The lesson I get to be present for over and over again. Still flunking the class.

My partner keeps telling me that I am gullible and naive. That I am setting myself up for failure when I continue to believe that people are what and who they say they are, when I continue to believe in promises and words shared with me, when I continue to hope in real connection. Her words come from her love for me and her wish to protect me from hurt, I know. It is still hard for me to hear … . Because I know no other way to be. A world in which I start to interact with another from the cynical idea that they are after their own agenda is not one I can or care to live in.

In one of her very popular podcasts, Dare to Lead, Dr. Brene Brown, asks every guest she has a very interesting question: What is the lesson that you refuse/can’t learn and the universe keeps putting in front of you over and over? For me it is always interacting with people. I am such a sucker for connection that I am willing to give tens of chances, open my heart a million times, ignore the scar tissue of the past and go forward with a smile over and over. I am not sure what the lesson is: that I am silly or that I should never give up?

I am an introvert (and getting more introverted with age, it seems) and relationships with people always, always take something from me. Unless they are within the very small circle of my intimate friends and chosen family, it takes so much energy from me to be real with people, to listen and focus, to offer some of myself, to filter my words, to trust and be vulnerable and potentially have to recover from a kick in the behind every so often.

Dr. Brown was teaching the Living Brave semester some years ago and I asked her about being vulnerable with other people and how I can make sure it doesn’t hurt so much. She said something that stuck with me: vulnerability (defined as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure) without boundaries has in fact nothing to do with vulnerability, it is a quick and dirty way to diminishing any real connection and strength that you might bring into relationships.

I remembered that when this week I read an amazing article about us all in the midst of this global community exercise called a pandemic.

I now live by these words from my friend Prentis Hemphill, “Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously.” Love. Not tolerate or survive, but love. When I speak these words, as reminder, as mantra, they give me hope that no one has to be disposable, cut off from that vast connectivity of love. It’s just a matter of distance.

Adrienne Maree Brown, The Darwin Variant, and/or Love of the Fittest

Going back to the lesson that the universe keeps putting in front of me over and over again, maybe that is what the lesson is. Don’t give up on people but … boundaries. I love the definition above because it talks about love and does not portray boundaries as walls, rather health filters for the heart. A way to nurture yourself and your relationship with others, simultaneously. Back in the class and hoping for the best.

Photo by Jan Canty on Unsplash

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