The Vulnerability Project Blog

Day 1 of However Long It Takes:
Like most people, one of the first things I do every day when I wake up is get dressed. To be honest, this is one of my least favorite activities. You see, I have a hard time accepting, let alone loving, this sagging, bloated, several-years-post-child, almost 40 body of mine. When I look in the mirror or choose my clothes, I have this mental image of myself as I was in high school when it was physically difficult for me to gain weight and I rarely topped 109 pounds at this same height. After all, I really still FEEL most days like that well-intentioned but slightly naive girl struggling to define herself in a world that doesn’t seem to give a shit about what she values. So when I look in the mirror and there are rolls on my back, love handles bulging over the top of my jeans, my belly sticks out and the dark circles under my eyes aren’t from mascara I was too tired to take off, really I just want to say “fuck it” and crawl back in bed. But who gets to actually make that choice, right?I have noticed that I’m surrounded by women that most, if not all, hate the way we look. We speak a language of diets and Spanx and fears about whether or not we will fit into a certain shape within a certain time frame. When we meet new people and don’t know what to say, so often we drop into conversations about how when we cut carbs we “did great” but then gained it all back or how we think we are somehow defective because we can’t seem to make it to the gym everyday like we know we should, like “those other women” seem to be able to.
But I can attest that, having spent time on the skinny side of the pasture fence, before I grew up and learned that if I couldn’t still look like I did before I had a baby, that I belonged out in a field somewhere like livestock out of sight rather than being able to be proud of my body, clothed or naked, that “those other women” may really not be doing anything at all. They are just us, not some “other”. Maybe they have faster metabolisms or hell, just a different body shape. Does that really mean that everyone else who can’t wear a single digit size has no worth?
If we really want to not feel like crawling back in bed every morning when we open our closets, we have to change those conversations to be about wanting to be healthy over wanting to be thin and stop feeling like failures when we grab Starbucks because we like it and not always deny ourselves because of the calorie count. For me, this also means letting myself buy new clothes when I need them too, instead of trying to cram my body into a skin that once served a different me, a version of myself that no longer exists.
Admitting that my body is different is hard for me, but living a full, authentic life requires hard things.
#vulnerabilityproject #bodyimage #healthynotskinny(image:Pinterest)

Day 2: This is my cat Rolo. We got her when my daughter was about 2. She had lived in a total of 6 different places with us and traveled over 2400 miles by car. And she’s a total grouch, but I still love her with all my heart. But the truth is she is getting older and though she is in great health, the day we will have to say goodbye is getting closer. To be honest, even though I have helped with tons of Euthanasias, I am still going to be a hot mess when that day comes. (Fingers crossed that it is still a long way off.) #vulnerabilityproject #authenticity#fearofdeath #pets
Day 3: So exhausted. Putting up a good fight to maintain a happy, upbeat front, but really all I want to do is crawl back into bed and ignore the whole world with all its noise and busyness. (image: Pinterest) #vulnerabilityproject #weary #peopledout#tired
Day 4: Here is a lovely info graphic for you that explains what it would be like inside my mind if you were able to visit. Translating my thoughts to spoken words is SO HARD for me, but writing is easier because I can edit and categorize my thoughts before I present them to others.#vulnerabilityproject #monkeymind#mythoughtprocess

Day 5: Love love love this girl with all my heart and soul. Though I am not one of those women who have always had aspirations of being a mother, I can’t begin to describe the joy that this almost 15 year old surprise has brought into my life. I am so proud of her and the bright, thoughtful, and kind woman she is becoming and so thankful to the Universe for tossing this curveball into my life. Sometimes the best things come from disruptions to your well-intentioned “plans”. (obviously an old picture…her hair is purple now) #vulnerabilityproject#motherhood #bestkindofsurprise #authenticity

Day 6: If I had or wrote a book that was titled this no one could ever finish it in their lifetime. It would be far too long. Because stuffing my opinions and emotions is something I can do at almost an Olympic level proficiency. Maybe it’s due to my upbringing or my work in a service capacity for my entire adult life or maybe it’s just my deep seated desire to hear other people’s stories and understand where they are coming from. I find I am much better at not saying things than saying them.

