34 episodes

The VulnerABILITY Podcast joins writer Marisa Donnelly and fellow creative, Abraham Lopez on a journey of rawness in a series of emotional and heartfelt discussions on the topics of love, relationships, self-love, purpose, identity, change, growth, faith, and life's biggest questions.

Marisa Donnelly » VulnerABILITY Podcast VulnerABILITY Podcast

    • Self-Improvement
    • 4.3, 14 Ratings

The VulnerABILITY Podcast joins writer Marisa Donnelly and fellow creative, Abraham Lopez on a journey of rawness in a series of emotional and heartfelt discussions on the topics of love, relationships, self-love, purpose, identity, change, growth, faith, and life's biggest questions.

    Episode 34 – Lead With Love (ft. Franco Zavala)

    Episode 34 – Lead With Love (ft. Franco Zavala)

    In this episode of the VulnerABILITY Podcast, host Marisa Donnelly welcomes Franco Zavala, self-proclaimed 'Profesional Stepdad' and father of five to, discuss stepparenting and learning to lead with love. They discuss changing the narrative around stepparenting, the challenges they both face as 'bonus' figures, and how they're navigating uncharted waters as first-time, 'step-in' and 'step-up' parents.

    Highlights From The Episode:

    [3:00] "I think one of the hardest things I've had to deal with over the last eight years... is overcoming the social narrative of what it means to be a 'stepdad.'"

    [5:00] "I wasn't prepared, as a man, to find out where I was going to be tested and how I was going to be tested... I wasn't prepared, as a man, to be scrutinized...as if waiting for me to make a mistake."

    [6:10] "If you were to look at the outside in, you would look at my family and say, man, they are excited, they are happy, they are together, they are one - and I'm proud of that."

    [8:20] "Love is literally the driving force behind every decision, idea, win, and loss that's happened in my life for the last ten years. It's the pure love I have for my wife. I consider her my best friend... That in itself has helped us move past everybody else, all the others — we are a team."

    [9:00] "If I lead with love, then that's what matters... I may not get it right, but if [my boyfriend's son] knows I love him, then that's what matters."

    [10:30] "Sometimes I feel imposter syndrome in my own version of motherhood. Like, am I really a mom?"

    [11:00] "Something that will make you a strong person is your ability to accept who you are, and be okay with your flaws, and understand that you're not going to get it right because it just doesn't work that way. But to know that your heart is in it... and when your heart is in it, it's easier to make those decisions along the way."

    [15:00] "I know I'll never be your real dad, but damn it, I'm going to try my hardest to show you that you mean something to me."

    [16:30] "I wanted the affirmation... from everybody... that I was doing a good job... The hardest part of my journey, in the beginning, was realizing that I'm not going to get those affirmations from people... I can't use those affirmations to define or to be proud of my identity."

    [18:00] "I'm not going to get those affirmations, so how can I give them to myself and just be at peace knowing that I'm doing a really good job. And maybe it will be recognized later, or maybe it won't, and that's okay because I know I'm doing this because I love this boy."

    [20:00] "All the hours, all the time, all the effort, pain, energy, tears, long nights, early mornings that I put in with my oldest daughter to make that connection... all that came together... and it paid off."

    [21:20] "Listen, I know it's going to suck for the first few years. You may be in year one, or year five, or year seven, or year eight. But listen, it works. It pays off. Everything comes around. You just have to stay patient."

    [22:00] "Whether you get the accolades or not, whether you get the 'atta boys' or not, whether you get 'you're doing a great job' or not — you need to know that for some reason, in your life, for where you are in this current time, you're going through what you're going through for a reason."

    [23:00] "Listen, if you can just develop patience and you can understand that everything you're putting [in], everything you're implementing on a very macro scale, is going to pay off. Even though in the micro it doesn't feel like it [is]."

    [27:00] "If I was going to be the very best stepdad, if I was going to be the leader, if I was going to be the emotional stability within the home, whether it's killing a spider or 'Hey,

    • 40 min
    Episode 33 – How To Reframe Your Mindset (ft. Alyssa Mopia)

    Episode 33 – How To Reframe Your Mindset (ft. Alyssa Mopia)

    In this episode of the VulnerABILITY Podcast, host Marisa Donnelly welcomes guest Alyssa Mopia, Founder of Future's Past (a photography and film production company), and Coffee and Convos (a platform and podcast empowering vulnerability), to get raw and honest about how to reframe your mindset in the wake of COVID-19.

    Highlights From the Episode:

    [2:10] "What I'm really trying to do with my VulnerABILITY Podcast is open the door... to having conversations that I think people so often shy away from."

    [2:20] "Conversation is just another tool for connection... and one of the strongest forms of how we can really strengthen the relationships we have with people, whether we just met them or we've been good friends for years."

    [2:40] "I truly believe that vulnerability is such a strength and superpower that we can embody if we choose to."

    [5:50] "It's just a different story when [someone] doesn't want to open up and be vulnerable because that conversation won't align with our audience, or even myself... I don't expect you to cry or bare your soul to me, but I do expect... to share a part of your story that you feel comfortable with and that has really impacted your life, and in turn could impact somebody else's."

    [6:40] "If you're not willing to be open about those things, then how do people connect to you?"

    [7:30] "What's happening right now [with COVID-19] really calls for vulnerability, for people to say, "Yeah this is really hard," and "This is what I'm going through," and really invest in having those open conversations with one another."

