No parachute: Vulnerability, protection, and staying open

As has been the case for most of the country (and world, I’m sure), this has been a heart-tenderizing week. As I’m writing this, I feel like I’ve been in a fight. Part of me just want to curl up and sleep. Somehow, that seems like the ideal plan.

But, I’ve been trying to stay open, to find ways to not shut down or lash out. Too many times in my life, I’ve seen how destructive both of those can be.

This is hard work.

Earlier this week, wrung out from too little sleep and too much caffeine and sugar, I’m sitting in a class where I am being challenged. Challenged in the “Please don’t talk about who you are, because I can’t handle it” kind of way. I’m sitting in my chair, feeling my chest tighten up, writing really small notes to myself in my notebook (not wanting anyone to be able to read them, but needing to write down my own process), and fighting to not burst out into tears or walk out.

Both would have been fine in this class. But I kept thinking, “What if this were a client, who I am trying to build a therapeutic relationship with. What is keeping me from truly hearing them?” During the break, someone checked in with me, to see how I was doing. I consciously realized what I was trying to do and was encouraged to speak up about my process, if I wanted to.

Ultimately, I chose not to, right away, because I wanted to explore more of what was going on with me, what I was truly thinking, and to stay with the discomfort a little bit. Because that’s where the growth is – for all parties.

I don’t have the answers. I still don’t. I just know that when our professor asked us to imagine where the walls were being built, I didn’t immediately see walls. I saw myself, curled around my heart, wanting so badly to protect myself.

What do I need to say to protect myself, but also be open? Is there a chance that you can’t have it both ways? Is this what vulnerability looks like?

Perhaps there’s a reason the following quote’s been on my mind a lot recently.

“The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute. The good news is there’s no ground.” – Chogyam Trungpa


8 thoughts on “No parachute: Vulnerability, protection, and staying open

  1. ::gentle hugs:: When we curl up around our hearts, we expose the parts of us that are better able to take assault. It is protective, but it also staying.

    “i’ve got a slot at eye level like a speakeasy door…”

    I have this mental picture of a wall with slots and little doors, and bigger ones. Things that open and close. Windows, with screens and shades. That mean that openness is negotiable, is changeable, is not an all-or-nothing thing. That we can whisper through cracks, we can invite people inside, we can slam door shut again, or we can rearrange what’s visible through a particular opening. That we can reopen portals over and over again.

    And there’s this knowledge that walls are boundaries. They are demarkation. They are not inherently divisive; I can invite you inside as much as I can build a wall to stop the wind or an invasion. We say we want to tear down walls, but we also say we want good boundaries. How do we merge those things?

    • Oh…wow. So, this opened up a ton more for me. Thank you.

      I believe both are vital and necessary. (Is that redundant?) the boundaries are actually a part of what I need to develop for clinical practice, and I think it’s different from walls. That I don’t have to share everything, all at once, and that that’s as unhelpful as blocking everything. So the sliding doors, windows, and the curtains allow me some control, while also recognizing that they’re there *for a purpose*… There will be more thoughts, but thank you for starting this piece of the conversation.

      • Hmm. Maybe the problem is really the (as yet) impenetrable walls. The walls that don’t have so much as a crack in them yet. The walls we’re reinforcing without also starting to create windows in.


        • I appreciate that … the building walls, rather than using them wisely. “Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right.”

          This thought – protecting versus shutting down – really led me through the last few weeks of Diversity without going insane.

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