That Space Between Fear & Safety and Why It Matters

There were seven of us. We crammed into the tiny Toyota like we were in college, nestled just near cornfields again. But this time, we are adults. Full grown adults. Many of us married. Many of us with multiple degrees already earned. We haphazardly sat ourselves into the space for maybe four of us and drove off to a tiny cottage in the countryside of Scotland.

And like misplaced twenty somethings, we sat in a living room decked out in antiquated decor and design, warming our toes by the flicker coming from the fireplace and the nearly twenty candles around the room. We drank cheap wine and we ate fancy cheese and we told stories of Christmastime in our families.

You see, we all come from the same place, but it became apparent the same place isn’t actually the same. All of us Midwest-raised, but the end game was and is different, as it should be.

And it became apparent when the conversation took a turn to a game of theories and confusing words and who-knows-more-than-who. Meanwhile, I’m sitting on the burgundy living room rug, two glasses of wine down, feeling the slow creep of the wall. Of the outside. So I said my goodbyes and I invisibly left.

As I sat in the living room on the burgundy floor, I realized I was mostly alone in a room full of people. It’s the loneliest place to be.

It just hasn’t felt quite right. The move, that is. The marriage. The new job. It’s all felt just off of center, not wrong, but not right either.

So I’ve been here for a while, curious some days and frustrated on others. I find myself side-stepping between pure joy and utter disgust. The amount of times I’ve kindly excused myself from conversations and events is actually unprecedented, but it really isn’t surprising.

My days mostly are filled with one of two things: either constant vigilance and attention or pure safety. Either I’m mustering up every ounce of courage to understand and comprehend these days, or I’m at home enveloped in the safety of peace and love. And because of it, I was curious.

The other day, I asked a friend how she thinks vulnerability shows up differently for personality types. Like any wise person would do, she responded with a question.

Kristyn, tell me this. Where do you go to feel powerful?”

I came up blank.

And after I moved past the exposure of answering the question truthfully, I realized my experiences make me feel powerful. Being places and doing things and experiencing the fullness of what life has to offer me makes me feel powerful. It’s how I connect with other souls and it’s also how I swiftly excuse myself. It’s both my change making part of me and the avoiding part of me.

It’s exactly why nothing feels right.

It’s because very little of my world today has resemblance of what my world was before. I don’t have an experience to match moving to a foreign country. I have no grid for marriage. The script I know isn’t the script that works in my job.

And the all-so-common conversation around the cheese-and-wine-filled table is not one I understand at any level.

So I bow out. I find the invisible door and I leave.

And I don’t simply leave because I don’t understand or don’t want to understand. It has nothing to do with not wanting to learn. It’s the furthest from rejecting the ambiguity of life.

But what it has everything to do with is that when I’m unable to match a once-had experience to my current reality, I feel deeply vulnerable. Open for attack. Available to have everything questioned. Wondering who is going to find out I’m a fraud.

Because that’s what happens when we feel powerless. We feel vulnerable. And the most natural place we go when we feel vulnerable is back into ourselves. When I feel vulnerable after a day of new experiences, I retreat back to my couch sanctuary. When marriage feels exposing, I retreat back to self-sufficiency. When I’m in intangible philosophical conversations, I leave the room, or at least I leave my attention to what’s in front of me.

It’s a curious thing, this place of power. And it’s even more curious what we do in action when we feel powerless. And this space of vulnerability, it’s the deepest of all my curiosities.

I really wonder what would happen if we all knew, were all equipped to be encouraged to move in and through our vulnerabilities. And I’m not talking about speaking the words here. I’m talking about the lived experience of feeling vulnerable, open in ways we’ve never been opened before. About feeling exposed. About feeling that the place you are physically standing is the exact place that could smash you right back to the ground you came from.

What would happen if we named where we felt powerful, named where we felt vulnerable, and gave the grace to ourselves and others to move into those spaces?

I don’t actually know. But what I do know is that the posture of vulnerability is where real life happens. It’s where we receive grace upon grace. It’s where we find that sometimes risking is all we have, and risking means great reward. It’s the greatest reward because the more we posture ourselves to openness, to vulnerability, we invite everyone around us to do the same. We invite their bravery. Their voice. Their courage to be in the place they always needed to be. That you’ve always needed to be.

So where do you feel powerful? It might just make all the difference on those nights of burgundy rugs and glasses of wine when nothing feels quite right.

I would love to hear from you!