This past week I had a difficult conversation with a loved one. It was one of those rip-your-heart-open-say-what-you-really-think experiences where I felt uncertain and scared. Usually a rational and controlled strategist, I found this heart-driven communication terrifying.
Imagine for a moment that you are surrounded by a lovely sphere in which “life is comfortable and where I feel good about myself.” This is the good space, the “I’m doing okay” space. When we hit the edges of this space, suddenly we aren’t safe. Others may touch us, see us, know us. If we’re scared, we may retract our wings away to make sure they don’t get clipped by outside hazards.
While some of us may retract from this discomfort, others of us push back when we get uncomfortable. If someone threatens the nice boundary of our happy place, we get angry. We shove them back as trespassers and make sure they don’t get too close. We’re scared that they could touch our soft centre. We might even build impenetrable walls to keep them out.
Intimacy with another person – or the world – must occur at this edge of our sphere of comfort. When we play it safe by pulling in or shoving them out, we are really creating more distance.
When I stepped to the edge of my personal cliff in this conversation, I wasn’t playing it safe. I felt as if I were in a free fall-what-the-heck-are-you-doing(!) But then unexpectedly, even though the earth was falling away, something else awoke in the void that was present, awake, and true. Although I was at the edge, I was still okay.
When we step to the edge and are poised there – trembling – we are standing in the fundamental uncertainty of our human experience. Despite our best efforts to pretend otherwise, we can’t ever really know how things will go or what will happen. Life at the edge is exposing. We stumble, we fall, we fail. We see that our expectations were foiled again. We are not in control, we are not perfect. The mask of “being okay” falls apart, and instead we stand in the truth of who we are right now, which may not be as glamorous as we’d like everyone to think. And in these moments of truth and bravery, our humanity is revealed.
And here resides our great beauty.
Beauty is not in our perfect symmetry, our excellent hair, our impeccable wit. Beauty is laughing too loud, occasionally snorting, being caught off guard. It’s in the tears, the messy hugs, the painstaking communication.
Beauty is in our courage to step to the edge, stand in our humanity, and be seen for who we are.
Shall we step to the edge?