Lean into Vulnerability. Or: Go Full-On Kintsugi

“i can tell where your scarz are just by the way you smile….”

This powerful first line in my favorite poem by Taalam Acey flashed across my awareness today. I remember seeing Taalam perform “Scarz” in Anchorage, on a cold and Alaskan-amber evening in the Wilda Marston theater.

I remember how I felt that day much more clearly than I remember the day itself.

I remember feeling very white and not acceptable, yet I stayed after the the show and bought a CD. I remember feeling very exposed, very seen, like his words pulled the veil off my smile and took away my choice of what I controlled to be seen, and what remained hidden. So much for the serenity prayer – these words busted my shield and exposed me, but it was okay. In a shikata ga nai* kind of way.  His voice meant safety.

I remember feeling inspired to use words in a way that would hit like Taalam’s words hit me, because they went so deep, and were so clearly expressing what I felt I wanted, what I needed, and what you are seeking too: to. be. seen.

“I can tell where your scars are just by the way you walk…”

I had to use the restroom during the break but almost didn’t go, because what if he, or someone else with these clairvoyant powers was watching me? What if they could read my brokenness just by the way I set one foot in front of the other? The dissolution of my marriage was five months from being complete. Relief and fear of what life will be like, single again, took turns inside me.  My son had left the nest to live on his own while attending college in Anchorage, and I had yet to fully re-define myself. I wasn’t aware of my husbands betrayal yet, but deeply confused about the crimes I committed in my heart to free myself from the bonds of this toxic relationship.

But this is my process, and I don’t want it to be known just yet, not until I am sure I come out on top. I don’t dare show the fear, so I hide it behind a double dose of relief. If he can tell my scarz by my walk, I’m not gonna get up because I don’t want him or anyone to know. Hold your pee, Ki.

It’s the contradiction of needs: as much as I want to be seen in all authenticity, I want to be ready, control the moment, almost like making sure I can check my emotional make-up, and baggage at the door. I was not ready to be vulnerable just yet. That’s when I noticed the wetness around my throat, and cheeks. I wasn’t ready (think Kevin Hart) but ready had me in its clutches and ripped my soul open so the tears could run me a bath of soul searching and self soothing comfort.

I could not disconnect the words from the voice, the message from its author. I felt safe, yet exposed, and I wasn’t ready to be. Here all of a sudden was this man who is sensitive enough to see past and through my armor. Here is a man who knows pain and allows me to be me,  and all the others in the audience to be them, scars and all. Here is a person who cares enough to take a look at that which is unpleasant, that which others don’t want to see.

The air in Wilda Marston felt fresh, electrified, energy palpable.

Our deep need for authenticity is the first thing we hide when we make new connections.

Our deep need to be vulnerable is the thing we deny first, and for the longest time, when we make an appearance, introduce ourselves to new people, make new friends, reacquaint with old ones.

Why do we do this? What are we fearing most?

Loss of respect? Loss of confidence? Loss of clout? And even if… then what?

What if the loss is perceived, but not real? What if we don’t ruin our reputation but instead gain a more accurate one, show up more authentically?

Do we need permission to be vulnerable? By whom, other than ourselves?

Mostly by our own ego?

What if we allowed the thought that the people who matter in our lives will see us as we are, regardless how hard we try to hide our scars?

What if taking a chance and showing our scars instead of working so hard to cover them up will actually liberate us to go full-on kintsugi**?

I noticed something else.

As much as I would love to have more people around me who are aware and care about my scars, I want to be that person who sees.

So I learned to listen.

This is why I coach.

Taalam’s full poem as read by him:

“I can tell where your scarz are just by the way you walk.

And every assault that you have endured

has ensured your every step.

And you are blessed

regardless of the animals that have attacked you.

And you are pure

no matter who has abused you.

I know an angel when I see one.

And when our kingdom come,

it will be you, I and the sun.

And we will be one.

We will create children and our children will create us.

Then every night by the light of the moon

I will kiss away your scarz to Abbey Lincoln tunes

and I will drink perfume

that tastes like you

out of a vessel with a waist like you.

Then I will draw our bath water warm

so we can soak till our souls are reborn.

And you will be safe and secure in my arms

and it will always be this way.”

Taalam Acey

  • Japanese concept, transl. “it can’t be helped”. Anywhere between fatalistic acceptance on something that makes no sense but is an installation by some authority, and letting go of the need to control something we are not meant to control.
  • *Japanese tradition of gilding repaired broken porcelain where the cracks are. from Wikipedia: Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

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