I’ve always been somewhat of an exhibitionist, taking great delight in being naked (especially in public). For whatever reason the normal fears around nudity never seemed to impact me. I am an avid lover of nude sunbathing and am usually the first one to take off my top after a few drinks (or more like a few sips). While I certainly have some freeing exhibitionist tendencies, it remains in stark contrast to my inner world, which I have kept suppressed and hidden.
I hide behind an independent, feminist persona with many people-pleasing tendencies to avoid the vulnerability of my own needs and being fully seen by another. I find it difficult to rid myself of the protection required to open fully and be penetrated by the reality of another (for those astrologically inclined, you know I’m talking about Pluto). It is only now that I realize this tendency is perhaps the largest barrier I have to a healthy, long-term relationship.
“Being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure.” ~Bob Marley
However, I’ve come to realize that vulnerability is the most important ingredient to love (romantic and otherwise). Many of us (myself included) have been devastated by heart break and have hidden our hearts for protection (in fact the word “vulnerable” comes from the Proto-Indo-European word *wele meaning “wound”). This recent new moon in the sign Leo, seemed to offer me the courage (from the French word for heart) and strength to open yet again.
On August 9, our planet of love Venus disappeared out of sight as a part of her retrograde cycle, and she will emerge from hiding tomorrow on Friday, August 21. (It seems no mistake to me she will return on a Friday, the day of the week named after Freyja, the Norse goddess of love.) However, in her new state she will no longer be seen as the “Evening Star” as she was prior to August 9, but will become the “Morning Star” greeting the day from the East.
In ancient Sumerian mythology this time of the Venus Retrograde was when the goddess of heaven and Earth, Inanna, went into the underworld. In one of my favorite books, Descent to the Goddess: A Way of Initiation for Women the author Sylvia Brinton Perera describes this myth as an initiation into the shadow as Inanna descends, surrenders, and ultimately dies as a symbol of rebirth in the underworld.
I believe the most important part of this myth is her striptease. The stellar goddess is stopped at each gate of the underworld and told she must remove a piece of her regalia/clothing. This process symbolizes the ultimate exposure and the giving up of her defenses to the darkness and uncertainty. Her unveiling stripping her of the illusions and identities of the “upper world,” and in many cases the personas we use to hide our wounds. However, in the underworld, and true vulnerability, we cannot hide.
This exposure is the scariest part of loving for me. In a world plagued by identities and personas that serve me in business (where I’m much more comfortable than relationships), I can’t help but feel unprepared to disrobe. The trust and safety it requires of myself and in another terrifies me. However, Inanna’s story reminding me that we must die and surrender to love in order to be transformed by it.
“A woman who does not trust love will never know the exquisite security of giving herself to another.” ~Maya Angelou
In honor of Inanna and Venus’ return to the morning sky, I am ready to let down some of the defenses I’ve built to avoid intimacy and vulnerability in relationships. Here are some of the ones I came up with (though there probably many more I’m not conscious of) to see if any of them ring true for you as well:
• Talking or disassociating physically during uncomfortable moments instead of feeling my discomfort
• Over giving and not asking for what I want in reaction to the fear of receiving
• Avoiding confrontation and not telling someone when they hurt my feelings
• Using judgment to create distance when I what want more is to feel connected
• Valuing my independence and downplaying my desire for partnership
• Rushing through physical intimacy
I hide because I believe others will be repulsed by what lies just under the surface—my feelings of unworthiness and deep desire to be seen. A part of me that doesn’t believe I belong or am good enough to be loved fully. Yet, I find myself turned on by vulnerability in others and admiring their ability trust. My heart yearns to be an exhibitionist like my body and is fearful others won’t like what they see.
“Disrobe me that mine inner beauty may be revealed.” ~The Zohar
However, tomorrow as Venus makes her descent/ascent again into the sky and greets us at dawn, she will come out of hiding in her new, unveiled glory. With her I vow to allow myself to be fully seen and exposed…and to revive “Naked Sundays” in my apartment.