“Vulnerability is the only authentic state. Being vulnerable means being open, for wounding, but also for pleasure. Being open to the wounds of life means also being open to the bounty and beauty. Don’t mask or deny your vulnerability: it is your greatest asset. Be vulnerable: quake and shake in your boots with it. the new goodness that is coming to you, in the form of people, situations, and things can only come to you when you are vulnerable.”

― Stephen Russell, Barefoot Doctor’s Guide to the Tao: A Spiritual Handbook for the Urban Warrior

I believe people when they tell me something, and take them at their word. I trust people, and by letting people in and trusting them, we become vulnerable, and vulnerability is not my specialty. I do much better hiding behind sarcasm and cynicism and laughter. I’ve spent a lifetime shutting people out, hiding behind a carefully engineered facade, and I’ve spent the past year and a half deconstructing those walls in attempts at creating an emotionally open floor plan. There are times I must force myself not to build them back up twice as tall and twice as thick, because unfortunately, life can be a messy bitch.

I work hard at not being jaded by the world, scrubbing the shitty taste of suffering out of my mouth and brushing off the acrimonious attitude that occasionally rears its spiteful head with a sense of entitlement. It’s not easy to have that Zen attitude, no past, no future, just now. Theoretically, that’s what I strive for, but there are times when I am not able to remain impervious and objective. There are times I am rattled, and in turn, I lose my center, and when I lose my center, my instinct is to start throwing walls back up to protect myself, and I have to fight that with all that I am. People only rattle us if we allow them to, I get that. It’s up to us how much space we allow someone to rent in our psyche, but sometimes it’s like an infectious disease that has to run its course, and we spend so much time and energy fighting it that we are left drained, and in turn, allow ourselves to become swallowed up in dangerous waves of self-pity.

But I can’t afford that luxury. One of the hallmarks of addiction is using substances or other behaviors to escape what you’re feeling. Even in recovery, there are subtle ways that one can escape his or her experience. I can’t run from it, and I’m not rebuilding stupid walls. I will sit calmly in my open floor plan and remind myself that life ebbs and flows, and that I am not in control. I will remember that in the absence of my judgement, everything is exactly how it is supposed to be, and I will work to accept it. I need to remain sensitive and empathetic of that fact that everyone I encounter in my life is on their own journey, has had their own struggles and are muddling through this life just as I am.

People will not always treat us the way that we deserve to be treated, but that doesn’t make us less than we are. Feelings aren’t facts, they don’t define us and are as transitory as the clouds gliding through the sky.

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.


39 replies

  1. Oh my goodness I’m digging you lately, lady. I think I want to print this on a T-shirt and have it tattooed on my arm so I can pull it out and settle. Beautifully said!! And your timing is excellent as I stew and get worked up inside about something. Your writing reminds me to settle, ground myself, reminds me of my journey, and of what I don’t control, and of others’ journeys, all those good things. Thanks you. You is smart!

  2. I am not fighting substance abuse as you are, but I am working to become vulnerable as you are. I’ve spent the majority of my life with walls around my heart and when I lost my wife I realized that none could get into to rescue me from myself. Talk about a wake up call…

    • Yep, it’s something I think we all struggle with at different times, and after we are hurt it is the worst, we just want to protect ourselves and in doing so we shut out any chance of happiness. It’s a nasty double-edged sword.

  3. Scruffy,
    My wildly inappropriate side and my vulnerability almost overlap perfectly…….it seems I am constantly prepared to say silly shit – just to see where it lands me. Your calm position on the open floor plan sounds nice… me a spot:)

    • You’re Scruffy.
      Don’t get me wrong, my sarcasm and irreverence will always be there, but it has to have it’s place other than purely a defense mechanism. My calm floor plan looks like an episode of Hoarders sometimes.

    • Scruffy,

      I’ll agree that we are both scruffy……..but that I am more of a hairy mess.

      Especially where it seems you are getting so fucking smart (or maybe you have merely elected to present your intelligence more succinctly lately).

      Well done, I will follow, you lead.


      • Scruffy Jr.
        I have just toned down my persona, softened up, put down my walls a bit, and stopped typing fuck every other word. If that makes me more succinct, then so be it.
        Fuck you,
        Scruffy Sr.

