I think it might be a bad sign that I can look back on my breathing years (new hip word for “life”) and say nope didn’t do anything too screwy. Because inevitably vulnerability will come knocking on my door and say, “Hey evasive buttwipe, pay up.” My friend Maggie the mountain mover introduced me to “Ask Amy” videos in which Amy Poehler answers questions with this insight and humor that makes me want to jet ski around the world and wrestle sharks and cartwheel through the Amazon. In one video Amy talked about doing things before you think you’re ready and in another she talked about making yourself vulnerable, yadda yadda (and by “yadda yadda” I mean other great stuff she said). Being vulnerable is hard, duh. I think deep down it’s everyone’s fear. You could be the most confident person in the world and still writhe at the thought of putting yourself in a situation where you might fail. George Washington probably had second thoughts when the Delaware River came into view; Amelia Earhart was probably a little shaky when she got behind the wheel (wheel? controller? navigation-maker?) of a plane; Beyonce probably got a little sweaty the first time she met Jay Z’s mom (kidding Queen Bey doesn’t sweat she simply glistens).
Vulnerability gets a bad rep/rap (I guess I could google what the actual word is but I want to bring attention to the fact that I’ve been confused about this phrase for eons). I realized that I’ve been tiptoeing around situations where I could fail, and then I realized that that’s a pretty shitty way of living. I’m not saying really great things are going to happen every time you try new crazy things (“Do something every day that scares you”?!? What the bleep is wrong with just chilling at home doing something absurdly safe and relaxing every once in a while?) But there’s always that possibility.
Time-out: While writing this I’m also beginning to realize that no one’s ever going to quote me on things, because I’m either really wishy-washy (“Yeah I guess you should follow your heart…?” –Lauren Brown) or I’m strong in my convictions about stupid stuff (“Suburbs and gas stations are the worst.” –Lauren Brown).
Time-in: Of course I’m going to incorporate an anecdote from Europe. After walking around Versailles we were on our way back to the train station and passed this café table with three guys sitting, one of them playing a guitar. We exchanged a smile that basically said, “Yeah I see you and all your foreign, guitar-strumming glory,” and then I kept walking to the train station across the street. Once in said train station, I look out the window to see them waving at me, which sparked the following internal debate: WHAT THE NUT DO I DO NOW? The train was leaving in a few minutes but they were beautiful and friendly and musical so thanks to the awesome transportation system of Europe that promises trains on trains on trains, I left my cousin in the station and hurried down the stairs and across the street and walked into a conversation with complete strangers, not even thinking that they might not even speak English. I think I said something smooth along the lines of “You have a guitar and I had to say hello.” Thankfully they spoke English, so we talked for a while. One was Russian, and the two others were Moroccan I think. (That sounds like a beginning of a joke: “So Lauren walks up to a table with one Russian and two Moroccans…”) They ended up being cool and we exchanged names and numbers and right when I was feeling sassy and confident, I turned to walk away and ran smack into a standing umbrella.
During that same week in Paris I had to go to the bathroom and the thing about Europe is, Europeans don’t produce urine since there aren’t any public restrooms anywhere. And if there are, you have to pay money, PAY ACTUAL MONEY, to pee. So I walked confidently into this swanky Parisian restaurant, not looking the host in the eyes, trying to find a bathroom. When he finally yelled across the place what I was doing, I asked him in embarrassingly broken French where the darn bathroom was and he yelled at me to get out, causing a scene. Fun idea: I should’ve had my cousin get a movie marker thing and follow me in there so she could be like, “CUT,” and I could play it off as if I were making a movie, thanking the restaurant worker for his genuine rudeness and sending my hellos from the director Woody Allen. Anyways, I walked out of there with my pride and bladder in tatters.
Vulnerability shows up in little insignificant things like not knowing whether a group of strangers will respond to you or whether you should wear that sundress or sing out loud or compliment a passerby’s shoes or go hog wild with the parenthesis in a blog post. Looking back, I don’t know why I ever debated approaching the guys in the first place; think about it, what is the absolute worst case scenario? I walk up to the table, say something American, and what? They don’t speak English? Big whoop. I’d chant “USA!” then walk away. Same thing with the fancy restaurant. I’ll never see any of those French fancypants ever again. Sure, I may have made a complete arse out of myself, but I still have a pulse.
Perhaps the best strategy to combat fear and vulnerability and anxiety is something my bff Madeleine taught me: when life doesn’t give you any lemons, pretend you’re Liz Lemon. Channeling the aura of Amy Poehler and Tina Fey solves almost any screw-up. And if all else fails, yell “CUT” and carry on.
A note about the title: I was on a Monon run and got a whiff of some honeysuckles, or at least my first instinct told me they were honeysuckles. Once again, I could google what honeysuckles look like to confirm my botanical instincts but I don’t want to be disappointed if I’m wrong (blissful ignorance is another topic for another day). And that run is when I started to realize that fearing vulnerability is a crappy way to wander through this honeysuckle-sprinkled life.