I saw this painting in the Denver Art Museum by Jordan Casteel and I found it thought-provoking. This child leaning on perhaps his father, or maybe an uncle or brother, as the subway door admonishes him to not lean on the door. This child is finding safety and connection in a world that seems to be full of warnings and admonishments. To keep to yourself; to go it alone. To be a juggernaut of strength. Don’t let your guard down. Do not lean on door.
There is power in the lean. The lean is the connection between parent and child. The lean is depending on someone that is tested. The lean is the faith that someone is there for you. The lean is the vulnerability to trust. The lean is depending on someone through the bumps and curves that the subway car of life will take. The lean says that I trust you and know that you are there for me.
Here is how to use the power of the lean:
When my marriage came to an end two years ago, I was determined to go it alone. To be the juggernaut of strength. To never permit another person into my circle of trust. I wanted to keep my guard up to prevent any future pain. As you might expect, this is a lonely place. As Kaye Ramos wrote for Mission.org, “Money will temporarily make us happy, but without anyone to share it with, we will end up feeling empty. You can hustle all day if you want. But when you lay down at night, all those material gains will not embrace and console you.” I needed to accept the power of the lean. That leaning on someone else whether it was a friend, family or my boyfriend, Roy, opened me to the possibility for a new path. A new way forward.
I have been hypervigilant that someone was trying to pull the rug out from under me. Someone else would take advantage of me. The paranoia that everyone was out to get me. Waiting for the other shoe to drop. As Ramos writes, “Your mind and body cannot accommodate peak performance all the time. You are a human, not a machine. Give yourself the rest it deserves. When you rest, you come out even better and stronger with a more refreshing outlook on life.” Leaning on someone else provides that rest. To let go of the walls of hypervigilance. I see that child in the painting resting against that man. I need to rest and lean in just like him.
Leaning is about being vulnerable. Brene Brown wrote, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” I needed to quit running from my story that everyone around me was untrustworthy. I needed to risk and open up to vulnerability. Lean into vulnerability.
There are so many distractions keeping me from the lean. I can get wrapped up in my social media feed, my inbox, and all the warnings and regulations in the world. The “do not lean on door” of everyday life. Think about all the admonishments you get every day. Buckle your seat belt, your tire pressure, your gas level, your bank account level, your credit card limit, your payment due date, your alarm clock, your phone battery level, your project due date, your door locks, your garbage pick up date, your gym membership, your child’s birthday, and on and on and on. It can feel like just being here in the moment might take the entire train off the tracks. Distractions can lead you away from leaning in. From being in the moment with another human being. Lean in to someone else regardless of the distractions.
Connection is what life is all about. There is always risk that you might get burned. That someone isn’t worth your kindness or trust. I think it’s worth the gamble. To lean into someone else, whether it be a friend, a love interest or long-lost family member is to be alive. To show up and be here now. Is there someone you need to lean on?