“When things are shaky and nothing is working, we might realize that we are on the verge of something. We might realize that this is a very vulnerable and tender place, and that tenderness can go either way. We can shut down and feel resentful or we can touch in on that throbbing quality. ” ― Pema Chödrön
But, the particulars of this shifting sand aren’t really the point of me telling you this story. It is about how intensely alone I feel at these moments. And, the reality that it is somewhat self-inflicted. You see, this shaky tenderness is where I feel most frightened, vulnerable. A spot where I have an excess of feeling and few answers. It is a place where my analytical, problem solving mind has no facts from which to derive an appropriate solution. It is even a struggle to describe the nature of the problem itself. Words fail me. In essence, my IQ is of little use and my EQ is unprepared, a weak muscle unaccustomed to exercise. And so, I’m left in a battle with myself mostly unarmed.
“let’s get away from all the clever humans who put words in our mouth let’s only say what our hearts desire.” ― Rumi
Unfortunately, most men aren’t taught to be vulnerable. That it is not a sign of weakness or an opportunity to be exploited. I am better today at recognizing the feeling itself. I can put a name to it. This is helpful. And, that recognition allows me to do small things that are useful. I am not completely disarmed by it. So, I send a short note here or a quick text there. Unlike the not too distant past, I make small gestures for connection. And, they bring a measure of solace. But, these little gestures belie a greater need for deeper connection.
I struggle to pick up that phone. Call a friend and just talk and not feel so damn alone. I understand why. But, the intellectual clarity doesn’t overcome the emotional barriers to taking action. Will you, can you be there for me? Can you hold my hand, head, or heart without crushing it further? Can I open up to you and be vulnerable without having any answers or expecting you to? These questions mostly went unasked and unanswered over the last few days. A lonely tenderness that could have just been a mere shaky tenderness.
This is not just an articulate and elaborate way to say that I need a hug. (Though I would certainly accept, appreciate and relish one right now.) Instead, my intent is really two-fold. The first is simply to express clearly this uneasy feeling of vulnerability – this shaky tenderness – within which I have been so thoroughly wrapped. The expression itself is therapeutic.
The second, is to point out something you probably already know – but need reminding. That person over there who you think has it all together, who seems to have so many of the answers. Yeah, that one. He or she feels so very vulnerable at times too. And, the same small gestures of warmth and comfort (without trying to make it all better) are the one’s we seek and find comfort in. Even though the very thing that makes you think we have it all together is that we struggle with allowing you to see that shaky tenderness, the signs are there for those who look with kind eyes.
We need to build our friendships on truth and wholeness and expansiveness. We need friends who can be with us in our loneliness, not people who will cheer us up so that we don’t feel it. We need friends who get furious with us when we are not being real or true to ourselves, not when we don’t do what they want us to do. –Geneen Roth