So fragile

I had a great conversation with my only sister Amy this morning (her name means “beloved,” which is entirely fitting.)

We were talking about the messiness of relationships and how hard it is to handle the emotional upheaval and communication challenges that accompany being truthful and vulnerable with each other.

Don’t you think that it’s much easier to stay far, far, away from other people? Some days, I definitely think so.

I spent the first 35 years of my life imprisoned. Secret fears, hidden feelings, forbidden thoughts, self-judgment…they were like heavy stones hung around my neck and held in my arms.

This is why in recent years I have decided to be so honest with the world. I still feel afraid, but in order to be emotionally and physically healthy–in order to survive my life–I have to tell the truth.

I have found that living an “undivided life” (listen to Parker Palmer for more brilliance on that topic) is for me, essential to being healthy. If I don’t expend energy trying to hide myself, I can practice being unafraid, bold, courageous, forthright, and true. I can hold my head high even when other people don’t understand. This is how I want to live.

I wonder if some people think it’s easy for me to expose myself so much. It’s not difficult from the standpoint that I am committed to it. But it is just as hard for me as for anyone else when it comes to my own fears and insecurities.

I have had to be authentic and painfully open to face the biggest fears I have had in my life. Some days, I still feel my throat close with the things I feel but cannot say. But as time goes on, it is becoming easier and more natural. Even when my efforts result in messiness and mistakes.

After a lot of contact with people, I sometimes leave parties and conversations feeling so raw that it feels like every nerve ending in my body is exposed. It hurts all over. It can be very painful to know that I have put so much of myself out there for others to know and to judge. Even for me.

But this is why it’s worth the vulnerability: I also know that if I am loved, it is truly me who is loved. If I am respected or admired, it is truly me who is all those things. And if I have given something of myself, I know that I willingly gave it. Best of all, I have seen that laying myself bare sometimes gives others the courage to do the same.

I re-found the quote below in an old journal right after hanging up the phone from talking.

As Anne Lamott would say:

You nonreligious types think, Well that’s a funny little coincidence, but we Holy Rollers say that coincidence is just God working anonymously.

Amy, this is for you. I appreciate how fragile you make yourself with me, and how tender you are with my confessions.

Telling the truth when we feel vulnerable is one of the hardest things to do. We might fear rejection, abandonment, disapproval, disappointment, rage, hurt, or just the raw exposure that’s an unavoidable part of the process. Yet almost every time we’re willing to tell a hard truth, we grow and deepen in presence, no matter the response, the energy that we previously locked up to maintain a false front is now freed to uplift and enliven us.

How Now: 100 Ways to Celebrate the Present Moment
by Raphael Cushnir

17 Responses to Fragile

  1. Janna March 12, 2010 at 6:00 pm #

    Awesome, Rachel. Your “undivided life” does not go unnoticed or unappreciated. I’m so thankful for your vulnerability and honesty. Love you.

  2. Noemi Hedrick March 12, 2010 at 7:54 pm #

    wow. so well said. I love you both!

  3. Vicki March 12, 2010 at 8:54 pm #

    I have felt the way you described after many a conversation. It’s good to know others feel that.

    Love you.

    • Rachel Greenhouse March 12, 2010 at 11:21 pm #

      Thanks for sharing some of your own fragility with me. xoxo Vicki and Noemi too.

  4. kpg March 13, 2010 at 9:07 am #


  5. Amy Haley March 13, 2010 at 10:21 am #

    The one who models humility, openness, and honesty is a courageous hero who, like the confident swimmer who jumps in first and begs us to join, holds out that gift to the rest of us. xo

    • Rachel Greenhouse March 13, 2010 at 10:29 am #

      Wow. Did you write that?

      • Amy Haley March 13, 2010 at 11:40 am #

        Yes. I think so… but I can never be too sure with my memory 🙂

  6. Lizzie March 13, 2010 at 1:24 pm #

    oh my. I know those feelings too well, this made me want to cry – I do tend to hide and become much more introverted.. some days I need to be introverted, other days, I think I use it as protection -this was wonderfully written- thank you for writing so well and so often.

  7. Rob Severson March 13, 2010 at 2:07 pm #

    Rachel, some think the biggest fear is public speaking; I think it is revealing ourselves to others. You said it well

  8. Jan Dougherty March 13, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

    Rachel – you are a woman of great courage and wisdom. thanks for being so brave. Love, Jan

  9. Anna March 13, 2010 at 11:54 pm #

    You – have an incredible impact on me. When I’m around you I learn something every time about honest and forthright speaking at the risk of not holding something back. From you I learn about saying the truth from the heart – and delivering it with a shrug and a smile that you deliver that says – well, that’s just me. And you are so right – it IS you, and you are loved and appreciated in spite of and because of those words you say, the pieces that you’re not afraid to reveal.

    You make me a better person for knowing You.

    xx anna

  10. Cari and Michael Dugan March 14, 2010 at 7:24 am #

    Love you Rachel. Your openess is like a breath of fresh air.

  11. claudia March 16, 2010 at 4:36 pm #


    I keep re-reading this particular note. It is something I have struggled with for 55 years… (and I didn’t count my early years)…
    Every time I read it, I see or hear something different. It is very helpful.
    It is even helpful to cast aside a misperception I’ve had for far too long… that someone “my age” should have figured “it” all out by now. Not so and trying to pretend that I have is sucking the life out of me. It’s a continual life process and I am learning how to embrace it.

    Love & Light,

  12. Tim March 28, 2010 at 5:43 pm #



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