“Those who are willing to be vulnerable move among mysteries. ” ― Theodore Roethke
“Home is not a place for the faint-hearted; only the very brave could live with themselves.”- Jeannette Winterson
I spent a lot of time as a teenager and young adult being shy. As a kid, I was a performer, unafraid, up on the stage, singing and dancing my heart out. I was always a shy kid, but performing was an outlet for me, a safe place. Upon becoming a teenager, my shyness took over and I threw in the thesbian/ballerina towel. The shyness was simply a fear of rejection. A fear of being vulnerable and getting hurt. A fear of being wrong. A fear of being laughed at or seeming uncool. I have fully recovered from this state of shyness, but it took a lot of work. I mourn this period of my life because it slowed down my progress. I think the one true regret I have is this stagnant creative time in my life from about 15 to 25. I packed it all in and went to my corner, too afraid to make a move until I had “figured it all out”. I regret this time period because I could have gotten a lot done. Granted, the work I’m doing now would be different if I’d been a ballsy-er young person. But a ten- year lull is always a hard thing to reconcile.
This inability to be vulnerable manifests itself in a lot of ways but the main problem with being tough, cool, unreachable, is that you become just that. Unconnected. I truly believe that connection and recognizing our interrelatedness is the highest level of human functioning. Most bad things come out of our disconnectedness from each other. Personally, my greatest sources of pride all derive from work (both personal and creative) that I have done with a group. By group, I mean anything that involves more than one human ego. As we all know, this can be tough going. But when you open yourself up, you bravely pave the way for others to do the same. If everyone is shut down, no one will open up. Then we are at an emotional stand off, which is no fun!
Maximilla Lukacs is my partner in crime in film making. Together we have a production company called “The Belles of the Black Diamond Field”. Phew! Long, I know, but it’s the name given to the first women allowed to work in coal mines at the turn of the last century. These ladies were badasses, heading into a male dominated field.
The first film Maximilla and I made was called Kill Your Darlings. It’s a meditation on love, loss, celebration and solitude. Because of the topic, it had to be intensely personal. As I was writing the voice-overs, I would bring them to Maximilla to read and she would most often send me back to the drawing board with the simple request: “Make it more honest.” She was right. You can’t write a personal story that involves love and rejection without being honest. Without being vulnerable. Oh, this made me angry! She saw right through me and forced me to mine my wells deeper. To put on my Belles of the Black Diamond Field work dress and dig deeper into the pain of it all!
In this process, we wrote The Vulnerability Manifesto, public declaration requiring honesty, softness and truth. As silly as it seems, as naïve and/or pretentious, I’m so happy we struck on the idea. To this day hold each other’s feet to the fire because we have some rules that we must live by. Our little edict extends itself to all areas of my life. Things I’ve written about here before, love, work, parenting…
We wrote the Vulnerability Manifesto ages ago. Ages before I was actually living my life in tandem with its tenants. But the more I learn, the older I get and the fuller I become with bits of wisdom, its request to be soft holds true. Being vulnerable means accepting that you don’t have the answer and being okay with that. This is valuable! For me, at least, this has been a big lesson. Lean into the discomfort of not knowing. Lean into to it and find the path together with others.
Maximilla and I took our vulnerable crusade a little far. We wore hats that read “sweetness and light”. We wore only white while making our love film and trailed yards of lace wherever we went. We got asked why we were in costume constantly… It was a funny moment in time. A moment where we pushed ourselves to communicate differently, work differently and, to a fault, dress differently. We definitely looked a bit silly, but some hard truths surfaced from this time.
What I found was the harder I dug my heals into the truth and the deeper I committed myself to vulnerability, the easier it all became. I spent so much of my life worried about what others thought. Worried that I’d seem stupid, silly or dorky. The more I moved toward honesty and vulnerability, the more confident I became. Not only confident in my intelligence or “coolness”, but I became more confident in my inherent un-coolness. I’ve learned to love saying “I don’t know”. I’ve learned to love being the fool or the clown or the joker. If I can laugh at my foibles, then they cant hurt me!
And these rules have trickled down to all areas. So perhaps some homework I would suggest is to create your own manifesto. A manifesto that forces you to reveal your true self. A set of rules that requires honesty, softness, gentle confidence, satisfication in yourself … whatever it may be, there is something powerful about just writing it down, sharing it and living by it. As we head into the holidays and then the New Year, I can’t think of a better meditation. I hope you all have wonderful holidays. I raise a glass to you all and look forward to the lessons, struggles, victories and lessons this New Year will bring!
Here is a link to our film “Kill Your Darlings”:
“Gentleness needs allies, and a large measure of will. I enjoin you always to protect each other’s dreams, so that your dreams,= and your fascination with purity and your pride in the imagination of a world more true and more good and more beautiful, may finally prevail, in your work, and in your children and even on the earth”.
With Much Love!