Photographs by Meadow Linn

Sunday, May 3, 2015

My Vulnerability Quest

When in your life have you been really scared? What has made your heart pound, your cheeks flush, and your body sweat uncontrollably?

Although there have been a few times in my life when I’ve been afraid for my physical safety, most of the things that truly brought me to my knees wouldn’t sell much popcorn at a matinee. To the outside observer they may not even merit recognition, but they were monumental for me.

I have an innate desire to appear in control, confident, put together, and capable. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt like asking for help would somehow make you less than? And, have you ever felt as though sharing your truth could open you up to scrutiny or lead to a broken heart?

I’ve lived much of my life with my own version of a “don’t ask, don’t tell policy,” which has been especially pronounced in my dating life. The thought of discussing intimacy with a man ties my stomach in knots. For instance, I would rather have a date think I was a bad kisser than tell him how little practice I’ve had lately. Crazy, right?

I’m pretty good at receiving compliments, but I’m much more timid when it comes to fully opening my heart. For instance, many years ago when a boyfriend said, “I love you,” all I could say was, “thank you.” To be fair, my feelings for him were confusing, and I didn’t want to say anything that I didn’t 100% feel, but also I know that those words do not come to me easily.

What is it about being vulnerable that can be so scary? Why are we so hardwired to present ourselves a certain way? A friend likened it to an M&M. We have this hard candy coating, but underneath we’re soft and sweet. Why don’t we let people see the soft and sweet more often?

Over the five years I’ve had this blog, I’ve become increasingly comfortable writing about my feelings openly. But, as surprising as it may sound…sharing my deepest thoughts here isn’t nearly as scary as asking a boyfriend face to face for something I need or revealing to my friends that I might not *gasp* be perfect after all.

We often see vulnerability as weakness. I’ve never wanted to appear needy or broken. But, when I think about the people I gravitate toward, they aren’t necessarily the ones whose lives are tied up in a neat little bow. No. They’re the ones who stand in their own light with their heart open, while at the same time acknowledging where they may need support. I used to think that one could be either strong or vulnerable, but not both. However, I’m learning that not only is it possible to be both, it’s actually essential. Miraculously, our relationships will deepen and we’ll become an even better version of ourselves when we let others penetrate the candy coating.

The times I’ve pushed through fear and allowed myself to be vulnerable have sometimes been very scary—nerves ballet dancing across my chest and red waves of adrenaline pumping through my veins at warp speed—but the sense of connection that comes from sharing with another human being is worth the sheer terror that sometimes grips my heart at the outset.

My quest over the coming months is to ask for what I need, share my opinions, reveal my feelings, and express my essence more often (especially face-to-face, which is the scariest), while at the same time releasing my need to appear capable in all situations. And (now here’s the kicker), be willing for whatever happens as a result. One of the reasons it can be scary to show the cracks in our veneer is that we fear we might be so exposed that others will see that we’re just the man behind the curtain and not the Great Oz. And another frightening thing about opening ourselves up is that the protective shield around our heart has to come down, which makes us susceptible to pain. Yet, it’s also how we let in an abundance of love, joy, and happiness.

I invite you to join me on this quest. Stand tall. Be your strong, beautiful self. And step through the gateway to all that life has to offer. It may make you quake in your boots, but that’s how you know you’re playing all out. Here’s to feeling the fear and doing it anyway! Magic will abound.

Creamy Mango Nibbles
(Honey-Sweetened, Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free)

These creamy treats are soft with just the right amount of sweetness, just like me. To me, these nibbles symbolize what it feels like to be vulnerable. There is no hard candy shell protecting the tender center. The creamy softness is out there and up for grabs. But, it’s so worth it because you will bite right into them and immediately savor all they have to offer.

I use frozen mango because it comes pre-chopped, and I always have a bag in my freezer. However, you could use fresh. Just be sure to cook the mango. The enzymes in raw mango (whether fresh or frozen) can prevent the gelatin from setting, but once it’s cooked you won’t have a problem. 

Makes about 40

1½ cups frozen chopped mango
½ cup canned coconut milk
1 pinch artisanal salt, such as French grey or Himalayan pink
¼ tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. mild raw honey
3 Tbsp. grass-fed gelatin

Combine the frozen mango, coconut milk, and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, and then simmer for approximately 2-3 minutes until the mango is cooked. Stir in the vanilla and honey. Pour into a blender and puree the mixture on high until smooth. Sprinkle the gelatin over the mixture and blend on high briefly until combined.

With a small spoon fill a silicone mold with the mango mixture. I find that it’s helpful if I transfer the mango mixture from the blender back into the small saucepan so I’m not dipping my spoon so deep into the blender. (This mixture usually fills about 1¼ of my molds). I find that using a baking sheet helps keep the mold level when transporting it in and out of the fridge. (If you don't have a mold, pour the mixture into an 8x8 baking pan lined with wax paper. Once it’s firm you can cut it into squares or make shapes with a mini cookie cutter.) Chill in the fridge until firm, approximately 2 hours. Remove from the mold and store in the fridge in an airtight container. They will melt if left in the sun.

These are the molds I use:
(This is not an affiliate link. I do not make a profit when you click on the link.) 

This is the gelatin I use:

(This is not an affiliate link. I do not make a profit when you click on the link.)


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