Sunday, March 24, 2013

Flying Under the Vulnerability Radar

Brené Brown speaking at TED

vul·ner·a·ble [vuhl-ner-uh-buhl] 1. capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon; 2. open to moral attack, criticism, temptation

BUT...let me help you right off the bat by scrapping this dictionary reference above and instead, go straight to Brené Brown's meaning as you'll hear in the video.

vul·ner·a·bil·i·ty [vuhl-ner-uh-buhl-i-tee] 1. our most accurate measurement of courage; 
2. the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change (Brené Brown)

Now that we have that out of the way, I must again give an honorable nod to Brené Brown for her brilliant, straightforward and wholehearted work that continues to inspire me. Because let me tell you, if going through cancer, once, twice or three times doesn't make a person vulnerable, then I don't know what does.

There's so much vulnerability that correlates with a cancer diagnosis that I frequently don't know up from down. And I'll even go out on a vulnerability limb and share with you that I continue to feel exposed as I embrace the new changes about myself, my new perspective on life, friendship, my scarred body, my numb chest and my numb fingers and toes from the chemo. I frequently fall over from a standing position as if I were intoxicated and always joke it off with a 'no worries, I'm not drinking.' Walking around bald for months on end while looking like a ghostly, ashen version of my former self left me in one of the most vulnerable states of all as I endured stares, name calling and wide-eyed looks from children. And now my current struggle with vulnerability is focused on the end of the treatment road for me. There, I said it... well some of it. Enough for now.

And as I continue to question myself through this process, my writing and interactions with others about how vulnerable I 'should' be, my head often spins at an accelerated rate.  How much do I tell her? How should I say this? Should I gloss over this news? Can they handle it? And the biggest question of all, can I handle it?

My answer...HELL YES! This whole cancer gig has brought up a bundle of adjectives for me to chew on. And as a language therapist, I then typically start heading down the linguistic road of lexicon: exposed, tender, humbled, delicate. And then fleeting and flitting in and out of a Noun - Shame! (pause for reaction....). Yes, I said SHAME!

Because I felt such significant shame during my first diagnosis that I held 'it' in secrecy, swore people to secrecy and stopped telling people that I had breast cancer. I didn't quite grasp why I felt so shameful, and after watching Ms. Brown today on Super Soul Sunday, I realized how consumed I have been through each diagnosis with vulnerability and shame...until now. 

So, twenty years and a third breast cancer diagnosis later, I will purposefully choose to forge ahead and confront the 'Big C' in spite of feeling blemished, scarred and flawed. No more shame for me. I will go as far as to say that I will 'dare greatly' as Ms. Brown suggests.

I believe, that the path for me will continue to be full of vulnerability as it allows me to embrace my sometimes fragile self. It's the only choice I know.

So who's on board the vulnerability train with me?! 

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