I wish. It’s actually quite the opposite.
After leading our very first workshop together this weekend, I saw and felt through the brave men and women who shared how hard it is for most of us to step into our deepest vulnerability for fear that we will be judged or unlovable.
And in light of our dear friend Jody’s suicide, I am reminded of a time in my own life when I felt so judged and so unlovable that I could have easily taken my own life, and almost did. And I can’t help but think that there are many others out there who might be in a similar place right now.
So today, I am sharing with you my most vulnerable self and my most vulnerable story. Something that most of my friends and even some of my family don’t know. And while it is scary – I am more clear now than ever that this is why I do what I do – to help bring what I feel is missing from the world: compassion, empathy, and strength in our most vulnerable self. So my intention is to take for me, what is one giant step towards that.
While this is not a sad story, like most spiritual awakenings, it does begin with my darkest hour.
Growing up, I was always a funny, ugly duckling. It wasn’t until my family moved down south that I really came into my own. I started attending a performing arts school and made friends, was successful, and felt seen for the first time in my life. I actually enjoyed going to school and felt like my life had a purpose, like I was beautiful, like I had been made for something.
It was short lived, however. When I was 14, I was molested by a cousin I had never met before. Scared, alone, angry and confused – I became lost. Going to school and performing felt like a lie, whenever I was with my friends I thought, “if they only knew the truth about me.” That was, until one day they did.
After a few months of anxiety, I confided in my very best friend about what was going on because I feared that I was going to get pregnant, and what followed I will never forget.
The next day, it was as if all my friends had disappeared. No one would speak to me, sit with me, or look at me. My friend had sent out a school wide email with a picture of my face that said I was disgusting and had slept with my cousin. Several of my classmates even made a flyer out of it and littered the school with it, sensationalizing an entire story about “who I really was.” Everywhere I went, my shameful secret, or a very warped version of it, was staring me down. I didn’t know what to do, so I denied it. I didn’t say anything.
The harassing, however, became so consistent that eventually the police came to school and told everyone that it was a lie and that they would be prosecuted for slander if they continued. The hallways quieted down after that, but my mind did not.
I skipped school for about two months, lost about 25 pounds, and slept about 18 hours a day. I was a mess of depression and couldn’t see a way out of it. For the first time ever, I thought about taking my own life.
I would walk through the house and think, this might be the last time I sit here, see this, feel that. And one day, when I was particularly in the throws of contemplating ending it, I wandered downstairs to take everything in one last time. This day, however, the television was on (rare in our house) and it was on the Oprah show. I didn’t think anything of it until I heard the word “molestation”, and I stopped dead in my tracks. I remember that I literally fell over as I listened to Oprah share about her own personal experience with molestation. And while to this day I can’t describe the feeling that shifted in me, some part of me knew in the moment that it would not end me, that I didn’t have to let it. I had never heard anyone share their story like that before – let alone someone who looked like they were thriving. And for the first time ever, I saw a glimpse of a way through it.
It was a sliver, but it was enough.
The next week, my sister appeared with a beautiful card filled with her loving words and the following Marianne Williamson quote:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Another something shifted in me. Reading those words ignited a sense of a power and guidance in me somewhere. And while I can’t say that the years that followed weren’t the most challenging of my life and that I don’t still struggle with some of the patterns I developed to protect myself, I can say that these two women opened me up to a whole world of what was possible for me – of where I was headed. Through my pain and my desperation, spiritual journey was born.
Now, I don’t think it’s any accident that I find myself in partnership with a man who shares his life so vulnerably when it is in fact, my deepest “wound”. I also don’t think it’s any accident that last year, I had the great privilege of meeting these two amazing women, and that now I am able to help further their message and their cause. For me, these were not starstruck moments but full circle ones, because their story and their words helped me hang on long enough until I could begin climbing.
Never to this day have I been able to look at another person in the same way that I used to. I am constantly aware that I will never know what another person is going through, what they are feeling. I have never forgotten the deep empathy that pain gave me, and to be honest, I hope I never do.
I once had a dream in which spirit was standing over me, showing me my biggest scars. When I looked down at my illuminated body, I saw that I was shining the brightest through my scars. And I got that these were not my most hardened parts, but my most transparent. Our light shines brightest through the places we’ve been cracked open, so that we may not just be illuminated but illuminating.
Now, this blog isn’t perfect or planned or containing all of the details of this story. I wrote it in a few minutes, it’s messy, it’s all over the place, and it’s unplanned.
That’s what makes it vulnerable.
So there you have it. Unlike the email that my classmates sent, this blog will live electronically forever. It will be present regardless of what I do with my life, who I meet, and whatever success I may have. And you know what? It will not stop me from fulfilling my highest potential and living my best life. In fact, it might just help someone else live theirs.
Sometimes it takes sharing your most vulnerable self to let the world prove your biggest fear wrong. Sometimes it takes sharing your “shame” to find the people you really belong with. I know it did for me, and I wish that for you with all that I am and have.
What if your vulnerability could lead you to your greatest love? Your greatest purpose? Your deepest healing? The healing of someone else?
What would you share? What would shine through your scars?
I would love to know.
ALL my Love,
Jenna Hall is an actress, opera singer, Reiki Master, and Senior Daily Love Mentor. She is also the resident Boo at TDL.
Follow her on twitter here: @seejennalove