Digging deep within the caverns of ourselves to unearth emotions we are often conditioned to suppress, is indeed a challenge. Step one: Finding the emotions. Identifying them, understanding them, and appreciating them regardless of the positive or negative effect they have on us. These are the building blocks of our being. Step two: Bring forth the feels. Release them, let the tears flow. Let the heart beat rapidly. Let the heat of anger move through you. Allow the fear to take hold of you for a moment and shake you awake from your denial. Embrace the chaos that occurs within your heart and mind as these sensations emerge from the shadows. These shadows embody a powerful feeling that exists yet often goes unrecognized in our daily lives. Within them you’ll find shame, imperfection, doubt, the elements that feed fear. Fear, the founding father of the feeling that lives within us yet rarely makes an appearance. The feeling that is so often overcome and falsely advertised by pride. The feeling that encourages us to build walls comprised of distrust and hurt. It’s the feeling that I initially detest but then appreciate in the end. It’s vulnerability, and I wouldn’t be half the person I am today without it.
I inhale a deep breath of cool, salty air and I open my eyes to a continuation of darkness. It almost feels suffocating as a blanket of expansive black sky lays above me. The stars provide just enough light for recognition but not enough for guidance. Tonight, there is no moon as a focal point of light. I close my eyes again and I want to return to the safety of the indoors, where light is available upon a switch. Laying on the beaches of York, Maine, I am alone. I’ve snuck out of the beach house because some strange force of desire enlightened me to do so. Now, I am subject to the infinite being of the night sky. It’s not my surroundings I’m afraid of. It’s the universe that makes me feel tiny, helpless. I have no control in terms of the vast unknowingness that lies above me. I put my hand out and hold it towards the sky- I see nothing. I withdraw, collapsing my arm back towards my chest. “This is frightening, and I must be insane” I think to myself. How do I feel so limited when all I am surrounded by is limitlessness? I push further, I hesitate to keep my eyes open and my feet from running back towards the beach house. What am I in this universe? I can confirm three certain things: I am alone. I am scared. I am vulnerable.
I am a mere speck of life, perhaps equivalent to a grain of sand in the grandiose scheme of the universe. I have so little power here. I am miniscule and I am certainly not invincible. A deep breath, a peak at the sky once more. I feel a sense of ease come over me with the cool wind off the waves. The stars become more apparent and remind me of old friends I haven’t seen in a long time, twinkling graciously. They are reminders that light not only exists amongst the darkness but pierces it. They reassure me, and slowly, I am met with peace again. Feeling vulnerable beneath the night sky removes you from your world of comfort and throws you into the lion’s den of the deepest questions. I feel delirious with uncertainty due to the depth above me. Yet, I feel a strange sense of acceptance and renewal. I’ve acknowledged weakness, and now I am granted with strength. Although the dark blinds us physically, it has the capability to open the eyes of the mind and soul. Perhaps that’s why we naturally fear it, because we cannot see our physical reflection, so we are left with nothing but introspection: thoughts and feelings.
I can’t find an exit. Just another elongated hallway that smells a little like mold and is lit with uncomforting fluorescent lighting, my heels echo as they step rapidly. I can hear my heart pounding in competition with my steps, two beats, unsynchronized. I have no control over either. The uncanny feeling of a thousand pins into my neck and shoulders pushes upon me, I feel like stress is laughing at me as it ravages my mind and body. I need to get to an open space, I can’t breathe.
I find the nearest field, and throw myself under a tree that I admired for its beauty and stature earlier that morning. Ironic, for I have no beauty nor composure in this moment. These are the ugliest, scariest of moments. Tears weld up in my eyes as the campus becomes both a mental and physical blur around me. I feel overwhelmed with heat emanating from ends of my body, a fire that I can’t escape. The pressure in my head is an avalanche of pain pushing into my chest. I start to tremble. I feel removed from reality, suddenly, it feels like I’m watching a movie. I am disoriented, I have no control over my thoughts or feelings. I am having my first anxiety attack.
I have no safety net, no promise, no roots to stabilize me aside from those of the tree that I am sitting upon. I am drowning in a sea of confusion and fear, completely helpless. I am hypersensitive to everything around me: the leaves twisting aimlessly in the wind, students chatting on the sidewalk below, the late afternoon golden sun attempting to warm my back in some form of comfort. I am lost. I am the epitome of weakness. In this moment, I have reached the core of vulnerability and I absolutely hate it.
The first is always the worst. I had always heard people throw the term anxiety around in different ways, but I had never given it a second thought myself. How was I supposed to know what was happening to me? One minute I’m in Starbucks finishing a Venti Holiday Blend and scrolling on Facebook, the next thing I know I have an intense urgency to find the nearest open space. I partially attribute the coffee for igniting this awful episode, in addition to several stressors that had been boiling inside me for months. Between family issues, relationship issues, a calculus course I was on the verge of failing, and two papers due that week, I was a mental mess. Thankfully, my mom could talk me out of it when I called her up. There is nothing that could describe this experience more than pure fear and confusion. How did I learn from vulnerability this time, especially when I detested it so much in the moment? Well, I was at the bottom of the pit, and…I climbed back out. Sometimes you must become lost to find what you’re looking for. In this case, it was myself.
Please check out the second part to series!
Weakest At Its Strongest (Part Two)