Forgo the Exclamation Point

“Once we make the connection between vulnerability and joy, the answer is pretty straightforward; We’re trying to beat vulnerability to the punch. We don’t want to get blindsided by hurt. We don’t want to be caught off-guard, so we literally practice being devastated or never move from self-elected disappointment. For those of us who rehearse tragedy, there’s a reason those images flood into our mind the second we’re overwhelmed with joy. When we spend our lives (knowingly or unknowingly) pushing away vulnerability, we can’t hold space open for the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure of joy.”

Eating out was a big deal in my family.  My dad worked the evening shift so it was just my mom, sister, and I for weeknight dinners.  Even though my mom worked full time she would make dinner at home, around the table every weeknight. Even if it was tuna noodle casserole.  Again.

I can vividly remember one of the rare weeknight splurges.  We were out later than usual – hanging around with mom at work while she finished up when it was decided that we would pick up food on our way home that night.

My sister and I had differing opinions.  I preferred Taco Bell, she wanted a local burger place.  I was so excited at the thought of going to Taco Bell that I left the most obnoxious phone message on our answering machine at home revealing my excitement.  I couldn’t help it! This was a big deal and I was ready to celebrate.

Although in my mind it was a done deal we did not end up at Taco Bell.  Lamenting the whole way home (I’m sure) we ended up at the burger joint.

And when we got home, I hid behind my bed in my room, mortified as they played the phone messages knowing that my overly-excited message would play next.

I was embarrassed.

I had let myself get my hopes up and when it didn’t happen I was crushed.

And for whatever reason, that memory claws its way out when exciting things might happen.

I leave the exclamation point off of events in my calendar just in case things don’t quite work out.

I don’t want to be the girl crossing it off later thinking, “Why did I let myself get so giddy about this? That’s so dumb.”

This happens with little things. And it’s laughable.

Not eating where you want to eat as a ten year old and pouting about it is not really that abnormal.

But I’ve realized that in some ways it’s almost a symptom of a deeper problem.

A vulnerability problem. 

I don’t want to be the girl hiding from embarrassment that she was too excited.

I’d rather shake my excitement off.
Pretending to not be.
So that in the end, if it doesn’t work out, I won’t be embarrassed.

There have been a lot of times in my life where life was good.
And I worried.
When will the other shoe drop?
What’s going to happen to my family or to my security or to myself?
This is too good.

And you know what?

I was right.

The other shoe dropped.

And then ten more dropped.

I lost things I wasn’t even preparing myself to lose.

So in my mind I had every right to worry.

I was preparing myself to feel grief.
I was trying to beat vulnerability to the punch.

There’s something deep inside of me that doesn’t like being vulnerable.

So I’m writing a few things with exclamation points.
Letting myself feel joy even when I might be disappointed in the end.
And mostly I’m dwelling on gratitude instead of rehearsing tragedy.

Someone I love says it like this, “Life is full of possibilities, not limitations.”



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