        • Scruffy,

          I’m reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly with a group for a couple of weeks and just now I’m looking over old RidicuRyder google listings and voila! You! Hope this finds you well…or at least finds you.


  4. I really got impressed by your openness dear. Its amazing how you have analyzed this topic and have observed yourself. Thanks for sharing this insight with us first of all.

    I feel I like to be vulnerable around people I like and trust and closed around people whom I do not trust. So its more over very specific for me. And with the learning of life every day as I am living it I think I am less and less vulnerable in the world as I am discovering my weaknesses and working on them to make sure people don’t hurt me by knowing about them.

    • I agree, but the pain and risk comes from trusting someone completely, and then they completely fuck you over, and not to throw those walls right back up to protect yourself, because in doing so you cut off all of your chances of genuine happiness again. It sucks.

  5. Being vulnerable is the riskiest proposition, especially for someone like me who expects the worst in people. Why open myself up when I know people will just end up disappointing? How wonderfully dysfunctional.

    I have been vulnerable a few times in my life. Sometimes it ended well, and sometimes it ended really badly. The times it ended well MORE than made up for the other times.

    • You nailed it, we protect ourselves with the notion that we will be hurt/disappointed anyway, so we stay closed, and sacrifice our chance at real happiness in fear of real pain. Sucks.

  6. I admire your strength as you continue to believe in yourself and are willing to see things differently.
    Taking a risk (without expectations) is like opening the door to check the weather. Sometimes it’s cloudy, sometimes it’s sunny, but it always just is. We go out in that weather and our reaction is what defines how we feel.

  7. Love the Stephen Russell quote; so so true! I have to give you props Tracy for these words of objectivity; stepping temporarily out of self and viewing/feeling things from other ‘shoes’. Recognizing that you are a unique part of a whole then progressing as a significant part of that whole by discovering your strengths and weaknesses (vulnerabilities) is at minimum being in the game, if you will. Well done Tracy.

  8. More amazing stuff! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings with the world. I can so relate to this it blew me away. Please keep it coming!

  9. Why does someone who says fuckity-fuck and shit so much make my head hurt from deep thoughts?

    Being affected by those who I know and love is not the hardest part of vulnerability: It is being affected by those who I should not give a rat’s patootie about. I like your phrase “It’s up to us how much space we allow someone to rent in our psyche.” If some insignificant butthead is using my psyche, I need to find a way to up his rent. A lot!

    • Ha!
      Ridicuryder suggested that I have elected to present my intelligence more succinctly lately. Perhaps he’s right.

      Honestly all those fuckity fuck fucks are part of the wall, in this weird evolution and softening, I find that sometimes my feelings are now more accurately expressed in other words, with another voice, in other ways. I still love a good Fuck. You. but like everything else, it has it’s time and it’s place. Maybe that’s part of me learning about the new, exciting word “moderation.”

      On another note, you are absolutely 100% spot on about being affected by the people we shouldn’t, or don’t want to be affected by. But there’s a reason for that, and the lesson in it will continue to present itself over and over again until we identify and learn it.

      I try to understand MY part in things now more than I try to understand others’. What other people think of me is really none of my business, and I have no business taking their personal inventory, let alone believing I can change them. The one thing, the ONLY thing I can change about any situation, is how I react to it.

      It’s hard being this smart, you know. Fuck.


    • damn straight, this dog is learning some new tricks alright! I hardly recognize myself sometimes, I’m becoming the person I always wanted to be. It’s awesome.

  10. Hahaha, this post could have used more fucks. I’ve always used humor as a defense mechanism, since I was a beautiful blue-eyed baby boy. When my mom died, I would try to make my father laugh, because the alternative was for him to cry in his chair while drinking whiskey ice and water until he passed out. He still did the drinking until he passed out part, but at least he was laughing. Nobody likes a weepy drunk.
    As far as building walls, I refer to the words of Pink Floyd
    Hush now baby, baby don’t you cry

    • I will always use humor as a defense mechanism, because a) it is the best one. b) it is as inherent as masturbating with my right hand. and c) there is no c. Head on over to the dark side of the moon, motherfucker.

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