But sometimes silence is the best gift you can give because it lets others have their turn to say what they need to, to let their hearts out of the caves their owners have been hiding them in and to have a chance to breathe and be human.

I honestly believe that what we choose to not say is sometimes more important than what we do. I test this theory every day in my work and yesterday my choice of silence turned an angry stranger into a man who was just scared and hurting.

I wish our choice not to speak could come from this place of making space for each other and not one of animosity. This was an excellent reminder to me that when I do speak, my words should be truthful, necessary and kind.

Let your silence be driven by intentions of peace, not of fear.
#vulnerabilityproject #keepsocialmediahuman#silence #thingsneversaid

Day 7: I suffer from generalized anxiety. Not the garden variety nervousness but the soul crushing, paralyzed-and-unable-to-move kind. And as if that isn’t crazy enough, there is no name for what I am scared of. It’s totally unknown most times, even to me. But I get this tightness in my chest and the room closes in and my fight-or-flight response is activated and all I can think about is getting out and getting away (which is really hard when you aren’t sure what you need to get away from in the first place). Sometimes my anxiety is triggered by totally random things that I can’t seem to accurately predict. Despite daily meditation and doing my very best to avoid it, sometimes I just totally lose my shit and need to take a break from life. (That only happens, on average, about once ever 6-8 weeks or so, and I’ve learned to deal with it, so I hope you can too and will give me my space if and when I need it so we can still be friends. 😉)#vulnerabilityproject #anxiety #endthestigma

Day 8: Sometimes I avoid writing at all because it brings up such deep emotions for me and really is the place where I let myself be who I really am, where I become most vulnerable. Today I did something I’ve been thinking about for a long time that absolutely terrifies me. I published an article on Medium under a pen name.

There are some subjects that I have been dying to write about, mainly to help me work through them, and I feel like they need to be published because they might really be helpful for other people in some way, even if just to make them feel less alone. But I’ve been terrified to do it under my own name because although the internet gives us a certain amount of anonymity, there are always risks to saying how we feel or revealing who we are to the world in such personal ways. Taking these sorts of risks might affect my family with some of these topics and they deserve that space to not be exposed against their will. Writing under a pen name seemed like a good compromise to that.
I have no idea how this will be received, especially since the nature of these post is revelatory and by using a pen name, some of that authenticity in personal essay/memoir is almost stripped away. Feeling a strange mix of terrified and elated, but somehow so much lighter for having done it.

(image: pinterest)

#vulnerabilityproject #writing #truth

Day 9: I’ve always struggled with this idea that what I do for a living defines who I am. I’m pretty sure my obsession with this topic comes from that moment in my adolescence where I was told I needed to decide what the hell I was going to do with the rest of my life and the notion that if I decided wrong I would be dooming myself to a life of drudgery and waste thousands of dollars on meaningless degree programs in college. My solution: stop after my Associate’s degree and never really decide to avoid taking the risk and making the wrong choice. Well, now I find myself approaching 40 and still not quite sure what I “want to be when I grow up”, what direction to take in the great job I have or how to translate my gifts into something that would help me survive economically.

I stumbled on this episode of my favorite podcast, The Unmistakable Creative, the other day while out on a long walk and found myself walking over 4 miles just so I could hear the entire thing. This interview delves into so many of the fears I have held around making this choice and outlines all that is wrong with our culture’s expectation that we need to know and decide at such young age.

I may not have any idea what I want to be when I grow up yet, but I don’t really know if I ever need to decide, because I am letting go of the idea that I need to be defined solely by what I do and not who I am. For now, I’m content to let the journey itself be enough. I hope you’ll have a listen and see what I learned from Tess and Srini about leaning into our fear.

#vulnerabilityproject #fear #career#unmistakablecreative

Day 10: These last 8 or so years have been pretty tough for my family financially, the last couple of months especially so as all the robbing of Peter to pay Paul and the hustle of just trying to survive and do the right thing and the horrible luck of things that seem to only break in threes came to a head. But we always adjust, we pull together and we make hard choices that we hope move us in the right direction.

