A few years ago — okay, it’s actually a couple decades ago by now — a friend of mine wrote a play. And, in the summer of 1994, we set out to stage it.
It was a special summer, filled with lengthy conversations over boombas of Bud Light at our favorite watering hole Rumors. Besides typical twentysomething stuff, we discussed and analyzed the characters he had written, intent on creating truth on stage.
My character (Kate) was a little like me. She was the oldest in the family, tightly wound — a little intense, a little uptight, in control. She had a Franklin Planner and excellent organizational skills! Okay, a lot like me. But in the play, she was faced with things she didn’t know how to handle with a checklist. Change. Revelations. Loss.
I remember spending lengthy hours studying the script, striving to create honesty in the character of Kate. I delved deep. It was fun, exciting and challenging to originate a role … but there was one particular moment that was extremely difficult for me. At the end of the play, Kate had to dance. It was symbolic of letting go … of unconditional acceptance, forgiveness, love and embracing life as it was, not how she wanted to force it to be. She — I — had to stand alone in the spotlight and dance.
There I was during rehearsals with my three friends … amazing actors who slightly intimidated me with their own incredible talent and ease on stage. I stood alone in that final moment of the play. I wanted to do right by them and by my friend who wrote the piece and trusted me with this role. And to do right, I had to let go … to find something vulnerable inside myself and release it for them … and a bunch of strangers sitting out there in the darkness … to see.
It was one of the most difficult stage moments of my life.
Those who know me recognize me for a Type A personality — organizing, planning, controlling (in a good way) and managing lists and events are my thing. Allowing myself to open up and be vulnerable in front of others, well, that’s a lot harder.Give me lines, I’m good. Ask me to get raw on stage, that’s harder.
Vulnerability. It’s difficult, allowing others to see and know us for the good, the bad and the ugly. To share something others may not want or be ready to hear. It’s scary to take off the mask, allowing your true self, thoughts, hopes, desires, flaws, aspirations and feelings to be known by others. To uncover the cracks or struggles by opening your heart. To perhaps show that you don’t have it all together. To be vulnerable is to invite potential rejection and pain. On my yoga mat, it can mean I fall out of a pose — and everyone in the room sees or hears that. Off the mat, it can lead to hurt worse than hitting the floor.
Vulnerability means you speak your truth to someone you care for, owning your feelings, dreams and thoughts. You invite potential rejection when you do so and lose some friendships along the way — but you also open the doors to possibility. You make a film, investing your creativity and your self writing a script, casting it, mounting the production and spending hours editing. Perhaps it gets noticed … recognized … honored. Perhaps it’s not quite what you’d planned or thought it might be. You write a play, but no one shows up to audition yet somehow you stage it and learn amazing things about yourself anyway. You start your own business or publish a blog. You put yourself out there and see what happens.
When you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you invite in the consequences, discoveries and joys — the good and the difficult — the remarkable and the intense.
Three years ago, encouraged by two friends, I started My Own Little Corner by Jenni. Like the song from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, in my own little corner I can be whatever I want to be — say whatever I want to say and dream my dreams.
But I took my words out of “the corner,” dusting them off and offering them to readers I knew and readers I didn’t. I made myself vulnerable. And, as a result, I grew. I made new discoveries. In my life, I’ve chosen to explore passions and at times experienced the devastating pain of rejection and indifference. I guess, though, the point is if you don’t put yourself out there and allow yourself to be vulnerable, you’ll never know what is possible. You’ll never be free.
You have to allow the Scattered Notes of your heart to play … let go … and dance.
I learned it that summer with Eileen, Paul and Matthew. I learn it over and over again as I open myself up … not knowing what will come. I make discoveries when I open my heart and get vulnerable. Even when I fall down. And, I can’t bring myself to regret those choices.
Kate taught me that. The possibilities that come when you stand in the spotlight, open your heart and your arms … and dance.
*dedicated to Matthew T. Troyer … happy birthday.