Monday, August 19, 2013

On Saving Face and Vulnerability

I took a Beginning Aerial Silks and Trapeze class recently.

And it was the hardest, most humiliating thing I've done in a long, long time.

I signed up to take five Lifelong Learning classes during the spring semester, "fun classes" since I now feel like it's my right to take easy classes after years of tough math and science classes.

I headed first to Cook Without a Book at the Viking Cooking School. We learned about the basics of cooking and then my little team had to improvise and make a main entree, a starch, and vegetables without a recipe. We made some amazing food!

Then, the Art of the Macaron by Romina Rasmussen at Les Madeleines was awesome. I still haven't made any macarons on my own, but I have every good intention to do so. I loved the class because baking is like chemistry.

Letterpress Printing was loads of fun. Having never taken a design class, I was so proud of my business cards I designed and letter pressed. I loved this class too.

I also took Beginning Ukulele and was happy all the time. Whenever I pick up my ukulele now, I have a huge grin on my face. I think it's a depression-fighting instrument. It's so small, you really can't really take it that seriously, right?

Then, I went to Beginning Aerial Silks and Trapeze at Aerial Arts of Utah for 6 weeks.

Now if you can picture a short, stout Asian girl needing help to kick up her short leg to the ridiculously high bar that she is desperately grasping with sweaty palms. That's me, reaching, grabbing, grunting to pull myself up to sitting position on the trapeze bar, my heart racing when I finally get to the top.

I hated the class.

Like really hated that class.

Okay--that was my verdict after the first class.

I remember meeting up with some friends right after that first class in my workout clothes, sweaty, red-faced, calloused hands, and utterly humiliated.

I told them I wanted to quit. I'm not a quitter by nature, so this bugged me.

Why? People quit stuff all the time.

When I told Lee about how awful the class was, he encouraged me to give it one more try the following week.

I dragged my feet the following week, but this time with peeling callouses on my hands and bruises on the backs of my legs from where the trapeze bar was. I still needed help getting my leg up to the bar. Still red in the face. Still humiliated.

Why was I so miserable in this class?

I've been thinking about it for a while--a few months now--and I think I figured out why.

It's because I'm Chinese.

And being Chinese, I am dang good at saving face.

Face (meen zi or mianzi) can be described as one's honor, respect, dignity. For me, face has meant to know everything, always have my act together, show no weakness.

So, I'm a little bit of a perfectionist...and control freak. As I've looked back on my life, I've always been worried about what others think of me. The only time I can remember not caring what others think about me and feeling completely comfortable in my own skin was in 2007, just a few months before I met Lee.


I was so worried about saving face and not looking like I have this whole trapeze thing under control, that I wasn't allowing myself to be vulnerable. I hate not having things under control. I hate not being good at something. I hate being vulnerable.

However, I've been on a Dr. Brene Brown kick lately.

In her TED talk, Dr. Brown talks about those who are willing to be vulnerable, or aren't so concerned about saving face, have the courage to be imperfect and to be kind to themselves. They are willing to be seen as who they truly are and loving with no guarantees. And she says that those who live a whole-hearted life, are those who allow themselves to be vulnerable.

Then there's me in this class--I'm even uncomfortable watching my classmates complete the moves with ease and grace on the trapeze. They look beautiful!

Lee continues to encourage me.

Now, if you know Lee, you know he is happy-go-lucky, willing to try things regardless if he will succeed or fail. I look at my dear husband, and I realize that because he's willing to be vulnerable, he's happier. This vulnerability is the "birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, and love."

Oh great. So Dr. Brown, you're telling me that if I quit after the first two classes because I'm embarrassed to be imperfect while dangling on a trapeze and not willing to be seen, that is going to hinder me from having a whole-hearted life of joy, creativity, belonging, and love?!?

I think that's what she just said.

So I didn't quit. I went to class. I even did that move my classmates executed so gracefully.

And I'm sharing it with you here. Yikes!

Be warned: I am not graceful. In fact, it still is embarrassing to me because my butt's big, I'm out of breath, and I look like I'm going to fall off!

I know this is nothing big, but I'm hoping that by posting this video, I'm getting more practice on not worrying so much about saving face, learning to be vulnerable, and ultimately, living a whole-hearted life.

P.S. I ended up not hating the class when I kept at it. Just like exercising my vulnerability muscle, the trapeze takes some practice too!


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