If you had asked me a year ago, “What is the definition of vulnerable and how does it make you feel?” I could not have answered your question. Really, I had no clue.
But today I can tell you that eating alone at Taco Bell without looking at my cellphone makes me feel vulnerable. And I know I am not the only one, judging by what other people do while they eat alone.
Brené Brown defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. It has taken a while, but I can recognize when I am feeling vulnerable.
Going inside to eat by myself at Taco Bell is hard. I’d rather go through the drive-thru, order my Burrito Supreme and small Mountain Dew, and find a place to park and eat with the windows rolled down. (Yes, I am an introvert.)
Sometimes, though, I think I’ll just go in to eat. I order, find a place to sit, and pick up my phone to look at Facebook before I take the first bite. Before cellphones, I always carried a paperback book to read.
I loved the day I walked in and saw two of my friends eating there. They invited me to sit with them. Courage has its rewards at times.
Last week, I realized I felt vulnerable when I walked in and ordered. And, because I felt vulnerable, I decided to sit at the table and eat my burrito without looking at my cellphone. I made the choice to stay in uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure without avoiding, shutting down or numbing the emotion by reading Facebook. I leaned into the discomfort and sat with vulnerability.
The first person I noticed was a man in work clothes intent on his cellphone while he ate. He was the only other person there by himself. A woman sat at a table with her elderly father while he told her stories. An employee brought out their order and gave it to the woman and her father. They looked up in surprise, saying they hadn’t heard their number called. I know she didn’t call the number, just cared enough to deliver it without so they wouldn’t have to interrupt their conversation. Two women engaged in excited conversation as they caught each other up on their lives.
Nothing dramatic happened. Just life. Life I would have missed if I hadn’t chosen to spend a few minutes in vulnerability.
I am learning that staying in vulnerability when I feel it makes me more open; open to people, open to circumstances, and open to life.