Waiheke, Aotearoa New Zealand

November 29, 2020

Vulnerability

This week the rain poured in, stopped summer's rapid advance. The days drew close again, pulled silence and quiet around me, and I found myself with some time to reflect.

And I thought a lot about vulnerability.

About the capacity to put myself out there, in a way that might mean I end up broken. About how, as the years have gone by, I do less and less of that in my life.

It's not that I don't take risks. I do. I mean, I've poured my heart into making Ink and Feet a sustainable business this whole year. When it's safe, I'm getting back on a plane, back to traveling, learning languages and cultural norms on the fly, figuring things out on the go.

It's more that - I take risks I know I can handle. Risks of physical discomfort, pain, embarrassment, failure. But so rarely these days, risks of the heart.

...

When I was a teenager, I decided that I was never going to be someone who grew up and listened to the same music they did when they were a teenager, or in their early 20's. Oldies. I reasoned that good music would keep coming out, year after year, and if I wasn't into it, that problem was with me, not the music.

Fast forward a couple decades, and for the most part - I've done it. I still listen to new artists and genres, connect with stuff that's fresh and just coming out.

But also - I haven't. So much of what songwriters write about connects to those stories we experience most earlier in life - love and loss, chasing dreams and figuring out the world. And those lyrics don't hit me the way they did.

It's not that as I've gotten older, my capacity for heartbreak, loss, or love have changed. It's certainly not that I've figured out the world - the more I know, the more I know I don't know.

It's that in the day-to-day, I've gotten good at navigating around the things that could really hurt.

...

We have these stories about heartbreak. About having pieces of ourselves, our hearts, that just get left behind in past dreams, loves, ideas. That it's normal over the years, to lose bits of yourself.

But I'm not sure those stories are true. Did I really lose some of my capacity to feel back with that old heartbreak? That failed business? Is jaded just a replacement for vulnerable, an inevitable calcification? Do our hearts harden, arterial, elasticity just for the young?

And at least today - I don't think so. I think it's more likely that after that heartbreak, that failed business, I said to myself, well, I'm never going to get hurt like that again. I thought of it as a hot stove not to touch, a dark alley to avoid, learned the wrong lesson.

Because even with the risk, the hurt, all the potential ways it could go wrong - that's still where the good stuff is.

The heartbreak came with years of deep, wonderful love. The failed business came with years of dreaming and doing and the joy of making wonderful things.

Brene Brown has said all of this, and better - but this week especially, I'm left thinking that cultivating vulnerability - making choices to pursue things that could really hurt (and could really be wonderful) - might be the big secret to how I want to live in the years ahead.

And that I've got work to do.

I'm curious - how has this played out over your life? Have you kept your capacity to get your heart broken? Are you happy with those choices?

Have a heart-felt week,

-Steven

p.s. The best thing I saw all week was this look at the Islamic golden age that gave us so much of our modern foundations in math, science, and medicine - and why it worked.

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