An interesting presentation by Brene Brown at a Ted Talk sent my mind back to a class I took not too long ago with the Center for Public Leadership (CPL) that focused on a similar theme of vulnerability…There was an image that stuck with me during this class. An image of a ship or boat leaving shore to find new ground. The idea is that until the boat leaves (lets go) of the shore long enough it can not find new ground. The imagery emphasizes another aspect to the exercise of taking a boat ride. Leaving the shore means being totally on water and we all know how that feels. A couple of years ago, I nearly drowned and so I totally get that feeling. Anyone who has ever been on a boat or ship, may be able to bring up the feeling. The feeling of rocking to and fro as the water moves and moves the boat along with it…the possible fear of falling, of not having control. You just can not step off the boat if you don’t like the ride! At least, for the duration of the ride, you have no choice but to be on the boat and at the mercy of the water, the elements and the Universe.
There are two ways you can endure the ride. By being nervous and holding unto the boat for dear life for the entire trip and constantly looking out for land to reappear in your horizon; or you can choose to relax and enjoy the ride for what its worth. Remaining flexible enough to be in sync with the ebb and flow. And then maybe, you will not rush to the first sight of land, but wait untill you really discover new land. The idea is to allow yourself to remain on the water long enough to truly find new land.
I love to travel, but I generally don’t like the plane ride. It makes me feel vulnerable and out of control and boy do I hate it when the plane shakes… I have attended by own funeral countless times in the air, I can tell you that. There was this particular day I sat next to a very young lady at the airport in Johannesburg. An Australian girl. At her young age, she had traveled around quite a bit. We started to talk and she expressed her love for the activity of traveling and seeing new places. My question to her was ‘aren’t you ever afraid of what may happen?’ this question was necessary to me because at that point, I was trying to work through my fears. I mean face it, until the science is developed and perfected beyond the movies, space or time travel wasn’t happening anytime soon and the only way I could get to all the places I needed to get to and do all the things I needed to do, was to literally face my fears! as there are – places to go and things to do and miles to go before I sleep – This was her answer to me ‘ well, I can’t control what happens to be in the air or even on the ground and who knows what might or might not, and so in the mean time, I might as well enjoy the ride’. For years, I would repeat this to myself before I got on a flight. The wisdom from a young or perhaps old soul.
One of the things I have become, is learning how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. The world around us has become increasingly unpredictable. Financially, emotionally, physically et cetera… If you are someone like me, you may carry around the fancy wish that you should at least try to control what you can and what you can not, you may just stress over.
Above all this, then the advise that I should be vulnerable? I should Invest in a relationship when I don’t know the outcome, step out and start a new business, go to school, have a child, or adopt a child, volunteer for something I always wanted to do, change my profession, go say sorry to that person, learn how to ride a bike or swim, go to the gym, loose weight, cut my hair, get a divorce, marry, the list goes on… I should say I love you first when it might not be said back to me, express that I am afraid or hurt, try that business and maybe make a fool of myself, risk my family and friends by standing up for what I believe in… Hellen Keller is quoted as saying “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”… hmmm, one thing I know, is that one can not choose to freeze one part of the self and hope that the other will flourish. We are interconnected and interlaced at an organic level, both within our persons and with the rest of humanity… So how do I handle this question of vulnerability and fear and believing and humanity? and can I be human any other way?
I am still on my water… will I see your boat on my way? at the very least, maybe we can keep each other company… what do you say?
View Brene’s talk at http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html