As a vulnerability researcher, the greatest barrier I see is our low tolerance for vulnerability. We’re almost afraid to be happy. We feel like it’s inviting disaster ~ Brene Brown
Yesterday, three girlfriends and I decided to go for a walk around a local lake and catch up before our beer league dodgeball game. It had been a while since we had all had a chance to gather, just us ladies, and discuss life, love and the Canadian Way. The weather has been unseasonably warm, borderline hot, for the West Coast in early May, and as good Canadian kids, we needed to be outdoors to enjoy it. We all piled into one vehicle, already steamy from our commute and preparing to be sweaty from our pre-game “power walk”. Complete with full water bottles and “trail pops” we started off, determined to conquer the 10 kilometers and still be on time for our game. We established a good pace from the outset, one that was easily improved after we had consumed our, previously mentioned, “trail pops” and slowing down to sip from a can was no longer required.
As we walked along, laughing and joking and catching up on the events going on in our lives. I was struck by the women I am fortunate enough to have in my life and call my friends. I am surrounded by beautiful, strong, independent women, who embrace life bravely and wholeheartedly. They are smart, sassy, silly and caring. The majority are single.
Our conversation turned naturally to the men in our lives. As one of my dearest friends finished telling us about her latest debacle, which included this man telling her that she was “too independent”, she said, “well there you have it, I knew it was too good to be true.” We all nodded our heads in agreement. Every one of us could relate to that very feeling, that experience, of having something wonderful enter into our lives, only for it to turn out not so great and exit stage left. In the dating world this has happened to each of us on a number of occasions, and we have seen it happen time and time again with our friends, it has now become an expectation. It has become an inevitability. It may have become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Why am I always waiting for the other shoe to drop?
On the surface, part of my expectation that the other shoe will inevitably drop, is from experience. When I look around at my lovely group of friends, many of us are divorced, going through separations of marriages or long term relationships, which find us back in this unfamiliar world of dating. Given the breakdown and break up of our previous relationships, we have already experienced the proverbial “other shoe”. Personally, I have been dating for a few years now, and have found myself, on a few occasions, feeling excited about a potential love match only to have it come to a crashing halt. These experiences have taught me to not hold my breath.
Looking deeper, and having read many books by Brené Brown, really putting myself out there and being present, showing up and being available for love is an intensely vulnerable state. In a state of vulnerability, I protect myself and maintain distance by being prepared for the worst case scenario. Waiting for the other shoe to drop pulls me out of a state of vulnerability and protects me from a potentially bruised, cracked or broken heart. Of course, waiting for this other shoe, assumes that I know what the other person involved is feeling or thinking. It is a mistrust and an attempt to control a very uncontrollable situation, one that is not meant to be controlled. The assumption that I know what the outcome is going to be is unfair and could potentially become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please ~ Mark Twain
Interestingly, when something great and positive happens in other areas of my life, I don’t have the same “shoe dropping” feeling. However, when it comes to relationships, all relationships, there is an uncertainty, there is an inability to control or even know what the other person involved is thinking or feeling, which is an extremely vulnerable and uncomfortable place to be. Learning to lean into that discomfort, learning to truly be available and vulnerable to love and be loved, has come to me from a place of resilience, a strength and knowledge that no matter what, I will be okay. And from a deep desire and belief in love, trust and commitment. I’m still a work in progress.
Recently, I have met an amazing human the old-fashioned way, through friends, at a gathering. We were instantly drawn to each other. The energy and attraction palpable, at least to us. We innately understand and “get” each other. And there is a strong desire to learn more and more. It honestly could not have been better. Soon after we started dating, this amazing human sent me a text message, “can I talk to you about something?” My stomach dropped. My chest tightened. And I waited for that other shoe. It never came. Several weeks of conversations and many moments of nervous expectation that the shoe was dropping later, the shoe is still on. And those moments are becoming less and less. I trust him. And I have made an intentional and mindful decision, deep-rooted, not only in my mind, but my heart, to really let go. To lean into the discomfort of vulnerability and believe.
I told this amazing human about my shoe dropping fear, his response told me everything I needed to know, without assumptions or fear, “I don’t feel like it’s dropping, instead I feel like I’m putting on the other shoe.”