As our journey along the Ring Road continued, taking us to the southern and eastern coasts of Iceland, we encountered the quintessential lava formations well known in the land of volcanoes. Smooth, polished pebbles of charcoal and onyx line the black volcanic beaches near Vik, starkly contrasting the pure white foam of the crashing surf. Lava rock formations jut out of the choppy waters, most notably in Dyrhólaey and Reynisdrangar.
Viewing these Gothic like structures coincided with the furthering of our Brené Brown studies. Her description of courage, ordinary courage not the heroics, inspires one to live a more wholehearted and authentic life. “Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as “ordinary courage.” Whether it be honesty and truth between two partners, sharing the depths of a dark experience with a friend, or portraying a balanced view of one’s self in social media by exposing trials and challenges one is facing alongside the beauty of a perfect travel moment or seemingly stellar aspect of a relationship, we all have the opportunity to be authentic and real, the chance to touch another person’s soul by unveiling the shadows of life that inevitably haunt us all. Brown further describes authenticity. “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are. Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable; exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle; and nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe that we are enough. Authenticity demands Wholehearted living and loving—even when it’s hard, even when we’re wrestling with the shame and fear of not being good enough, and especially when the joy is so intense that we’re afraid to let ourselves feel it. Mindfully practicing authenticity during our most soul-searching struggles is how we invite grace, joy, and gratitude into our lives.”
Vulnerability is a key element in “Daring Greatly.” Loving someone exceeding all bounds is absolutely terrifying and truly liberating all at once. Allowing someone to access your deepest fears, exposing the raw humanity within you, and letting someone see your imperfections opens your heart to vulnerability, which is both uncomfortable and beautiful. Brown defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. With that definition in mind, let’s think about love. Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow—that’s vulnerability.” Loving someone wholeheartedly and with vulnerability during any phase of life is both a blessing and a challenge. This is exceedingly true during your 20’s when you are finally independent, trying to find a career path, and still defining who you are as a person with core beliefs, fundamentals, and a spirituality uniquely your own as the pressures and presence of family convictions and peer groups tend to thin out with the newly claimed independence. My beliefs transform in bits and pieces with further reading, acquisition of knowledge, and self-discovery, therefore my stance on life, daily habits, and goals have morphed over the last five years. Yes, I am still me, but I am different, more actualized person than I was when Whitney and I began our relationship. The same goes for her. Daring to change and exposing a new vulnerable belief can be scary, as fear of losing one we love deeply can be paralyzing. But having the courage to be vulnerable and reveal our most authentic self can only strengthen the bond and connection between two people.
“To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees – these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. But, I’m learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude and grace.”