By Raven Wells
Recently I found myself going through what felt like the five stages of grief. I found myself in an agonizing limbo with my significant other, an altercation like any other, but only I was expecting a response of an apology. I was angry, insulted – how could you deny yourself of me? And though I knew the initial conflict on that Sunday morning was started by me, I couldn’t free myself from the pettiness that shrouded my vulnerability.
I regressed to that of a child in time-out, raving and irrational, calling nonstop. Long sweet apologies, with a hint of bitterness sprinkled on top like, “Give me what’s mine” or “I’ll be coming for my things soon”. Sleepless nights, and endless daytime, asking myself, “How did I get here”? Even my mother, noticed the irritation and thinning edges on my head, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell my devote Christian mother that I was this torn over someone I was not married to. I didn’t tell anyone.
Vulnerability has been the misunderstood friend of mine for many years. It wasn’t until recently that I learned my volition to reject vulnerability in my life caused more conflict and stress than I knew. Things I thought were just character traits, was me avoiding to be perceived as weak, as less, wrong. I cannot be uncomfortable – trying new things, meeting new people were all out of reach, not because I could not do it, but because I do not wish to be vulnerable and whisked away to the unknown. I cannot be wrong – discussions turned into arguments because I refuse to listen, to be corrected, to learn. I can’t be critiqued or questioned; inquiries of my intent in daily matters meant you didn’t trust my judgment. Negative opinions about things I care about meant you thought negatively of me. I take things personally and cannot separate criticism from the individual, in this case, myself. Even in intimacy, I denied myself because pride would not let me simply say, “I want you.”
A person who is thin skinned, cannot listen, and cannot compromise can be difficult to handle and in some contexts, abusive, if their behavior affects others negatively but they fail to comprehend how. Like a grown toddler, it wasn’t until the collapse after the week long tantrum, exhausted, my head throbbing and my face salty and hot, that I realized I was to blame for much more than that Sunday morning. These traits showed themselves in more ways than one that morning and the guilt was overwhelming. How many other people had I disappointed and silenced because their thoughts were too much for me?
To be vulnerable is not to be weak or powerless, but to have the courage to allow yourself to trust others with your being. With vulnerability you always have power; you can, like me, pretend like your shit don’t stink, or humble yourself and trust another can take care of you just as well as you can. Humble yourself and admit you are not perfect.
After coming down from my high and attempting to dismantle my pride I found myself lighter. I realized I had ample opportunities to express vulnerability in my everyday life. Talking to friends and loved ones about my mistakes, and exposing myself felt like exhaling after being underwater. The façade of the impenetrable, stoic, all knowing woman I wanted to be was too heavy, so I took it off and became myself.
Raven Wells is based on the South Side of Chicago. She contributes to BGIO because she feels that it is an appropriate outlet to express, encourage, create and surround herself with like minded women of color who seek peace through the arts. She finds peace in sketching, long finger pruning baths and anime. You can find her on her blog and on Tumblr.