>Bob Dylan at spin class

I’ve heard Bob Dylan talk about ‘giving away a little piece of himself’ every time he releases music; giving us the sense that despite being globally accepted and even idealized, there are still places inside himself that feel risky to share. There are still (presumably) guarded paths that go directly to his heart; he ‘hurts easy, but he just don’t show it’*. We all have these paths – we call this vulnerability.

With a little thought, you can probably pinpoint the times at which you somehow got the message that you were not good enough, and you believed it. For kids, it’s often a critical or abusive parent, teacher or coach; or teasing/bullying by other kids. Sometimes our adult lives find us swearing off vulnerability, whether in a break-up, or in a negative job review, that kind of stuff. At these moments, you shut down the paths to your heart, and swear that you will never, ever be hurt “like that”, again. Never. Ever.

But in shutting the bad stuff out, you also can’t let the good stuff in. Lucky that you developed those fabulous coping strategies so that you could actually have relationships with other people, but keep them at a ‘safe’ distance. These coping strategies show up in the face you show the world; the “funny” guy; the “smart” girl – you know what I mean. But it gets lonely out there, keeping that ‘face’ on all the time. You start feeling like no one knows the “real” you, mostly because  you never really let anyone know you. This is the lonely place, the most painful place – feeling invisible, unknown.

Hopefully along the way, a few select people crack the code to your heart. Hopefully you find a way to let them in – despite the voice inside that warns you of certain pain. And when those people hurt you, (because everybody hurts sometimes**) hopefully there’s enough trust built up for you to hear their meaningful apology. Hopefully you can find it in your heart to forgive – to let it go, knowing that the love is greater than the pain.

So back to Bob. Yesterday as I sweated profusely through spin class, the lady next to me starts loudly singing along with Shakira. WTF?! I mean, isn’t singing out loud relegated to the shower and empty cars, at this age?! But then Bob Dylan shot into my head, and I thought about how bravely this lady offered a part of herself by sharing her voice. And with the week I was having, there were now stinging tears mingling with my aforementioned profuse sweat. Through her courage, I felt a pathway of my own vulnerability opening up, and it’s made all the difference. Thanks Bob. And thanks unnamed lady in spin class: “May you always be courageous… And may your song always be sung.”***

*paraphrased from “Things Have Changed”, Bob Dylan

**shameless REM reference

***Bob Dylan, “Forever Young”


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