“Everything in nature is given some form of resilience by which it can rehearse finding its way, so that, when it does, it is practiced and ready to seize its moment. This includes us. When things don’t work out—when loves unexpectedly end or careers stop unfolding—it can be painful and sad, but refusing this larger picture keeps us from finding our resilience.” -Mark Nepo

Years ago, I was a research assistant to the poet/author Mark Nepo on his work, The Book of Awakening. We had many fascinating conversations with our team, but the one I will always remember was about salmon. On its pilgrimage to lay its eggs, the salmon’s ability to fly upstream relies on the salmon turning its soft underside to meet the pounding surf. By opening the most vulnerable part of its being, it ascends along the journey. This image Mark shared has helped me to open to my core purpose and ideas, even when it may have been risky or painful to do so. As the salmon are called to return up the waterfall, we are called to open ourselves to the truth of our being. This can feel incredibly vulnerable, especially in our modern age, when we may be quickly exposed in ways we hadn’t imagined.

After my campaign, I felt as low as I ever remember being and wanted to escape from the world. I had given it my all, but it wasn’t enough. Worn out, I felt I had let everyone down. My family depended on me, so I had to get back to work and put myself back into the arena. Over the past several months, things have emerged to push me a little further. I saw the need for spaces like I had in my early career to talk about the things that matter. My big idea of running was crushed, and I know the pain of that. However, I could use that energy, my most vulnerable moment, to push me to a place where I could help others bring forth their big ideas and together solve the issues that we face as a community and a world.

Brené Brown speaks of vulnerability as “having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.” We like to calculate our chances, and so vulnerability uncomfortably feels like being a fish out of water! Vulnerability steps into the dance of life and takes the lead when, most of the time, we would rather hideout on the sidelines. Vulnerability happens when we take the risk to get close to another, to hear another side of the debate, to watch the one you love go through a challenge and feel helpless about what to do. We don’t like this feeling and will very often run in the opposite direction.

Anne Frank stated, “fear is a poor chisel with which to carve out tomorrow,” and so we have to let go of what would have been to give space to what is meant to be. I began to have meetings around the big table in the barn and we came up with the idea “little barn of BIG ideas.” It is a space to give birth to dreams and big ideas while making room for everyone at the table… precisely what I wanted to do when I was in Congress. Having a place for the genius in all of us to emerge while having supportive mentors around the table is liberating, and it feels a little less vulnerable. Our dream is to continue to grow a bigger vision at our table in our little barn.

Vulnerability is a Civil Grace because our world depends on each of us to bring forth our genius. We cannot let fear stop us from moving forward when we know our spirit is being called higher. Vulnerability is a part of being human and is the gateway of our connection to one another. It is in those tender spaces where we can heal and overcome. We have to be willing to take the leap and throw all that we are into the forces that will carry us to the next level. We go to the place where we give birth to something greater within us.

The rising through my own vulnerability gave birth to a new role–to be a mother of possibility. So I want to know…What is your big idea? I hope you will join us at the table!

Photo credit: Edwin Williams Photography, LLC

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