I’m working on being more vulnerable in my friendships.
I admit, this statement seems absurd to me on multiple levels. For one, how can one work on vulnerability? I’ve always thought the whole point of being soft and supple was to not try so hard in the first place. Secondly, to admit that one wants to be vulnerable on a forum as public as a blog strikes me as evidence that said person does not indeed have a problem with vulnerability after all.
It was my husband who suggested vulnerability might be one of my “challenge areas.” I came home from another pleasant interaction with someone (I promise, it wasn’t you) who I found nice enough but there just didn’t seem to be a spark between us.
“I don’t know. It’s not like I felt like they were holding anything back. It’s just that, well, I don’t know how deep we can really go,” I explained to him. This felt like an adult-like observation, focused on conserving energy in relationships rather than spreading yourself thin like a college-aged Young Life leader.
“How deep are you willing to go?” Rush pushed back. This was the problem with telling your husband that you wish he would give you more feedback, that in the scheme of the Christian principle to “speak the truth in love,” he seems to be too good at the “love” part but skimpy on the “truth.”
I think of myself as an open book, sometimes even too prolific in my words. But the more I thought about it, I realized a key detail I was leaving out of this whole literary metaphor: I was most often the edited version.
A friend posted a New York Times article on her Facebook page a few months ago about the nature of adult relationships. Titled “Friends of a Certain Age: Why Is It Hard to Make Friends After 30?”, the writer named three facets of close friendships: proximity, spontaneity, and safe space for confiding in one another. While the first and third were no-brainers, it was the second facet that was holding me back. To know that the friendships that are less scheduled are the ones with more intimacy made me want to erase my Google calendar and stop responding to any more clever Evites.
It made sense. For me, spontaneity is vulnerable – knowing I’ll risk the security of my introvert-friendly schedule, knowing I’ll stick my foot in my mouth and need forgiveness, knowing I’ll text someone to hang out but they’ll already be hanging out with a mutual friend and so they will text me something back vague in return and secretly feel sorry for me.
Vulnerability is learning to edit myself a little less and trust my friends a little more to accept a few errant and awkward comments from time to time. I’m not talking about turning my open book into a detailed diary but I could stand to be a bit more brave when I’m feeling neurotic, a bit more bold when I disagree.
Rush and I were out in San Francisco last month visiting some of our best friends in the world. On our walk to a little Italian festival in North Beach, Lia got a call from a friend. She looked at me directly and said, “I should take this or she’ll be calling all day about her wedding plans.”
What she did next astounded me. She didn’t let it go to voicemail so she could gather her thoughts or craft a polite email to avoid confrontation. She just picks up the phone and greets the caller on the other end with the line, “Girl. You’re acting cray-cray.”
I look at Rush bug-eyed, like we shouldn’t be overhearing such a private and intimate conversation. He chuckles, incredulous.
But the thing is, her brief conversation with a distressed bride-to-be felt more vulnerable than some of my nicest (and scheduled) friend dates. When I told her this much, she chalked her chutzpah up to being Jewish.
Since I’m not yet “of a certain age,” I think there may be some hope for me to have the type of friendships that were once fostered by knocking on a neighboring dorm room door or randomly calling up high school friends to go pool-jumping in the dark.
So next time I invite you to hang out and you agree and we find ourselves splitting a mediocre cupcake at Hummingbird Cafe, don’t laugh when I say I’m working on being more vulnerable in my friendships. Just look past the icing on my upper lip and say, “You’re acting cray-cray.”