am.  I have come to discover things about myself which very few people get to see.  Who I am underneath the fear is someone with an insatiable appetite for learning new things and seeking new adventures!  I am a spiritual, wild, passionate, whimsical and intuitive woman who is a mystic in the modern world.  I am someone who needs lots of alone time to maintain my health and wellness.  I love to move my body with dance, qi-gong and yoga!  I love walking barefoot in the grass and spending time at the beach just listening to the waves.  I love to laugh and play and I don’t do this nearly enough!   I love to write and I desire to create more in my life!  I am an introvert, not the extrovert that I have tried to convince myself and others of all these years.  I have been too busy trying to help others to protect and care for myself.  I know that I am very sensitive.  Oh, how I have hated to own or to be called sensitive.  Society teaches us that it is wrong or that it’s a weakness and yet it is the most beautiful part of me that I am still learning to embrace.  I am a woman who is deeply affected by the energy of others and by what I see on TV or read on social media.  I am an Empath.

 I can be rude, uncaring and disconnected, as well.  More often, when I am those darker things I am usually feeling overwhelmed and unprotected, so I lash out at others.  All these things, I am learning to love more – the dark, as well as the light.  As my teacher once told us, “there is gold in the dark”.  That is what true self-love is. I have accumulated a lot of knowledge from reading books, listening to many wonderful spiritual teachers in my training and throughout my life, but in reality, I did not consistently do the daily self-care practices.  Especially we need to do our daily practices when we are in crisis for this is when we gain the wisdom of knowledge in our bones that eventually brings us back to joy.

 This blog is the beginning of a new book, not a new chapter for me . I began last year with Brené Brown’s course, “LIVING BRAVE SEMESTER™”, learning to open up more with my heart and not my head.  I learned from Brené that vulnerability is beautiful and a sign of strength. I want to move forward in a new and intentional way that is radically different in some ways, the same in other ways, but healthier and truer to my heart.   The way I can finally take that long journey from the knowledge in my mind to the wisdom of my heart, using knowledge as only a tool, to become authentically me.  I want to open up and land in this, vulnerable place in my heart.

 “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” – Brené Brown

 “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” -Brené Brown

 I then took a course online at Amen University called : “The Brain Warrior’s Way”. I learned from Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen just what all these years of obesity and destructive over eating was doing to my brain and therefore my thoughts. What a wakeup call!  Again even after all the years of accumulated knowledge of healthy eating I had learned over 30 years I was still not implementing on a consistent basis because I had not brought it into my heart. Only from the heart  can I give myself permission to love myself enough to let go of my weight and trust that I could live in my body with strength through vulnerability. Healthy eating is only accessible on a consistent basis if we integrate it into our hearts and truly believe we are worthy.   Thank you Tana for all your words of encouragement. Our mind is only as good as our daily practices. Without diligent healthy practices our negative thoughts can take over our lives.

“Don’t believe everything you hear—even in your own mind.” -Dr Daniel G Amen

“My mind is a neighborhood I try not to go into alone.”- Anne Lamont

Over the next while, I will be writing about this journey here in my blog.  Join me, if you like.  It’s going to be a hell of a ride and I am ready!  I want to be more fully alive! 

“I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.” – Joseph Campbell






2 Responses to “Embracing Vulnerability. I no longer want to just settle for the booby prize.”

  • Colette Thibodeau says:

    11:18pm Wed.Dec.20.
    OMG! Joyce, I thought I was reading about me as well. I suspected that your life & upbringing was very similar to mine. Despite all the reading & the accumulated knowledge, I too have neglected walking the talk many many times. Still do. Have a chronic condition right now that I think I know what it’s about but cannot for the life of me find the way to alleviate it … again despite having knowledge of so many other techniques that I have learned over the years & practiced on others. Love your article. Thank you for writing it. I, too have been putting onto paper (laptop) whenever I feel I should dump (good & bad). Helps to feel less isolated.

  • Lynda says:

    Beautiful,vulnerable post…..we are human…we are imperfect….we seek!!! Thanks for sharing 💕

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