There are boundaries to expression which most all of us would be well served to cross. Living our lives with too much restraint can be an almost certain shortcut to dissatisfaction. In my own writing, I notice that I’ve been feeling a little restricted, a little inhibited, a little too hesitant to hit the “publish” button and something in that feels “off.” For every finished article I publish here, there are perhaps five that I start and somehow stop along the way. My writing tends to be very personal, yet in reality I am a fairly private person. So in the interest of more expansive writing, there is a boundary I may need to cross, a place perhaps of discomfort, where in order to say what I wish to say, I have to be more revealing, be more exposed, allow more vulnerability.
When I was last in Nepal, the night before I left I met a man named Cary in OR2K, my favorite vegetarian restaurant in the trekking/tourist district of Kathmandu. I was sitting on the floor at a low table eating my usual Middle Eastern platter when he started a conversation with me. It turned out he was familiar with the orphanage where I do my service work and that we share some mutual friends. He lives his life without a permanent home, wandering a bit of a global circuit largely in service of the greater good. After departing he found and read several entries on this website and reflected to me that I had much more to share.: “Do spill the contents of your pot. The contents of your pot will touch more and many when it seeps out without reservation or limitations.” Through further back and forth correspondence he added, “Let go, let live, let your pot pour in all directions. How much time do we have? Spread yourself like manure and fields will fertilize beyond your wildest dreams.” His words have continued to resonate inside me since first reading them nearly 9 months ago and are really the incipience of this exploration.
Bringing Light to Darkness
As a human, I am a curious recipe: combining heartfulness, thoughtful curiosity, creativity, perfectionism, and as I alluded to earlier, a pinch of reservedness. The curious part of me is the one who is always learning, always has something of value perhaps to write and share. The perfectionist in me, however, never wants to publish something unless everything about it feels right. The reserved one in me tends to be more private and doesn’t like taking the spotlight. Attention can feel awkward and uncomfortable, yet I’m glad to have it when it comes. I’ve understood for a long time that the antidote to darkness is light. The subconscious parts of of our being can’t so easily continue to do what they do once we illuminate their ways/actions with the light of our own curiosity. To simplify, once we’re “hip to our own game” it’s much harder to keep playing the same old game we once did. My hope in writing this is to simply try to bring all this to consciousness, to not let the perfectionist and reserved parts of me rule my writing day safely hidden in the dark.
While it my have been a strategy which served me well educationally and professionally, and at other times such as during the design and building of my home, perfectionism isn’t really as necessary as I have believed it to be. Producing a quality product/piece is laudable, but being hesitant, being more reserved and constrained generally serves no one. It doesn’t serve anyone when I hesitate to perform music publicly, nor when I stall on leading workshops, hosting events, creating a book of my photography, or as in the case of writing when my finger tremors when I try to click “publish.” When I was young, I learned to dim my light in deference to my older brother who seems to have been hell-bent on beating the natural beaming light out of me. Shining a bright light at the time was clearly not a wise survival tactic. Yet that dimming defense has far outlived its own necessity. In fact, miracle of miracles, my brother loves me and I love him.
My experience in publishing over 300 writings here is that I have yet to be harmfully judged for anything I’ve shared. Far to the contrary, I’ve been widely read, thanked, appreciated, supported and encouraged. My writing draws people in closer who in turn have shared more of themselves with me. I don’t question the positive impact of my writing upon the lives of others, yet I have continued to hesitate all too often.
I don’t think I’m alone in this. While you (yes you) are a uniquely extraordinary individual (it’s actually true), you’re most likely a hesitater too. I have a new friend who stopped by the other day because she had read several of my writings here and wanted to explore her hesitance in writing and sharing her own very personal story. Being able to speak one’s truth is imperative in life. The venue (blog, book, journal, personal letter, therapist) may vary depending on circumstances, but without that expression there can be a build-up of emotional energetic pressure that can bring about imbalances in both our physical and mental health. I’ve often thought of depression as the opposite of expression. Human beings need to express, sometimes through words, mostly through love, but also through any and all of the infinite ways that that make us uniquely who we are.
Like most of us, I enjoy attention, yet at the same time, I’m very hesitant to ask for it. It’s challenging to put myself forward. I so envy those among us who seem to have evolved without or rendered unnecessary the self-consciousness gene. My writing tends to place myself squarely in the middle of whatever it is that I write, and for someone who tends toward the introverted side of the social spectrum, that can be a challenging place to reside. My intention here is to let my writing flow more freely and to do my best to not censor so much. Aha! I think that’s an important key here. It’s one thing to be perfectionist in what I put out to the world, but another thing to censor myself too much. My “inner censor” has a little too much sway. That censor cares too much about what other people think, tries to fend off attention, and too critically questions the value of that which I have to share.
Openness, Courage and Vulnerability
Truth be told, we are all afraid. Hitting the publish button, or whatever invoking mechanism your personal form of expression might require, is a reflection of courage. It feels good. Crossing the threshold feels good. Allowing more of who you were meant to be feels good. Growth happens when we lean into our edge. Staying warm and tidy within our zones of comfort may feel reassuring and secure, but it’s not really the place where character is built, lessons are learned, lives are made, and true lasting joy and freedom are distilled. In many ways, the greatest support that we can give to others comes from living our own lives fully and with integrity. Not only do we become better capable of wisely supporting others, but others also find encouragement on their own path through witnessing our own – a kind of inspiration by osmosis.
I’ve recently come to recognize that vulnerability is simply openness that is imbued with fear. Openness morphs into vulnerability when we have fear of what might happen when we are open. My hope is that through practice I will err more and more on the side of openness in my writing and throughout the other facets of my life as well, wantonly spilling the contents of my pot along the way.