“Shit!” I screamed as I sprinted down the street in my bare feet. “They’ll be there any minute!”

On that dreary April morning in 2010, I feared that my reputation as a respected Alain Pinel real estate agent would never be taken seriously again. How could I have been so stupid as not to allow myself enough time?

A few weeks prior, I’d obtained a listing on Dartmouth Lane, my very own street. This golden opportunity gave a whole new meaning to walking to work, plus the true right to be called the “neighborhood specialist.”

Flying over the cold asphalt at lightening speed, I finally reached my destination to let the painter into the house. His appointment was at 8:00 am on the dot, and being true to form, he was patiently waiting. As I struggled with the keys, I could feel a laser sting from his burning eyes as they ran up and own my entire body. Knowing he wasn’t some kind of pervert, I ignored the heat at first. But when enough became enough, I quickly turned to meet his stare, and hissed indignantly, “what?!”

Swiftly shooting his eyes upwards, he said in a horrified voice, “sorry, Jackie, but…um, do you always dress like this when you go to work?”

Like many a girlie-girl, I love clothes and strive to look appropriate for every occasion, especially when it comes to my profession.  Confused, I scanned the length of my 5’5″ frame and came to a sickening realization.

“Oh my God!” I screamed, loud enough to wake all the other inhabitants on my street. In an attempt to get to work on time, I’d forgotten to change out of my flimsy, pink see-through nightgown. Hair and make-up were fully in place, but not the ‘business attire’. Feeling like the king in Hans Christian Anderson’s, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” I threw my arms across my half naked chest, reversed direction and, with wings on my feet, flew at lightening speed back to the sanctuary of my home.

Later that day, my wonderful client, Jim Gibson, had a field day when he heard from the neighbors about my early morning wardrobe antics.

“When I hired you, I knew I’d get your full attention, as well as your advice, but I never realized to what extent that would mean.”

Desperately trying to make light of my faux pas, I joked, “when you employed me to do a job, you got all of me.”

I often think of this funny moment because it permits me to admire how far I’ve come in allowing myself to be exposed. In both the formative years and as a young woman, I lived a life sheltered and closed off from the opinions of others. Only those dear to my heart were granted in to share the deep secrets I kept tied up in a little box, complete with a pink velvet ribbon, and tucked away in the sacred cavern I called my soul. I spent decades fearful of rejection, terrified of ridicule, and consequently, few ever knew the real me.

I considered myself lucky for my mother had always been my confidant. Why tell my girlfriends things when my mom was the one constant who always had my back. But when she passed away in 2003, I realized isolation was not a way to live. It was time to venture out of the cave of solitude and loneliness I’d been dwelling in, and be one with the light of day.

Slowly, I began to trust others and, when proven worthy, I let them in. Gaining a whole new perspective with being open, I found a richness I never knew to be possible. By being vulnerable, the heart is exposed, and one becomes strong in sharing the exquisite pieces that make up your personal life’s intricate mosaic. No longer insulated, my joy became immeasurable, and before I knew it, the dormant volcano brewing deep within me exploded. I became free to spew all that had been pent-up for years unafraid, courageous, and confident.

Now, I don’t advocate running around your neighborhood in your PJ’s. You might just get called into the police station for indecent exposure, but I do recommend opening your heart and placing your trust in the warm, affectionate hands of those you love, and who love you right back. Our time on earth is short. Living like a fresh bud on a thriving rose bush is pretty, but experiencing life in full bloom is magnificent.

We all experience times in our lives where we want to shelter our thoughts and feelings from the outside world. No one likes to live under the disparaging eye of others. But, when we can throw our tightly guarded ego back to the universe, we can live completely free. Has there ever been a time in your life where you decided an open life was more rewarding than a closed one?