A client of mine is struggling with the emotional roller coaster ride of not being able to get pregnant. She told me she recently shared her story on Facebook and it had relieved her pain on so many levels. Mostly she realized she wasn’t alone. Unbeknownst to her, many of her friends had also experienced fertility struggles. Wives of her husband's colleagues from work even came forward. By sharing her story, she received support and words of encouragement from a community she didn’t think would understand.
This reminded me of my own experience sharing my vulnerability in a public way last fall. I was highly resistant to announce my impending divorce on Facebook, mostly because I use social media to share photos of my kids and to check in on far away friends. The topic of ending my 17-year relationship to the father of my children felt too deep, too private to share with hundreds of “friends”, some of whom I don’t even know.
But when my soon-to-be-ex announced he would be “tagging” me in his post on Facebook about our divorce, I felt it was important to share the news with my friends, too. I posted a brutally honest paragraph about the long, hard year of my divorce and my depleted emotional state, asking for some support or words of wisdom from those willing to share.
What followed was a sheer outpouring of love. Friends old and new shared in a long list of brave public comments and a handful of private messages about their own divorce experiences. Some close friends I’d lost touch with were even going through divorce at that same time. Many shared how impressed they were by my courage to share about my divorce so publicly. Little did they know the sheer terror I felt before I clicked “post”.
What I learned from the risk of publicly sharing a difficult time in my life is that I am not alone in my struggle. We are not alone in our human struggle, whatever our struggle may be. There are nearly 7.4 billion people on the planet, and you can bet there’s someone else (if not many someone elses) struggling with a similar life challenge.
Risking my heart helped me see how “my story” isn’t really just mine. It opened the door to understanding our human interconnectedness more deeply, that I am woven into a beautiful tapestry of unique expressions of shared human experience and vulnerabilities. It reaffirmed that we all are on this human journey together, despite the illusion of our differences, despite the illusion of our separateness.
My stepping out to share a vulnerable, private time in my life, was in fact, the very healing I needed to move into the new phase of my life post-divorce. My friends circled around me, cocooned me in a blanket of love, cheered me on, offered me the gifts of their experience, their willingness to listen, even the use of their vacation homes (!), basically reminding me, “You got this, Catherine. You are not alone.”
I see the word “ALONE” and I notice it’s just one letter away from being ALL ONE. To me, that extra L stands for LOVE. When we risk it all, opening our hearts to share our vulnerabilities, we peel back the veil of separation and can then see the web of LOVE that connects us all. That web is sometimes invisible to the naked eye, but we can trust it’s always there. It’s my security blanket, my knowing this ultimate truth:
We are never truly “alone” in our human journey. When we step onto the bridge of vulnerability, we begin to see our human interconnectedness and to experience the healing love that binds us all together.