In 2014, Pema Chodron gave a commencement address. Her topic was the importance of failure. She spoke about the raw place of failure or loss: "Out of that space comes a lot of ugly things. And yet out of that very same space of vulnerability and rawness and the feeling of failure can come our best human qualities of bravery, kindness, the ability to really care about each other, the ability to reach out to each other."
I know about ugly things. I understand self-blame, which spun me in circles of striving, overwork, and wanting to be someone other than who I was. But ugly things didn't help. What I needed to do was feel the rawness and vulnerability. To feel this over and over, until I trusted: I'm vulnerable and I'm okay. That's when I discovered the best human qualities.
I'm most connected with people when I unmask my face and my heart. Chodron describes this as the "ability to really care about each other" (to see and care with an open heart). I think vulnerability is a portal—a portal to deep connection. When we share the rawness, we allow others to do the same. If we embrace failure, we embrace truth: we're all imperfect. We're all complicated, beautiful, real, and in-process.
My current raw places are these: sadness about my mom's death, doubt about the viability of my new career, concern for my friends' health, and compassion for the world. These run deep—they expose my heart. They awaken me in important and wondrous ways. And they remind me, daily, to be brave and to be kind. Because who knows what someone else is going through? These raw places connect us.