Vulnerability 101: Lean into your emotions.

That’s what I’m doing right now, while writing this post at a Starbucks near me, turning my iPhone on airplane mode and shutting off my wifi as if it somehow stops time. I remain still, waiting for the caffeine to swim through my blue veins, sending an electric current to my brain. The sunlight hits my back as I sip the espresso drink, its cold numbing my pursed lips. Suddenly my lungs expand and I gasp for air, inhaling as much as they can handle as if it’s the last I’ll breathe. I let out a deep sigh. I’m experiencing what’s become so familiar to me in the past few years. Minor anxiety stemmed from overwork, pressure – but mostly fear. Fear of the unknown, fear for my future, fear of falling – of failing.

“We’re told we are broken when all we’ve ever been is whole.”

As my long, dry fingers type on this old MacBook’s keyboard, like cicadas chirping on a summer’s day, I feel a pang of adrenaline shooting through my body. The caffeine has hit and I’m still alive.

I’m far from dead.

We’ve been conditioned in our Western culture to pursue happiness at all costs as if there’s a limited supply. It’s as if any other human emotion is unnatural when all it’s ever been is make us whole. From self-help books that deem happiness as an emotion we must obsessively feed, to wellness gurus who tout happy as if a pill can remedy life’s dilemmas, to endless articles that feed us the belief that we’re walking along the wrong path, we’re told we are broken when all we’ve ever been is whole.

“Moments of weakness aren’t weak.”

It’s okay to be less than happy. It’s healthy to feel your emotions, to be paralyzed by fear, to trek in the darkness alone. Because in these moments we can self-reflect, sharpen our character, be our most human, our most authentic.

While I may not have all the answers in life – and most never will – succumbing to the idea of leaning into pain, loss, or anxiety makes me feel the most free. Knowing that our human experience is fluid – ebbing and flowing with each day – is natural, our innate states of being. I may not know what tomorrow holds, where I’ll be in five years, or if I’ll succeed by society’s standards, but somehow in this moment it becomes irrelevant. Like a shroud of mist that succumbs to the rising sun, thoughts of the future now becomes unimportant.

What’s true to me today, right now – at this very moment – is that I am present and being so means that I am admitting my worries, embracing them with two warm hands, and waiting for these emotions to flow through me.  Because moments of “weakness” aren’t weak. When we become vulnerable to the present and acknowledge our authentic emotions are innate and true is when we become courageous. It’s in the darkness when we find light.

I’m no longer afraid of the dark.