Xeno Hemlock


"Unburning" The Rice (Commitment to Vulnerability Opens the Way to Heal Years-Old Wounds)

Years-old wounds, such as negative self-beliefs, hurts, disappointments, and anger, are not easy to heal. Let alone almost three-decades of it. That's why when I first "met" the other members of the book club I thought, "What the hell have I gotten myself into?" On my own, I already had a hard time acknowledging my wounds. My admission to the book club would require me to do exactly that.

When my friend Tracey Yokas posted on Facebook that she was starting a cyber-bookclub to discuss Brené Brown's latest book Rising Strong: The Reckoning, The Rumble, The Revolution, I knew I had to participate. Tracey indirectly introduced me to Brown and her 2012 book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, and to the world of vulnerability by extension. Even if I had no inkling Brown just released a book and what it was about, my faith in her due to Daring Greatly made me confident about the premise of the book club.

The thing about joining a cyber book club with strangers is that commitment will be required from you. You must commit yourself to every discussion, prepared and ready to share your thoughts and musings. And if the book club's topic is about the reckoning, the rumble, and the revolution in order for oneself to rise strong, commitment to vulnerability is mandatory.

That became apparent to me as each chapter each week rolled on. The other members of the club poured their hearts and soul in each discussion. The closer the date of my assigned chapter to spearhead loomed, the stronger the feeling of not having any place to hide became. I couldn't turn back. I would soon be exposed.

January arrived. Chapter 8. I had two choices when I sat in front of the blank page: bluff my way or be vulnerable. If I bluffed my way, I'd feel "safe" but the other members of the book club wouldn't get to know the real me, the person who joined the club in the first place. If I chose vulnerability, I'd be opening my old wounds and letting go of grievances I held on for too long. "Why did I join the club in the first place?" I reminded myself. Then I picked the answer. 

@@There's something about choosing commitment to vulnerability@@, on being authentic with our thoughts and feelings, on no longer feeling shame about the past, and on owning up to our strengths and weakness. We're set free from our wounds, even very old ones. They no longer anchor us to grief and fear, no longer encage us in pain and sadness, and no longer conceal to us hope and light. Then comes the beginning of healing. 

I know because my wounds have began healing. I'm no longer that student, not even that teacher. And the rice? let's just say I celebrated during its "unburning".

Here's what I wrote in the book club's Chapter 8 discussion. Credits to Tracey for giving the title "Unburning" the Rice.

"Unburning" the Rice

I didn’t know. I didn’t know back then.
Medals adorned my neck in grade school, high school, and even college. But what mattered more in the household was that time I burned a pot of rice.
Blood relatives and stupid strangers embarrassed and insulted me in public. My parents just stood there and allowed that to happen.
Kids my age deemed me strange and weird so I made friends with imaginary beings.
They laughed at my emotions and mocked my tears. I decided to shove them in a deep pit away from awareness.
Little me remembered the rules. Can’t cry. Don’t be a sissy. No display of weakness.
I was afraid. I shut up and hid.
I became the son who saved up his allowance to give to his parents only to never get the money back.
I became the student who did my classmates’ school projects because I was the smart one and it was, according to them, the “right” thing to do.
I became the friend who lent money to my friends even when I myself was deep in debt.
I became the face present in other people’s parties because they were special but I seldom celebrated my own.
I became the soundboard of people’s heartaches and stories but I couldn’t find a soundboard of my own.
I became the teacher who took on the most classes but was vilified for demanding excellence from fellow teachers and students.
I became a lot of things but being open to love wasn’t one of them. I had read about it, its definition, the involved emotions, but I didn’t really understand. I was witness to love in books and TVs, and in tales and movies, but I was blind to it. When it stared me right in my face, when somebody wanted to love me, I was frozen. I felt it but I couldn’t comprehend. I felt it but I didn’t believe. I had it but I couldn’t receive. The love that the stars of the galaxy sent to me walked away. I didn’t know then. I didn’t know back then.
In the middle of grief and tragedy, I had an epiphany. People who didn’t feel love growing up, they try to serve people, help others, and become heroes. They carry an emptiness inside them, caused by the lack of love, hollow and cold. And in order to feel whole they turn to servitude in the belief that the giving of love can substitute for the receiving of it. But that’s wrong. No matter which way the world turns or which direction the birds fly to, giving will never be equal to receiving.
That’s why when people praised me for my smarts and intelligence, I shrugged it off. I still haven’t forgotten about the rice.
That’s why when people appreciated my commitment and hard work, I pretended to not hear a thing. There was still more work to be done.
That’s why when people complimented my looks, I thought they were joking. At home and in the company of blood, I was always ugly.
I didn’t know back then but I know now. @@A life spent only in giving is nice but it’s lonely.@@ A life dedicated only for others is admirable but it’s sad. BB was right when she said it’s not just about helping, it’s also about needing.
My life turned into a tall, sturdy, and empty fortress that’s also dark, lonely, and cold. I needed some warmth to light me. I needed some touch to ignite me, to show me it’s alright to be sad, to fail, to hope, to scream, to dream, to cry, to fly, to feel, and to love.
That’s why I’m here. That’s why I joined this club. I need this.

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