Yesterday, I woke up feeling groggy and tired, and those worn out feelings stayed with me throughout the day. My head felt thick and my eyes heavy, but I didn’t have anything to drink except water and La Croix the previous night. And I’m fairly positive they weren’t spiked.
I realized I had to be feeling the effects of the aptly named “vulnerability hangover,” a phrase I heard and loved for the first time at my small group I joined through church. I remember, when I was in high school, crying to my mom on many nights about some fight I was having with a girlfriend or some unresolved feeling of anger toward a family member. Every time, I would wake up the next morning drained, bashful, and embarrassed that I had caused such a stink about whatever problem I was facing.
Even though I probably needed to hash out all my emotions in that way, it always felt overwhelming the next day. I didn’t know the feeling yet, thankfully, but it was pretty close to the emotional and physical symptoms of a hangover. You know that achey and awful beat-up feeling after a night of over-indulging, that hangover.
But I didn’t realize what a good thing it was — this other kind of hangover, at least, not the booze-induced one. When I woke up yesterday feeling this way — sort of fatigued and uncertain if I had said the right things the night before — I started thinking more about it.
Tuesday nights are reserved for the small group I mentioned, and I’ve been going to these group meetings for four weeks now. About 15 women are in the group, and we’re reading “Uninvited” by Lysa TerKeurst together and discussing a couple of chapters week by week. The book is about how we bring past rejections and hurts into present relationships and everyday interactions, and oftentimes we let those rejections start to define us, instead of letting God’s limitless love for us define us.
Pretty light and fluffy stuff, right? Yeah, not exactly — especially for a group where most of us were strangers before meeting a few weeks ago, and here we are jumping into discussions about our most painful rejections and most difficult obstacles. Good times, y’all.
With a group our size and with the subject matter being what it is, I have been quiet most meetings, or shaky-voiced and apprehensive when I have briefly spoken up. I’m one of those people who can watch the saddest of movies or offer advice while listening to someone else’s heartaches and not shed a tear, but as soon as I’m put into a position of vulnerability about my own issues, holy smokes, someone get the whole dang tissue box because this girl can (and will) CRY.
So, I’ve stayed pretty quiet, but I didn’t necessarily want to be quiet. I felt afraid of breaking open the waterworks, or saying the wrong thing, or saying something stupid. As a side note, this is also why I’m terrified of public speaking. I don’t WANT to have all eyes and attention on me… but sometimes I have an anecdote or point I would like to add… but if everyone would just not look at me and fully analyze my every word, that would be great, too.
I hate this waffle-y back and forth of wanting to speak up but being too afraid to speak up. On Tuesday, with that in mind as I drove to small group, I said a quick prayer asking to find the courage to jump in and be open if something was on my heart to share. I wasn’t in the best mood and didn’t feel like my energy was at it’s highest, but as soon as I said that prayer aloud in my car, I felt lifted, somehow.
And when I got inside and our group leader asked us to start with our high and low points of the week, I couldn’t think of anything for my low, other than this pretty serious family issue going on that I never would have shared a week ago. I took a deep breath and told these women I hardly know how I’m struggling with figuring out how to strike a balance between loving my family fully but also creating certain strict boundaries with some of them to protect myself. (My high was that John and I started and have been binge-watching Game of Thrones and it’s SO. GOOD.)
My stomach was in knots as I shared, but immediately after I finished talking, several of the girls jumped in with words of encouragement and love and appreciation that I had shared. What?! They didn’t think what I said was dumb or unwarranted? The hilarious part is that I get so, so scared and worked up to share in this group (or any group of more than two people), while the content of the book we’re reading has very much to do with not creating stories about what others may be thinking and assigning thoughts to them that usually are not accurate. It’s about giving others the benefit of the doubt, and ourselves, as well. Yeah, working on that…
Throughout the rest of the gathering, I felt more inclined and empowered to share my experiences and vocally comfort and empathize with other women because of certain similarities in my background, experiences that suddenly weren’t so terrifying to talk about. With all that heavy lifting of emotional baggage comes a draining of energy of sorts. On the one hand, I felt so full and connected after leaving the group that night. I felt like I want to have these open and vulnerable conversations with more people in my life and connect on this level with those that I love more often. On the other hand, it’s exhausting bearing your deepest fears and concerns! So, I woke up the next day with a “hangover,” and that’s okay.
Once I realized the reason for my ebbed energy yesterday, I just allowed myself to be there and to recuperate. I slowed down in my work and took time to rest, which is kind of unheard of for any given Wednesday in my world. I didn’t beat myself up and pick apart every little conversation from the night before, because I didn’t need to. Not everything we contribute in life will be perfectly articulated, but I’m realizing that’s not the point of vulnerability. It’s more about getting your hands dirty, doing the hard work on yourself and with others of picking through the gunk that builds up in our lives. I suppose the point of all this is to say that a hangover is a good thing every once in a while — either kind, but especially the vulnerability kind.
(Also, to bring it back to Game of Thrones real quick, I’m simultaneously really trying to channel my inner Khaleesi, because that girl is a badass. And a great public speaker. Just sayin’.)