Facing Adversity with an Open Heart

I cannot recall what prompted me to write this post originally. I am happy to say since its conception I have become better at trusting others. It isn’t easy to expose my vulnerabilities, but it has proven worth the effort more often than not and even when relationships go off-script into uncharted, painful territory. There is much we can learn about ourselves by considering our reactions.

I am resharing this because it had a very positive reception–several thank you emails appeared in my inbox in response.  As we move deeper into the holiday season, we often find ourselves recast in old roles that are frightening because they perpetuate old vulnerabilities we are anxious to leave behind. It is easiest to lock our hearts away to protect them, but getting them back out again can be a greater struggle than facing adversity heart open. 

I See Your Power Play and Raise You an Open Heart

Interactions that are routine for many can be unusually difficult for me. The interpretation of aggression in written exchange can spin me right into the earth. Any context-lacking comment on Facebook, a tagged tweet, a cryptic text message . . . I prefer talking face to face and with individuals who are able to meet me at a common place of understanding, who are willing to consider what I have to say without first applying it to themselves. But I prefer to avoid everyone else face to face in order to protect my vulnerability. Compassionate communication requires an open heart and honesty.


It’s hard not to lock my heart back up even knowing what a painful way that is to live.

This is an imperfect skill for me, but I have worked so long on this style of connection it is all the more shocking when individuals do not receive my communications as compassionate. I feel tossed in the wind and have to scramble to find my feet. Being a survivor is like that. A light breeze can sweep your legs out from under you. You find yourself splayed out while everyone else gapes with incredulity.

I want to talk about being grounded. Being rooted to the earth. Having firm footing from an emotional or spiritual perspective which plants you firmly in the physical realm.

Why is it so quick for me to lose my footing? For me, it is an issue of survival. The best way to be grounded is to be confident. I am plenty confident in myself. I am plenty confident in the earth. I lack confidence in the people surrounding me. I do not trust others to understand what I am saying and to not try to hurt me. Again, when I am talking I am open and honest. I am vulnerable on purpose. And yes, I have had people take advantage of that. When I stutter, for example–when I get caught in a mental loop and am unable to find my verbal footing–friends and loved ones talk over me. They feel free to do so because I am unable to speak for myself. This happens with all manner of people.

Especially privileged people, and especially especially privileged people who recognize their privilege but consider themselves sensitive and believe others must see them that way. Individuals vulnerable not from their hearts, but from their egos.

These people frighten me the most. They have all the power in this world and choose not to see how they use it against those of us less privileged. They demand we are grateful and punish us when we are not by tightening the ropes of their privilege around us to hold us outside, to keep us other, lower, contained while they rehabilitate their belief in their moral superiority to others like them, but especially to Others like me.

My survival is physical, racial, religious, female, sexual, intellectual and successful. If you are like me, we must stop requesting the world step down and help each other step up even as we step on.

To my fellow mental health, survivor, writing, special needs parents, self-care and life writers (and more! If you see yourself here, you too.), I offer a hand to help you stay tethered. Let’s only get swept up together.

Facing Adversity with an Open Heart

Shawna Ayoub

Shawna Ayoub is an essayist, fiction writer, poet and instructor with an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University. Some of her work has been published in The Manifest-Station, Role Reboot, [wherever], The Huffington Post, The Oxford Review and Exit 7. Her writing explores the intersections of race, place and survivorship. She writes with honesty about her own experience in order to transform pain.

2 Discussion to this post

  1. Stacia says:

    Offering you a hand in return, my dear. Lovely honesty, as usual. Hope you’re well. <3

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