Capability Robbed Me Of Vulnerability

"Own your power and capability in one hand, and your vulnerability and unknowing in the other. Hold them out as a trembling offering of Whole Truth." (Image Credit: Unsplash/Shane Drummond)

For most of my life, being Capable has stood in the way of my being Vulnerable. Maybe you can relate? When I start to feel vulnerable, I want to hide. Retreat. Regress. I hate the feeling of needing. Needing people, needing money, needing affirmation, needing feedback, needing anything at all. Need means deficiency, and deficiency is not a thing I feel comfortable with.

I would much rather be an island.

As I've grown older (to the wise old age of 38, hah!), I've come to realize that my way of coping with my inherent vulnerability is to become overly capable. It's survival. I turn into Vanilla Ice and adopt the mantra "If there was a problem, yo, I'll solve it." Because solving is easier than the vulnerability of deficiency, or worse, unknowing.

So, this is what happens when a naturally capable and resilient female can't put on her Vanilla Ice alter-ego: People get mad. And disappointed. And feel let down. Or worse, become dismissive of you as a person entirely.

Somewhere along the line, you made an unspoken agreement to be capable all the time with other people. It became a requirement for relationship with them and survival for you. And it feels GOOD to be capable. It feels good to be in control and know that you can handle shit. And it feels good to be able to keep your cool when nobody else seems able to work themselves out of their own deficiencies.

I paused. I knew I was about to shatter that unspoken agreement that our relationship has survived on for ten years. I had to, though. I would not rob us of an opportunity to be in the scary, unknowing places together.

But capability robs us of vulnerability. It robs us of the village we so desperately need. It creates resentment and mistrust. And most of all, it sets us up to fail.

In the spirit of vulnerability, I'm going to give you a peek into my real life struggle with this dichotomy in real time.

I'm expecting my second baby. My son, who is now four, had a rough entrance into the world, and the first two years were hell for our little family. Stroke, near-death, rare food allergy syndrome, and the constant stress of taking care of a special needs kiddo took their toll on me. I became the superhero version of myself because I had to. I had no choice about being capable because this was a vital role he needed during that moment in time.

My capability served my family well. It kept my son alive and our family intact.

But what nobody saw was the terror I lived in. The constant stress, anxiety, fear, and limits I pushed my body and psyche past every single day. I had to be obsessive. I had to be ultra capable. It was a requirement for keeping my son alive.

This left my husband out of the loop in many ways. And to be very vulnerable, he was okay with that. He was okay with my lead, trusting my thousands of hours of research, relaying of doctors visits and orders, administering controlled substances for our tiny baby, and carrying the bulk of the burden of our son's care. He was a loving and attentive father during this time. He trusted me implicitly with choices about medical and therapeutic care. But my ultra-capability allowed him to check out in ways that I needed him to be present and supportive. Like being my soft space to fall apart. A refuge. My best friend. An anchor when my world felt too tumultuous and upside down.

I deserved a true partner, and he deserved the opportunity to become that. I had robbed us both.

Last week, I felt the panic about the unknown with our second baby creeping in, welling up in the corners of my eyes and awareness. Before I even allowed the feelings to fully emerge, I found myself suppressing them. Vanilla Ice started thumping out the fears. I'll solve it.

Except I can't. Or won't. I'm not sure.

I went to him and told him my fears.

"You'll do that thing you always do. You'll find the strength to get through it, you'll rock it. Because that's what you do, honey."

I paused. I knew I was about to shatter that unspoken agreement that our relationship has survived on for ten years. I had to, though. I would not rob us of an opportunity to be in the scary, unknowing places together.

"I'm scared."

And I shattered. Huge, heaving sobs and all of my fears tumbled out. And I allowed it. Even if he couldn't be with me in the fear, I needed to give him the chance to be strong, too.

"I need you."

And there he was. My beautiful, complicated, equally fearful partner showed up and held me in our mutual deficiencies and unknowing. It created a door where there was just a wall instead.

It recreated both of us in an instant.

I'm certain the messiness and adjustments and renegotiating of our mutual unspoken agreements will be much harder in some ways. I'm okay with that because it means we are both opening up for the possibility of something bigger, something more important. A necessary transformation.

Insist on your vulnerability, sisters.

Break those agreements that bind you to survival mode.

Own your power and capability in one hand, and your vulnerability and unknowing in the other. Hold them out as a trembling offering of Whole Truth, darling.

You deserve to be everything.

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