This week we took a huge step in (hopefully) making this part of our lives less stressful. Any change is hard, but it is so much more so when there is no safety net. But there’s also no shame in admitting that you need help, in reaching out to others for guidance and in needing to start over.

Here’s to new beginnings, hope and a marriage where “for richer or for poorer” is actually a challenge we are willing to join hands and accept.

#vulnerabilityproject #chroniclesoftheperpetuallybroke #thisishowwehustle #money

Day 11: Comparison kills. I know it is how we get by in this life but it doesn’t make me hate it any less. In fact, it’s the chief tactic I use to drive learning and performance in myself when I am in a new environment. I learned really young how effective this is and there are really only 3 steps to doing this:
Step1: Figure out what the figurehead (i.e. the teacher, boss, parent, etc) wants.
Step 2: Observe carefully what everyone else does and determine where their struggles are.
Step 3: Do better than your peers at giving the figurehead what they want, especially focusing on being the best at the areas where your peers (aka “competition”) struggle.
This is what winning is supposed to feel like, and I hate it, because, although this system is something I have become pretty adept at, I don’t WANT to compare myself to or compete with others. I want to COLLABORATE.

The many hours I spend in my head are consumed by trying to avoid this win-lose mentality and figure out ways we all win, ways where no one has to feel less than. Because, really, when we compare ourselves to others, someone always comes out on the bottom. Part of me believes this is why we are always our own worst critics, because we try to avoid that hurt.
#vulnerabilityproject #comparison#keepsocialmediahuman

Day 12: I think it is kind of funny that my entire life philosophy can be distilled down to this one thing, a quote from a movie that I honestly don’t even like.

What would the world look like if we saw it only through this lens, through an intention to be excellent to each other? How would this change what we say and do every day?

This week is becoming something of a spiritual retreat for me and intentionality is its focus. I’m challenging you to join me in this: be deliberate for just 24 hours with what you do and say. Be the observer of your life. Are your words and actions reflective of your values? Are you being excellent, to yourself and others, or just going through the motions, just passing the time before you leave this earth.

Don’t waste this life, not a single moment, not a single interaction. You hold so much power in your behavior, power that can change the world for someone else. This is the kind of intention I personally want to live my life with.

Use your power for good. Be excellent to each other.
#beexcellenttoeachother #vulnerabilityproject#keepsocialmediahuman #kindness

Day 13: Yesterday I met with one of my best friends, someone I love dearly. We each have our own unique challenges as well as a few struggles in common. We don’t see each other as much as we’d like to and usually when we get together our conversations turn into much needed mutual therapy sessions. One of the things we sometimes talk about is addiction and the different roles it has played in each of our lives in different ways and at different times.

Today while we were waiting for a table at lunch and sitting on the sidewalk we met a man named George who was just walking down the street going God knows where. George stopped to say hi and in a few brief minutes we learned a lot about him: he is 70, now works for Ohio E-check after retiring from NASA, is originally from another state and has lost most of his family in recent years. But then he went on to tell us how blessed he feels for having lived so much longer than his parents and sister got to and how he has so much more to look forward to, including moving back to his home state before he has to go through what would be his 5th Ohio winter. All this from a complete stranger in the span of 1 minute. And then, just as suddenly, with a fist bump and a spring in his step, he turned to head back the direction he was was going and left us with this parting gift, a nugget of truth both my friend and I needed to hear, each for our own reasons: you just gotta take it one day at a time. That’s all you can do.

