Life, Love and Dating –Being Vulnerable

by Mary Malia

FrancisLorna3 270x300 Life, Love and Dating –Being VulnerableIt’s been a good long while since you saw an update here on the blog. So I’d like to share some about my life, love and dating experiences as of late.

This is me, being vulnerable. And this is a picture of my parents on their wedding day. A beautiful couple indeed who struggled for over 50 years to be vulnerable but never really could make it happen.

A good friend said to me that being vulnerable is so often misunderstood. We approach being vulnerable as something to fear – “I’m sure I’ll be hurt so I close up instead of opening up.” You contract emotionally instead of expanding.

What does it mean – being vulnerable?

Being vulnerable is about honoring one’s truth. It’s about honesty and openness. Honoring one’s self. It’s about self-respect. I’ve been experiencing a mountain of vulnerability this summer.

June and July of this year were life-changing months for me.

I went on the road with the Gay Girl Love Tour for eight weeks of workshops that included 10,000 miles of driving. Yes, I drive and often sleep in my camper van. It’s an adventure, a ton of work, and I love it.

Four days into this two-month journey, I received word that my father was dying. I was in New York at that point, so I changed my plans and headed back to Maine. My father died before I got home but his passing came as a relief to the whole family. It was not a sudden thing as he had been ill for a very long time, but death always seems to be a surprise. We are all glad that he’s finally at peace and hopefully having some fun on the other side.

Who has influenced your life deeply?

Like most of the world, my life had been influenced deeply by my relationship with my parents. My father was a towering figure in my life. As a young girl, I saw him as all powerful, all important and the person I most had to please.

I adored him as a little girl and one of my favorite memories is a secret game we would play when I just 5 or 6 years old.

My father always seemed to be working and would often come home late. If I were awake enough when he got home, he’d let me come downstairs with him for a snack. We called it the Mickey Mouse Club.

Dad would get out the milk and Saltine crackers. Back then milk came in glass bottles with the cream on the top in the narrow neck of the bottle. He’d pull off the paper cap and tip the bottle back to drink the cream. It was his favorite part. Then he’d let me do the same. I’d drink right out of the bottle just like he did which my mother of course would have had a fit about.

That was part of the specialness of the Mickey Mouse Club – breaking a rule or two with my father. Getting out of bed late at night, sneaking around in the kitchen, drinking milk straight out of the bottle and feeling like I was truly special to my father permanently inked those moments in my young mind.

Cherish the sweet things in life.

That’s a sweet memory and I cherish it, as most of my memories of him aren’t full of dearness or warmth. His day-to-day style of parenting was harsh, punitive and fueled by alcoholism.

In all my weeks on the road through June and July, of course I thought of him. The last time I saw him, which was just a couple of weeks before he died, we had one of the more peaceful visits I’d ever had with him.

I arrived to visit him and he was sitting in his wheelchair waiting for his dinner. He stared at me for the longest time saying nothing at all. Then as if he were surprised by something, he looked at me, opened his eyes wide and said; “Mary, you’re really very attractive.”

Not only did it strike me as odd, it was completely out of character from this man who disowned me three times in my life and never had much to say that was nice to any of us.

He’d never had anything to say that was kind about our appearances except to criticize; perhaps for him it was the only way he knew to show he cared but it’s a strategy that backfires.

I was often the witness to him being sarcastic towards my mother, her weight, her hair, her clothing and practically anything she did. Though she was the glue that kept the family together, my father never gave her a kind word in my presence. His lack of kind words might not have seemed so bad except for his regular stream of negativity toward her.

Every time I visited my dad in the last few years, I always felt some level of fear about what might happen. In my rational grown up mind, I knew there was nothing he could do or say that would have any deep or lasting impact on me anymore. The days of his having that kind of power in my life are long over. But the little girl inside me was always frightened and worried about what he would do or say. Then there was the guilt of not going to see him often enough, whatever “often enough” is was a nagging voice in the back of my head.

