Time Travel, Oprah, and Vulnerability


desk selifie

Last week I watched Barbara Walters’ most interesting people of 2014 special.

Yes, last week. Three weeks into 2015. The holidays were busy, ya know? And I have a bit of an obsession with watching interviews but, in one of those opposites-attract kind of ways, my husband does not. So I set the DVR and intended to watch it long before now but I don’t clock a lot of hours with just me and the TV so I’m actually lucky to be talking about this now and not six months from now. And this is why I will never be caught live-tweeting any event. Though, I have to say, I was tempted to late-live-tweet Barbara Walters as I watched because how awesomely confusing would that have been?

I used to be one of those people who refused to brush up against anything holiday spirited after December had closed. No music, no decorations, no red or green. But I’ve sort of found myself moving on from that in recent years. It’s a bit too restrictive and I just can’t control the five-year-old who can’t control her own love of humming Jingle Bells, regardless of season. And this year, dipping back into early December of last year for an evening was actually rather comforting. It reminded me how happy I was with the year as it came to a close which is something I think we tend to forget as we get into the never-ending forward motion of a new year. Time to reflect on a year gone by should not expire at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. At the risk of living in the past, I like to linger in good times gone by. Sometimes they help me recreate those same feelings in good times to come. So, for an hour or so last week, I pretended it was still 2014 for a while and it felt really nice.

I love interviews because they often provide a little window into a person which, then, creates a different view of the world for me. I love watching to see who settles in nicely as if they are having a conversation with a good friend, revealing openly and honestly all sorts of details and who remains stiff or mysterious, leaving you feeling as if you want more but know you’ll never get it. (For the record, in this particular special, Oprah was of the first type and Scarlett Johansson of the second though that may be because Oprah and Barbara are friends? I’m not sure).

I bring up Oprah because although I’ve never been a diehard fan the way that some are, I’ve always respected her and as I watched her interview I found myself wanting so much to be like her. She has a rare presence that you don’t often find. For the entire time she was completely in the moment, calm and collected, polished but not fake. I’ve no doubt that this presence comes from years of being a highly public figure and that she’s worked for decades to be able to speak with such openness and honesty. She’s had enough experience with backlash and criticism that she knows she’ll survive it and so she shares her true self because she’s learned that the reward is worth the risk.

She is comfortable with vulnerability.

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” ~ Brene Brown

I’ve been reading a lot about vulnerability lately. There’s the words of Brene Brown which I consume hungrily whenever I see them. There was Lindsey’s lovely piece last week about how vulnerability fosters closeness. There’s the fact that I read so much memoir and so much personal essay and that I am working on a memoir of my own and spend my days and nights writing personal essay and what could be more vulnerable than writing your own journey for anyone in the world to read?

Or, at least, that’s what I thought. But I’m starting to believe that writing my stories and revealing things, even some deep and personal things, here isn’t what’s vulnerable. Vulnerability is the rare ability to recognize that the risk is worth the reward. And it’s recognizing that in more than saying that the reward of being published is worth the risk of revealing something personal (which is a trap I have fallen into). It’s realizing that you can’t get close when you put up a wall.

aerial selfie

vulnerability is a selfie. making it black & white is not going all the way. but we’ll get there.

Vulnerability is openly and honestly exposing your true self in a conversation with another person. It’s showing your truth, your true self, fears and blemishes and quirks and all, in service of closeness and genuine relationships. It’s first accepting yourself and your own natural tendencies and wishes and desires and then bravely sharing them with the world. Because the world needs them. And the world does need them. I wholeheartedly believe that the world needs our truest, most open selves.

I’m bad at these things, admittedly. For as much as I write here, I am bad at vulnerability, at letting my honest, true self out in the wild. But my birthday is nearing and I’m shifting into another reflective mode and I can feel that begin to change. With as much as I’m stumbling over words about vulnerability right now, I think the world is urging me to be more like Oprah. And I think I’m ready.


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