October 23, 2020
Ahhh… Another gorgeous, Carolina fall day for a run around the lake. It’s one of my favorite places to do the self-care thing. I get to unplug, enjoy a few moments of nature, and do some deep processing, thinking, and reflecting. I always embrace and cherish this time. I need it.
A few weeks ago, however, I ran into an unexpected moment.
Along the trail, I crossed paths with a friend I hadn’t seen in a few years. In full stride and at a good pace, I stopped dead in my tracks. A deer in headlights. Shock transformed into awareness and recognition.
Was this really happening? What should I say? What should I do?
We both stopped for a moment.
“Hey! How are you?” She asked sincerely.
“Good,” I lied. That’s right. That was a lie. In that moment, I was not good. I was deeply processing some 2020 things.
She continued: “Really? Because I’m not. It’s not going well lately…”
I stood there, nodding and smiliing politely.
A minute later, she paused and asked again:
“So, how’s everything with you?”
“Oh… Okay,” I lied. AGAIN.
She shared a little bit more about her current reality, and then we parted ways.
But it didn’t take long before it happened. About ten steps into my run, I stopped dead in my tracks, again. I turned around to see if she had also continued in her direction, and she was gone. It was too late.
There I stood, in the woods, all by myself, completely and utterly alone. Alone with my thoughts, my feelings, and nature.
What just happened? I paused to think for a moment.
Then, all at once, shame showered over me like a blanket.
What was my problem? Why was I so guarded? Two times she asked me how I was doing, and two times I lied. Total coward!
Really? What a shame. I didn’t have the courage to brave vulnerability in that moment with her. I was scared. My armor was on, shielding me from the delicate, fragile moments that might make me feel… anything. After all, I had to keep my cool under fire. I had to maintain a certain reputation (which is probably just a story I tell myself). “If all else fails, at least make it look good on social media,” they say.
Why did this happen? Was it my own insecurity? Lack of trust? Lack of courage? Was my heart locked up so tightly that I never let anyone else in?
No, I thought. I absolutely trusted her. We had invested in each other deeply, although that was a few years ago. Truth be told, I actually really miss her. While being vulnerable doesn’t mean that you blab everything to everyone, it might mean that you enter the arena with others in the same battle, experience, or conversation in the woods.
Wow. Even after she extended the olive branch, so to speak, by revealing her own vulnerability through some powerful shares, and even though I might have done the right thing by listenting and pausing at first, I missed my chance. I didn’t reciprocate with empathy. I didn’t reciprocate with my own courage to be vulnerable. Instead, I reacted out of fear, and then tried to persevere through my own, self-inflicted shame. Again. And, upon literally looking back,
It was my loss.
Right there on the spot–literally one on which I had run over a hundred times before–I resolved to learn from my experience.
It’s time to grow. It’s time to move on. It’s time to take another step.
At the right times, and with the right people, I’m choosing to lean in to vulnerable moments–albeit one step at a time.