The Age of Vulnerability
This blog post has been updated for International Women’s Day 2018.
Previously, when I was 49, the prospect of turning 50 was simply another excuse for a good time. Now don’t get me wrong, it sure has been that. Opening with a visit the Great Southern region of Western Australia to cook a long table lunch for 40 new best friends, followed by one helluva festival of 50 in Perth for my dear ol’ school buddy.
The Good Friday red-eye flew me coast to coast just in time for Byron Bay Bluesfest and the thrill of witnessing the Tedeschi Trucks Band for the first time. The highlight of the festival for me, followed closely by Russell Morris and Joe Bonamassa. By the time my actual birthday rolled in all I wanted to do was hangout in my PJs and watch TV with my darling man, followed by oysters and champagne on the beach at Watego’s. ‘Perfect’ I hear you say.
The birthday love unfolded for a few more days, fuelled with phone calls and sprinkled with visits, coupled with a general enquiry of how do I feel. Then I hit a wall of fear, worry and the reality of this:
“F**k Me, I’m 50. What have I got to show for it?”.
Now, some of you will scoff loudly at this, while others might scratch their whiskers, nod their heads and take a similar whiff of mortality with me.
You see, I have few of the traditional garnishes that (what I thought) most women my age in Australia should have – a house or two plus 2.5 kids (my choice – read this blog), for example. I have always worked hard. When I was 17 and had finished HSC at Geelong Grammar, I spent the next seven years learning the trade from rookie in the public bar of the Mount Macedon pub to an informal apprenticeship in fine dining on the Gowings Restaurant floor. By 24 I became one of the youngest female publicans in Australia as the licensee of the Grace Darling Hotel for eight years – you won’t get much harder work than that!
Then I sold up my home and the pub and retrained as a clinical nutritionist at Endeavour College of Natural Medicine. I also studied yoga and Pilates investing the capital from my assets into my career, but more importantly, into my passion. My vision has been to help establish the importance food as medicine in Australia for which I needed a clean palate and laser focus to achieve. I call this entrepreneurial trait ‘the problem with being a pioneer’. It is also evident of being generous to a fault, and importantly, undervaluing my business services in the early days – something I am passionate about when mentoring my clients.
From here you can either applaud or judge because after my meltdown and twelve hours sleep – I have decided to revel in my vulnerability and be proud of the risks I continue to take.
You see, I was so bound up in fear and unworthiness that I knew something had to give. In my experience, whenever there is breakdown there is breakthrough. So with the bones of imminent change baking in the oven I put myself into bed very early and joyously awoke twelve hours later. Ask any health practitioner what the key to good health is and I guarantee they will all say, “Sleep!”.
Recently I started making noises to my bestie that I have little to show for my life, to which of course, he scoffed and rolled his cyber eyes. I whined through a shimmy of unworthiness to my sweetheart who promptly corrected me that a lack of material gain has absolutely nothing to do with self-worth. “Wha’dya mean?” I asked through a shaking cup of green tea. “Well”, he said, “Money was invented as a way of storing the excess labour you have output. It has nothing to do with self-worth.”
I thought about this – a lot – while I packed away the dishes from that morning’s cooking class. I realized I needed to remove the emotion from the situation I had created. I have placed so much fear and anguish around what I don’t have, that it is an outdated harness holding me back.
This morning I watched Brené Brown’s Ted Talk on the Power of Vulnerability. You know, just to really expose myself to myself! A marvellous piece that may save me thousands of counselling dollars. Many of you may also use this as a benchmark but for those who don’t, Brené talks about shame as the fear of disconnection.
“Is there something about me that if other people see it I won’t be worthy of connection?”
And here’s the kicker that elevated me from my excruciating vulnerability into a freshly baked loaf of peace and ease.
“The core of shame and fear and the struggle for worthiness is also the birthplace of joy, creativity, of belonging, of love.”
When we understand that our vulnerability, fear, anxiety and lack of self-worth stem from the similar vibration of love, worthiness and a strong sense of love and belonging, we have choice. The dissolution of fear, doubt and pain gives rise to what is possible. The fear that we are not worthy of connection is a fear of authenticity. When we let go of who we think we should be we can truly rise up to embrace our authentic selves.
For me, if anything, I know I am authentic. At times this authenticity stems from a place of discomfort but as I wander through the next wholehearted decade of my curious life it will be heavily marinated with the compassion to be kinder to myself first.