Really how often does anyone want to visit relatives that do nothing but complain, pout or create drama? My father was highly skilled at all of these activities; as he got older and frailer his behavior chased away both friends and family. A very sad situation to see happen.

As I traveled from Manhattan to Los Angeles during June and July and then back to Maine, every once in a while I would sense my father’s presence. It was extraordinarily different from the man I’d seen a couple of weeks before he passed and the man that I grew up fearing.

FrancisLorna1 300x224 Life, Love and Dating –Being VulnerableYes, I believe we go on after death and it gets better.

There was playfulness, joy and a sense of peace and acceptance. I could feel it in the dancing leaves of trees along the sides of roads. I felt him in Santa Fe laughing with delight as I checked into the St. Francis Hotel. My dad’s name was Francis Xavier Gorham and we often referred to him as Pope Francis.

In particular, as I drove from Austin to Santa Fe to Denver, my thoughts went to images of him as a young and happier man; someone with hope and not yet full of bitterness at whatever dreams of his that failed to come true.

The picture with this post is my mother and father obviously having a great time. Light hearted, laughing and joking. My mother had the most marvelous sense of humor and energy for life. I found this picture in a box of family photos at the dinner the family shared after his death.

Seeing him as this young and handsome man I never really knew and remembering his last few years of hatred and meanness that etched his face into a grimace are clear reminders to me that my focus on cultivating love, kindness, peace and happiness are worth every mile, every penny, every moment so that as my second 50 years turn into my last 5 or 10 years of life the gift that I can give to those I love will be joy at seeing their faces, unconditional love, kindness in the face of the difficulties of growing very old and allowing a space for being vulnerable to be present between us.

Life with my father was never easy but the lessons he left me are powerful.

Many of my own truths about life are the result of watching my father’s own suffering, failures and inability to connect with people he loved.

  • My father taught me how to work hard. I’m not afraid of hard work but I’m learning how to work smarter.
  • Take care of your body! No one else can do this for you. Health is the most important asset you have.
  • Generosity isn’t an option. Give often. Give with no regrets.
  • Speaking words of kindness is more powerful and does more good than any word of criticism and sarcasm.
  • Be vulnerable. Pretending to be made of stone alienates people who love you. Being vulnerable is the only way to feel the goodness of life.
  • It’s ok to be a little messy.
  • No one needs to be the judge and jury of any other person.
  • Live YOUR life, not someone else’s dream of your life.

I decided to share these bits and pieces of my life and family story simply as a way to reconnect with you. I’m here still. Gay Girl Dating Coach and the Gay Girl Love Tour will be back on the road in a couple of weeks.

Traveling across country is often lonely, often fun, often very hard work and I’ve often got a fear balloon in my belly but I push forward anyway.

Every smiling and encouraging woman I meet makes an impact on me. I’m made richer with each conversation. When my introverted self is so tired I’m not sure I can speak to another woman, my values around kindness kick in and I can keep going.

Being present in each moment. Present with you in my mind as I write this long post today and present with each thing I must do to prepare for the next tour… makes being vulnerable something I want to understand and be more present for each day.

Brene Brown describes vulnerability as the core of all of our emotions. “To feel is to be vulnerable.” It is not weakness. It is being more real.

Vulnerability = Courage to Live Your One True Life

My life is full of uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. This is what Brene Brown says defines vulnerability. My father attempted to hide from being vulnerable. He got hard instead. His hard outside kept everyone at a distance and he created a world full of overwhelming loneliness.

I’m on a quest to get softer, more open and more vulnerable. It takes courage. It leaves me open to ridicule and certainly many have let me know that they think Gay Girl Dating Coach is a silly, stupid and totally unnecessary thing. I don’t care anymore. I know you need it. I know the world needs more love in it.

And finally, if you want to find that one great love in your life it will require great courage. You’ll have to become vulnerable because that’s what it takes to connect and to create an extraordinary relationship.

Are you brave enough? Are you choosing to be vulnerable in your world?

Leave me a comment below and finish this sentence for me… “Being vulnerable is… “ What does it mean to you? I want to know.

Sending you much love,

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