Do you ever wish that someone would just swoop in and protect you in life? Help you in some way that causes you to sigh and say, “Aaahhhh…now I got this.” Or even just help you carry all your groceries into the house? I feel you! We’ve all been there!
THAT’S THE WOMEN’S RESTROOM
As I’ve spoken about before, I grew up a tomboy. Not “a girl in pigtails getting her dress dirty and being ok with it,” tomboy. Rather, I was a girl who was often told, “That’s the women’s restroom,” because I looked, walked and talked like a boy. To which I’d internally giggle. (because boys don’t giggle out loud) Then I’d say with a straight face, “I know,” and then observe their confused and sometimes embarrassed expressions as I walked in, against their protest. I loved being mistaken for a boy.
It seemed natural for me to be tougher, stronger and better at most sports than the boys in my neighborhood. I taught many of them how to throw the perfect spiral and to hide their fear of snakes because they looked like wussies when they ran away in terror. Most of all, I taught them to be afraid of me, a scrawny little girl, or they’d be sorry. What I wish I could go back and teach myself was that I was setting myself up for years of being the protector and the rock and rarely receiving that feeling back.
HUMAN FIRE WALL
When I was a teen I lived in a small town in Nebraska and “played” in a slightly larger small town nearby. I was cruising the loop one cold December night when I realized none of my friends were out. I decided to use an outdoor pay phone to see what my boyfriend, at the time, was up to.
As I punched in his number, my body was trying desperately to warm itself with involuntary shaking. I was so cold that I was just about hang up. Just then a car came screeching by then furiously pulled up next to me.
Startled, I whipped around to see a car load of unfamiliar teenage boys pour out of every door. Determined, they came running at me with big grins on their faces. In any other circumstance I would’ve started “one-two blows” to their heads with the heavy receiver then my right hook. But before I could react, my mind processed what the leader of the boy pack said, “She’s freezing! Quick everyone, come huddle around her!” It stopped me in my tracks.
He supervised these goofy guys with certainty and they followed his every word! He found gaps where the wind was hitting my legs or face. “Move to the left,” he said to the linebacker. “Jim! Get over here,” as he pointed to a space to be filled. “She’s still shivering!” he bellowed to his team – “Move in closer together and toward her!” If this group had a collective super hero name I imagined it to be, “The Human Firewall.”
THE DE-MASCULINIZATION OF DEB
This was the first time I recall ever being overtly protected by anyone. I understand and appreciate the way my parent’s protected me from starving to death, going to school naked and being kidnapped by strangers with candy and puppies. But I was a tomboy and generally more protective than protected.
This motley crew of once disorganized silly teen boys turned “navy seal of warmth,” gave me my first conscious understanding of what it was like to have someone take care of me. The “damsel in distress” kind of take care of me. They planted a seed that would take 20 years to blossom.
AUTHENTIC VULNERABILITY IS THE KEY
After the human firewall evening, the years passed. I dated and married and had kids. However, my mates would often say, “You don’t need me.” To which I would reply, “You’re right. I don’t,” never knowing that it was hurtful to both of us. I thought being independent was the right thing to “be”.
In my darkest hours I would be so upset that no one was there for me. I began to think that I wasn’t enough for someone to want to be there for me. What I didn’t understand, until my forties, is that I was choosing men that needed saving in some way and that I wasn’t allowing myself to rely on anyone. No one was there for me because I made poor choices in partners and I wasn’t vulnerable enough to ask for help. Ever.
My latest mission has been finding a balance between my fierce independence and my sensitive vulnerable side. It’s not been easy. When I do allow my feelings out to someone and this person isn’t receptive or caring then I get angry. Unfortunately, I’ve found that is my “go to” emotion when I’m feeling vulnerable and emotionally unsafe at the same time. "Awesome," said in my most sarcastic voice.
I've spent time being more open with friends and even peripheral friends about my feelings. I'm sure it's come out of left field and they were like, "What the hell? Deb doesn't seem bothered by anything!" Well, I'm not bothered by much. However when something actually hits me in the gut, I now express it calmly and clearly. Most of the time.
Have I been rewarded for being vulnerable instead of angry? I can honestly give you a resounding YES! There have been extremely awkward moments. Some of my friends are still not quite ok with my new expressive self. But! I have been protected, cared for and even "stood up for" more than I've ever been in my life and I didn't even ask for that! It's amazing what a little authentic vulnerability can do for a girl.
I’M DOING IT RIGHT NOW
Sometimes it’s super hard for me to even write to you about all of this. But, I get so many amazing emails telling me that it helps you. That warms my heart and makes me feel safer to be vulnerable. So thank you.
My hope is that if you wish to receive protection, help, and any other support in your life that you see that you have to reach out and ask. You have to stop saying, “No, I can do it myself.” You’re not meant to be an island. Will you get rejected sometimes? You bet your bottom dollar you will. But if you keep opening up and be vulnerable enough, you will receive help. If you shut down in fear and anger, you will be rejected 100% of the time. Trust me, I’ve lived it.