Sometimes it feels like there really aren’t any coincidences in life. I don’t get all of the “why” behind it yet, but I really think this sweet man was meant to cross our paths when he did. But one thing is for damn sure: it’s easier to spot these little unexpected blessings if we follow George’s advice and take it all one day at a time. #streetprophets#vulnerabilityproject #onedayatatime #addiction

Day 15: Today I am feeling all the feels. Drifting in and out of my awareness are anger, sadness, awe, gratitude, empathy, love, shitloads of fear and this deep exhaustion that has settled in my bones.
Tomorrow begins the great act of learning to piece life back together so tonight I will crawl inside my chrysalis and rest so I can greet tomorrow’s challenges with a spirit of loving kindness.
(So very grateful for all the kindness you have all shown me throughout this ordeal. Please know that you are all deeply loved and precious to me.)
Day 16: Had to see it today in the daylight to really appreciate the extent of the destruction. Returned to the accident scene and left a borrowed golden retriever sweatshirt and thank you card for the Good Samaritans that stopped to help on their porch. Grabbed a turn signal cover from the ground as we left to make into a prism I will hang in my kitchen window to catch the light to help me remember that we shouldn’t take one single second of this life for granted, even the incredibly unfortunate and infuriating ones.#vulnerabilityproject #lifeisprecious #gratitude

(If you are in a position to help me with the financial challenges we are experiencing, I would be so thankful for the help.)

Day 17: Of all the crazy random things I could decide to do, this is what I chose. Out of all the times in my life to be real with other people and open up about myself, how I feel and what I am going through, I pick (unbeknownst to me) the most crazy and painful period of event years. But you know what?!?
It’s working.
I don’t know if anyone else is doing it with me, but people are reading. They are finding comfort in knowing they aren’t alone and I have been on the receiving end of oh so much love that I didn’t honestly believe that existed for me, for my family.
And I am changing too. Despite all this new stress, there feels like there is hope. My shoulders are more relaxed. My jaw doesn’t ache at the end of the day. And even though I still cry, I’m doing it less and, most importantly am less ashamed of my humanity.
Humbled, awed and grateful for you, for this, for all of it.
#vulnerabilityproject #keepsocialmediahuman#thankyou
Day 18: Life goes on. Things get back to normal slowly but surely but as it all comes around, when unexpected bits are tossed at us like this, I have a tendency to want to just do all the things now and cross the experience off the list. We are in the hurry-up-and-wait stage now and anxiety is creeping back in. In times like these I feel like I’m going to drop one of the 15 balls I am juggling.
But it has been said that you get bitter or you get better.
I choose better. #vulnerabilityproject#movingforward #notavictim
Day 19: I feel exactly like I look in this picture: gross. My feet are swollen (probably from sodium content of my extra shitty diet of the past week), my face feels greasy, my makeup is all rubbed off, my hair is flat and my skin is blotchy and I feel somehow chronically over and under stimulated at the same time, if that is even possible (too many people, too much noise, too little intellectualstimulation).
Pretty sure I’m approaching that low point that typically is followed by radical personal transformation, just my sure what that looks like yet and zero energy to think about it today, which I am also blaming totally on McDonalds, cuz, hey, I’m incapable of anything involving willpower right now and the drive thru was right there.
#vulnerabilityproject #fastfoodmakesmefeelgross#justovertodaycompletely

Day 20: Woke up feeling like an angst-y teen and sort of want to cut someone or run a thousand miles. My playlist this morning was a bizarre mix of this, Taking Back Sunday, Jack’s Mannequin and Wiz Khalifa. This is how I get when I let other people’s needs trump my self care routine: I feel like I want to punch shit (don’t worry- I’m a huge pacifist so I won’t hurt anyone.) #vulnerabilityproject #selfcare #angstisntjustforkids
Day 21: Although intellectually I know that I am a part of all that is, so often I feel completely isolated and alone, like life is sort of passing me by and I’m just kind of an observer who isn’t being included in the action. This is especially true when I am around other people, who I find I want so desperately to like and understand me. The only time I don’t feel this way is when I am in nature or with animals. That’s where I can drop my social anxiety and remember that we are all made of star stuff and every living thing wants the same things I do, to be happy and free from suffering and pain.
Since I can’t spend my entire life in the park talking to the animals like some kind of hippie Disney princess, I do the next best thing and set aside time each day to meditate and remember just how much we are all the same, which helps me remember that, even in my darkest hours, when I am at worst, I am never truly alone. #vulnerabilityproject#meditation #thichnhathahn #weareallmadeofstars
Day 22: As much as I actually hate it, I seek out opportunities to be busy. When I am busy, there is no room in my mind for anything but the immediate. I hate it because, when I am busy, there is no space for too much detail, for the conceptual level of thinking that I love, for day dreaming and imagination and creativity. Not time for thought- must keep moving forward- even if I am not sure where forward is or why.
But I do it anyway- I over schedule, I take on too much and, before I know it, I am bitter and angry towards everyone around me and a kind of exhausted that comes from deep within my soul.
So if I know that I do this, why don’t I stop?
Because fear.
When you are not busy and there is time for thought and rumination and imagining, there are cracks where fear seeps in. Fear that I am not enough, fear that I am not doing enough and worst of all the honest realization that despite all my grasping and planning and attempts to control my life, everything is completely and utterly beyond my control.
That’s some pretty heavy shit, to realize that all the time I spend spinning my wheels is pointless. To know it is just a technique I use to guard myself from fear is huge. If I am busy, I don’t have time to think about how lonely I feel. If I am busy, I don’t have space for the truth that someday everyone I love will die. If I keep moving, I get to hold this illusion that my own mortality does not exist, that my purpose here can be ignored in favor of what seems to be basic survival, that time is not slipping through my fingers while I make excuses that I THINK keep me safe but really just keep me small.
Why am I so stressed out and busy? Because I am running from fear, full speed ahead into my own suffering.

