Speaking to a producer at a show in Boston last night, she asked me why I'm willing to share so much about my life on stage and in writing.
There are lots of answers to this question, but amongst them is my belief that vulnerability is a very good thing, both for me and for the people who listen and read my stories.
Vulnerability is a sign of strength. It's a willingness to open your heart and share your life with others, as odd or embarrassing or private as those parts of your life may be. For the listener or reader, it's an opportunity to connect to another human being in a deep and meaningful way. It's a chance to feel a little more normal.
We all walk through our lives at times, wondering if we are the only ones feeling the way we do. Plagued by embarrassment. Stewing in our shame. Feeling disconnected from the rest of the world. Believing that we are alone in our failure, fear, and weakness.
When someone is willing to be vulnerable and open up that which often remains hidden, we are all better for it. I know I am better and happier and more joyous about my own self when hearing others tell their stories.
"Is there anything you won't share?" the producer asked.
"I won't share parts of my life that might embarrass another person at the same time," I said. "I respect the privacy of my friends, my wife, and my colleagues. But otherwise, no. I don't think so."
So here was her challenge:
"Tomorrow, on your blog, write about things that make you sad. Things people might not know about you or be surprised to hear."
That request was made just seven hours ago, so I didn't have much time to think, but here are three to come to mind.
- I cannot think about my children and my mother (who died before meeting them) simultaneously without crying.
- I am fiercely proud of my independent, boot-straps, self-made-man existence, but it also hurts so much to think that there was a time when no one wanted to help me and no one believed in me.
- I can speak to people about my post traumatic stress disorder without becoming emotional, but I cannot can't listen to a story about the cause of someone else's PTSD without crying.
When I say crying, I don't mean that I become a blubbery mess when these things arise. I might choke back tears. Find myself unable to speak. That kind of thing.
I reserve the blubbery mess for things like the death of a pet, the end of Field of Dreams, the election of Barack Obama, the cracking of my wisdom tooth, existential thoughts involving my children, and New York Yankees World Series victories.