Welcome to episode two of the For Flourishing’s Sake podcast! I hope you’ve had a great week full of opportunities for you and your students to explore, to connect and to flourish.
Today I’m going to focus on vulnerability and in keeping with the theme – I’m warning you – this is going to be quite an intimate episode!
Sometimes things happen that make us more aware of our vulnerabilities. A few weeks ago, at the start of my holiday, I slipped on some rocks by the sea and broke my forearm in two places just above the wrist. I was immensely lucky that this happened now I’ve lost a vast amount of weight since last summer, as the breaks could have been much worse. I’m also very lucky that I broke my arm rather than my back or skull and that I was fitted with a fully waterproof cast so the break didn’t spoil my holiday – I still enjoyed swimming and sightseeing almost unimpeded. I am immensely grateful!
But being grateful doesn’t render me immune to vulnerability. The first week or so was the hardest; for the first couple of days, before the cast was fitted, I was in intense pain and needed a lot of help with everything, including going to the toilet as I couldn’t manage the taking off and putting on of underwear.
Things got easier every day, but last week I suffered a full-on panic attack as my husband started to leave the house to go to work one morning and I realised we’d both forgotten about my bra situation – you see, I couldn’t do up my own bra at that point! I called him at the top of my voice but he had already stepped outside. I ran downstairs and was about to open the front door when I realised I wasn’t wearing anything – and my neighbours really don’t need that kind of shock in the morning! In a blind panic, crying, I began banging on the front door, hoping he would see me through the partially opaque glass panel in the door, or hear me over the radio in his car. Luckily, he spotted me and came back in. He had to hold me for a few minutes as I was shaking and hyperventilating and couldn’t stop crying. With his love and understanding, as he held me without judgement, and by exercising self-kindness rather than berating myself for my irrationality, with some calming meditative breathing, I came out of my panic attack pretty quickly and was able to respond more rationally to reality.
Because here’s the thing: The reality was that, on that particular morning, my youngest daughter was at home so she could have helped me when she got up, but in my mind, if I couldn’t get my husband’s attention and help on this occasion, this could happen again after my daughter had gone back to University and I’d be stuck, bra-less, all day! I catastrophised the situation and got myself in a complete tizzy. I was dealing with a vulnerability I wasn’t used to and it completely threw me off-kilter. I now have a new cast that has given me more mobility, so I can finally fully dress myself.
This incident made me think, though. It brought to mind Brené Brown and her TEDx talk on the power of vulnerability. In it, she says that whilst “vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness”, it is also “the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love”. I’ve certainly had to be more creative than usual over the past few weeks, and love has played a huge part in getting me through the challenges, but as I just mentioned, fear has played a huge part, too. Brené talks about how often we numb emotions we don’t like, but that we can’t selectively numb emotions. She has a point and this ties in with what I touched on in last week’s episode.
Today I want to leave you with this: Reflect on your own vulnerabilities and how leaning into them rather than trying to ignore them might help you experience life to the full. I also invite you to spend 20 minutes watching Brene Brown’s TEDx talk (even if you have already seen it) to remind yourself of the importance of being kind to yourself (as I had to be with myself after my panic attack) and to others who may be struggling with their own vulnerabilities, which you may not even be aware of. Your colleagues, and the children you work with, bring with them a whole range of emotions and vulnerabilities that they may be struggling with and attempting to suppress. They may, at times, behave or react in ways that seem irrational because of this. By showing them that you understand, that you can listen without judgement and that you are vulnerable, too, you can help them accept and deal with their full range of emotions so that they can experience life in the best possible way and flourish.
I look forward to our next appointment in a week’s time. Until then….For Flourishing’s Sake, have a great week!