The antidotes to this? Faith and love.

#vulnerabilityproject #thingsilearnedinmeditation
#fear #busyness

Day 23: I’m getting better at asking for what I need, at speaking my truth, at being comfortable being uncomfortable and being unapologetically myself. This is what #vulnerability has taught me: that if I show up and believe in my #worthiness and my right to be heard, that life is much more fulfilling. How do you and your vulnerability #showup each day?
#vulnerabilityproject #vulnerabilityisstrength#beyourselfalways
Day 24: Heard this on Chris Grosso ‘s Indie Spiritualist podcast this morning on my way back from dropping my husband off at work and thought “Damn. What a totally profound and utterly simple expression of where I am at right now.” So grateful for the reminders to show up in all my messy humanity. #vulnerabilityproject#keepsocialmediahuman #spiritualwisdom
Day 25: This was me this morning driving my husband and daughter to school. (I’m sad to say it’s the cat I identify with, not the cute girl with the tattoos actually driving.) See, right now I feel like the sole taxi for the entire free world and when I get behind the wheel, what used to be kind of a fun and meditative experience turns into an all out cuss fest. (Yep, my normally polite and kind self morphs into a monster in traffic with a vocabulary that is incredibly colorful.)

Anyhow, the whole cause of this is this ridiculous mindset I frequently find myself getting sucked into: martyr mind. I fucking HATE being a victim and know that the majority of the time I catch myself thinking and behaving like I am, it is really all in my head. In reality, the only person “making me” do or feel anything is me. It’s all about perception, people.

So, this morning I raged for a solid 50 minutes on the way to my husband’s work and then drug my bullshit attitude around all day and continued to let the smallest things piss me off. Now I am home, fed and relaxing, and as I reflect back on my day, realized how stupid this is and that I allowed it to happen again. Ugh. Not my proudest moment for sure, and I hope that I can start to recognize the beginnings of this so I can avoid my martyr mind the next time it rears its ugly, foul mouthed head.#vulnerabilityproject #martyrmind #roadrage#isayfuckalot

Day 26: I don’t write at all anymore other than my journal and the short posts for this project and it hurts my heart. I long to express myself through words, to publish again and interact with my readers, to throw out my heart into the world through my pen and wish and hope and dream again. The only thing stopping me is my own fear. I’m super adept at coming up with excuses, enough to fill the book I always say I will write someday.
So what would happen if I made it a priority to write, if I take what I’ve learned this month and assembled it as a complete story, my own heroine’s journey.
I will have dared and I would be able to say that I really lived.
What dreams do you have that, if you don’t act on them, will one day die with you? What can you to today to make those dreams come true?
#vulnerabilityproject #dreams #writing #fear
Day 27: Last week (I think) I posted a selfie after a long and exhausting day when I just felt beaten down by the world. A (I’m sure) well-intentioned friend told me that she liked my hair but that I’d be prettier with a smile. (This is my summary, not verbatim what she said.) I INSTANTLY got pissed instead of being grateful for what was probably meant to be a compliment.

