Writing as Vulnerability

Earlier this week, someone asked “who do I write for?”  It’s a question that keeps popping up in my thought loop — kind of like the friendly stray dogs I’d have following me around when J and I honeymooned in Ireland years ago.  It’s not haunting, but it is persistent like Blackie, the Harbor Master’s dog in Galway.  I made the “mistake” of picking up the tennis ball Blackie dropped and throwing it.  Blackie went and fetched it — only to bring it back to me again and again, following me persistently.  So like the dog that kept coming back to me, I keep thinking about who am I writing for and why I write.

When I’m moving towards healthiness, I am writing.  If I am not writing, then I’m not really pursuing God.  My hunger for God leads me towards study, towards my journal, towards pouring out reflective thoughts.  If I’m not doing these things, I’m also starving myself spiritually.  This is how I’m hard-wired I think.

Blogging is a way to process what God is up to in my story.  To document and make meaning out small things, and look back at them later and connect the dots into a bigger framework.  It helps me see where God has brought me.  If it helps someone else in their journey, even better.

Part of what started more faithful blogging in the past two years was processing our infertility and adoption journey.  When I was wrestling with the aftermath of the ectopic pregnancy, writing was a way to communicate where I was in the journey and to find God present with me somehow.

I also wrote hoping to provide comfort for those in the trenches of infertility as well.  When I was looking for help at that time, there was so much material from those who already found resolution to their story, and it all felt hollow to me.  I wanted material from someone in the dark and uncertain place like me.  Since I couldn’t find it, I wanted to put something out there.

Now, my intentions have shifted.  I realized I’m now uncertain of who I’m writing for.  Maybe those who are curious about God, life, messiness and story.  For us who wrestle with anxiety and with doubt over our worth and purpose.  For those who want to think about the Bible and the ways it can be a living word with relevance to our stories. For those who also might want to know of some spectacular places to eat or grab coffee in the Twin Cities (and beyond).  Maybe it’s just a desire to be seen and to say something that connects with someone else.

I’m unwilling to commit to just one thing — largely because I’m not just one thing.  Hence the title of this blog: Jumbled Streams of Consciousness.  Readers get whatever happens to be stuck in my thought loop that day, month, or semester. So in that sense, I write to wrestle with the world and God, and having others being impacted by the journey is an added bonus.

Stepping out into this newer, more uncertain (and bigger) audience feels super scary.  I’ve watched my anxiety perk up as I’ve started publicizing my blog more.  Blogging is life-giving to me in so many ways; and yet, I have what my household calls “the crazy panda routine” every time I put up a new post.

It goes a little like this.

Ask J to proof what I wrote before I post. If I don’t do that, keep editing and correcting mistakes obsessively even after the post has gone live.  Find out what J thinks about the post. In case you’re wondering, “it’s good” is not a satisfactory response.

Stress about whether I want to post on Facebook or not.  To post on Facebook means more people will see what I wrote.  But, then do I really want people I know to think something I wrote is uncool or dumb?  Sometimes it’s easier to think of strangers reading my writing (particularly if it feels controversial) than my friends.

Sometimes even after I post to Facebook, I rethink and delete the Facebook promo post.  Then, I  stalk the blog for about 24 hours to see if it’s getting hits or likes.  Think too long and hard about whether people are impacted by what I write.  Ask J repeatedly after the fact what he thought.

Then today as I wondered about how to move past this, I started reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly.  She had these words that are sparking a revolution in me:

“Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional.  Our only choice is a question of engagement.  Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.    When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make.”

I realized what is getting in my way is a fear of being vulnerable.  I’m afraid I won’t be cool.  That in trying my best to seek after God and make sense out of the messed up world, I’m going to step on toes.  That peeps will think I’m not good enough. Not smart enough. Not relevant.  Or too religious.  Too nerdy.  Too emotional. I’m waiting for arrows to be shot at me.

I’m busy judging myself regardless of what other people are thinking.  And really, if I’m being honest, I’m putting words and intentions in the minds of others — which are probably not there to begin with.  My inner voice is being toxic and unkind.  All this crazy thought loop is doing is making me the center of the universe, and I miss my point in writing.

The fear of being vulnerable makes me afraid to write the mess, the questions, the struggle. I then want to cover over the darkness of life with glitter and shellac; I want uncertainty and difficulty to be wrapped up neatly with a shiny silver bow. It makes me afraid of being honest. None of which are helpful for my aims in writing for an audience.

Being vulnerable, describing the world as I actually experience it, confronting my own shadow self — these are the things that are life-giving to others.  And to be honest — most life-giving for me.

I want to be chill like this red panda.

So, the challenge for myself this year as I write, is to hold to firm to being vulnerable and not posturing.  To rest in the knowledge I’m still loved and valuable even if a post isn’t awesome, if no one reads a post or likes it on Facebook.  The value of the writing is not bound up by the number of readers, but in the process the writing is sparking in me.  Being faithful to writing is being faithful to God.  I have to just trust God bears the fruit God desires from the words showing up here. 

Let’s be honest here.  It’s all so much easier said than done. The “crazy panda routine” is still going to happen at times. But, I’m going to try to do differently anyway.

In the moments when I fail, I’m going to strive for offering myself grace instead of mental lashings as well.  And pick myself up again and start over.

So how about you — where are you being hobbled by your fear of being vulnerable?  What helps you overcome?

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One thought on “Writing as Vulnerability

  1. I'm a little slow and far behind on reading your blog posts. But this one warms my heart, makes tears sting my eyes, all while bringing a smile to my face. Love the risks you take as you authentically write and post… “to own and engage with your vulnerability deepening your courage and clarifying your purpose”.

    Like

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