Since the dawn of my conscious self, I have been ruthlessly preoccupied with productivity. My father initially instilled the belief that being productive was paramount for success. As I matured, I began asking myself questions; where did I finish today? Was I in the black or the red, up or down? I fallaciously believed that if I was not creating or building, strategizing or negotiating, then I was not living.
King Edward VII and I share a similar demeanor of persistence. While I likely will not have an era named after myself, and he likely did not fill syringes with cocaine, his last words became my mantra: “No, I shall not give in. I shall go on. I shall work to the end.” But eventually, I lost the spirit of the words and could only reiterate the letters; I failed to apply my whole self, and remained only partly working. I could never feel fulfilled throughout my busy life, and I never experienced any sense of wholeness. Because of this, I have fallen and lost my way more times than I care to account for.
A good friend of mine recently pegged me as a “serial redeemer.” I’m not just addicted to redemption; I’m addicted to climbing out of the hole. I’m addicted to the malicious cycle of working hard and feeling low, unable to simply be. I want contentment and obligation to be balanced, and I want to understand my existence in terms other than profits and losses. I have been stumped looking for the answer because the answer is ridiculous, petulant, and unfortunately necessary. I have been living in the familiar comfort of my despair and I have been avoiding uncharted territories. I always thought that new experiences meant vulnerability, and vulnerability meant failure. And then I realized that successful people are vulnerable, too; top executives and other influencers display vulnerability with grace and ease.
To clarify, being vulnerable is not the same as being weak, or helpless. Vulnerability has been defined to me as “being able to live in uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” The answer to my problems is what I had avoided all along: human connection by vulnerability. This is where Judaism saved my life, and this is the inception of me learning how to come whole.
Beit T’Shuvah has proved to be the catalyst to my vulnerability. I have slowly been striving to become whole by learning how to stand up for myself, how to ask for help, and that it’s possible to say “I love you” without knowing if I’m going to be loved back. I can ask for forgiveness when I have wronged, and I can ask for help when I am afraid. I always thought that vulnerability would be my Achilles Heel, but it is instead my secret weapon. By showing up defenseless and bare, I have learned how to live outside the prison of what I thought I was supposed to be. Authentic connection has led me to live courageously, without the social and financial hindrances that I was once consumed with. And Beit T’Shuvah has proven me with the tools to access my own vulnerability with confidence, so that I can free myself from the cycle of misery that I’ve been so accustomed to.