You know, what I think ticked me off was not the idea that I was being asked to smile in the throes of a terrible depression and what, to date, seems like the biggest challenge I have ever been handed in my adult life, but that this came from another woman when, historically speaking, women have been told to basically suck it up and smile pretty for centuries. We’ve been denied the right to vote, own property, have an opinion, pursue an education and our own interests, be financially independent and on and on and on and yet here was a successful, professional woman I admired saying this to me when I was just being honest about how I felt. I really wasn’t even looking for sympathy.

So… Here’s what I have to say about that: FUCK THAT SHIT. I’m a compassionate person who is generally kind and supportive and helpful to others ALL GODDAMN DAY. So long as it hurts no one else, I have just as much right as the next person to get pissed, have a rotten ass day and, most importantly of all, to share it if I want with whoever I want so long as I own the problem as my own and am willing to accept the consequences of deciding to share. (BTW, when I complain, it doesn’t necessarily mean I am expecting a solution. Sometimes a girl just needs to vent.) This is a right I have not BECAUSE I am a woman (despite all the stereotypes) but because I am human, damnit.

Oh, and today, I feel much better and I kind of feel proud of how cute I look so here’s a selfie with a smile because today it’s how I feel and I own ALL of it, even the crap.
#vulnerabilityproject #keepsocialmediahuman#intersectionalfeminism #emotions

Day 28: Here’s some neat irony and a message from the universe if ever there was one… I had just finished my morning routine including my meditation practice and had sat on my cushion and wrote what I thought was a beautiful and poetic post about the nature of suffering living in our expectations of things being other than they are. It was done, hashtags added, photo credits done (image is a William Shakespeare quote I found on Pinterest btw) and I hit the little arrow in Hootsuite to post it and… the entire damn thing disappeared. Completely. 😩

Touché, Universe. Message received. Loud and Clear.

#vulnerabilityproject #holdonloosley #expectations#suffering

Day 29: I’m a human. Despite how much I wish I could really be kind to everyone all the time and how much I want to ooze love out my pores, it’s just not always the case. Sometimes I get mad and overwhelmed and overtired and a million other things. But that’s okay. Because I love the beautiful mess that makes up my life, both when it makes me sing and when it makes me sob. Life’s definitely a roller coaster and I am so so lucky to have so many great friends to share the ride with.
#vulnerabilityproject #abeautifulmess#keepsocialmediahuman
Day 30: Today on a walk with one of my oldest friends, I had a realization. My whole life I have always tried to do the “right” thing, the “smart” thing, the “safe” thing. I grew up kind of thinking that if I could figure out the best way to live, then I could avoid sadness and pain and disappointment. And yet, despite trying to do things the “right” way for these past 37 years, I still failed, I still made mistakes, and unfortunate events still happened. I just didn’t let myself dare to dream of a life more extraordinary and settled for safety, familiarity and the idea that I could actually perfect any of this.
But, now that I don’t have to be perfect, as Steinbeck said, I can be good. Now that I feel like I am okay with giving up my quest to be perfect, I can be happy.

(Image: Pinterest)

#vulnerabilityproject #perfectionism #steinbeck

Day 31: And here we are…we’ve reached the end of my little experiment and I have learned so much about myself, about what it means to show up and be who I really am and also how to deal with both the haters that inevitably arise AND, perhaps more importantly, the outpouring of love and support. I’ve learned not only to be vulnerable and real but how to ask for what I need, how to stand up for myself when I’m not being respected and how to humbly accept and learn from my opportunities.

What comes next? More of the same. Continuous learning but behind the scenes. Right now I’m in desperate need of more time to process, more space to breathe and more time to photosynthesize my experiences into writing.
Who knows… Maybe my #vulnerabilityproject will turn into a book this year, my own heroine’s journey of sorts.
Thank you all so much for following this, for your love and support. I’m so awed and grateful to have had each of you touch my life. #thankyou#keepsocialmediahuman