    [9:35] "[The question to ask] is how to reframe your mindset... instead of operating in a place of fear and uncertainty?"

    [9:40] "The things that I can control are how I react to something and also how much effort I put into something."

    [10:05] "We're all feeling this overwhelm, we're all feeling this anxiety and sadness and uncertainty. I have to allow myself some grace to accept that."

    [10:20] "I'll slowly regain the same energy that I had before, once I start adapting and really shift my mindset to create that safe space for myself."

    [10:25] "We can't really control what's happening outside... what's happening in the world. But we can at least control how we talk to [ourselves], how we wake up in the morning, [and] what kind of routine can we implement?"

    [11:25] "Everybody's in fast-forward mode... Trying to pick up the pieces and figure out what to do next... I'm a 'what's next' kind of person. I have a plan. I have a schedule, you know, 'Here's the next thing on the to-do.' So when I'm faced with so much unknown, I'm like, 'Okay, but now what?'"

    [12:00] "Sometimes we don't have a plan and we just don't' know. So we have to give it time."

    [12:10] "[Learning] how to reframe your mindset and have a new attitude... That only comes when we give ourselves time. If we're trying to rush through everything, and hurry through our healing, or hurry through our stress, or our decisions — we can't really get to a healthy place. But if we allow time to come in, we can refocus."

    [13:00] "It's time for us to really look inward and come from a place of reflection... This is such an unpredictable time. Maybe it's time for all of us to really take a catalog of our lives [and ask]: 'Was I operating in a place where I was passionate?'"

    [14:20] "What are you investing yourself during this time? ...It's a state of innovation and exploration."

    [16:00] "We have to find ways to make this 'new normal' feel okay... We can shift our focus to get through it — and not to forge ahead and not acknowledge our feelings — but as a welcomed release...

    • 37 min
    Episode 32 – Better Together (ft. Nicole Walker)

    Episode 32 – Better Together (ft. Nicole Walker)

    In this episode of the VulnerABILITY Podcast, host Marisa Donnelly welcomes guest Nicole Walker, Success Strategist and Founder of the She Leads Podcast, to share about her journey through bullying, colorism, leadership, and learning — above all — that we are better together.

    Highlights from the Episode:

    [1:50] "When I found out the essence of true leadership, I wanted to spread that message to other people so that they can understand how to be an effective leader and get rid of some of the old behaviors we've learned."

    [2:45] "Women of color have a double-disadvantage by being a person of color as well as by being a woman... This was me being a representation for the underrepresented, which is why She Leads Podcast focuses on showing women of color and their strides in the world."

    [3:10] "The reason [the podcast] is women is also to show that we're better together. That regardless of our shade, regardless of our industry, regardless of what makes us different — we're all women. And we should hold hands, and we should celebrate each other and encourage each other."

    [3:15] "Treating people nicely and encouraging them and celebrating them feels a lot better than finding something wrong with them and ridiculing them."

    [4:10] "As a leader, you want to empower people and be very confident. And with that comes some competition... You want to be the best and see yourself as the best. And then there's the flip-side to that, where some of the best leaders are people who lead others."

    [5:00] "Some [leaders] feel that [a person's] light was dimming theirs, and because of that, they didn't want to recognize you or teach you certain things... and I believe that's so false and we need to get away from this learned behavior. The goal should be that the student surpasses the teacher."

    [5:35] "Instead of thinking that the person you help out is going to take your place, how about thinking that you're continuing your legacy by helping more and more people? You want the student to surpass the teacher because, to me, that shows how great of a teacher you are — if this person hit the ground running based off of something that you gave them."

    [6:05] "No one can take anything that's meant for you, and if they do get something before you... then that just means that was their time. But if you keep pushing, it can be your time as well — if [it's] something meant for you."

    [7:45] "I think some of the best leaders are the ones who give away their secrets and say, 'Here's how you can become successful.'"

    [8:10] "Why are we making people reinvent the wheel? Give people a script, allow them to be successful, and even see how far they can take it because that'll make creativity and innovation happen so much faster."

    [8:50] "The only thing that can make you insignificant is your mindset and the way you act."

    [13:15] "With people of color, there's this class system of shades...[and] it should be about people, and about humans, and about what we have to offer — and not about the color of our skin."

    [16:10] "I was raised to have a voice... Why does that have to be attributed to the color of my skin?"

    [18:05] "We all have different things that we go through in life, and some of the most painful things - we want to shy away from them or pretend they didn't happen sometimes. Or we want to just...move forward and forget about it... But sometimes the most painful moments of our lives create something beautiful."

    [19:50] "We all are great. We're better together. Let's move towards what makes us alike and similar, as opposed to what makes us different... because we're more alike than we give ourselves credit for."

    [19:35] "We all experience ups and downs and woes,

    • 25 min
    Episode 31 – Love Is The Answer (ft. Aimee Cabo)

    Episode 31 – Love Is The Answer (ft. Aimee Cabo)

    In this episode of the VulnerABILITY Podcast, host Marisa Donnelly welcomes guest Aimee Cabo. Aimee is a mother, wife, Christian, abuse survivor and author of the book, God Is The Answer, Love Is The Cure.

    Abuse profoundly shapes people's lives. Those who have been hurt often struggle with anger, guilt and relationships - both with others and themselves. In this powerful podcast, Aimee dives into her personal story of years of abuse and mistreatment from her family that landed her in foster homes, and then eventually orphaned. She describes, in detail, her struggle with love and inability to find it - in other people, and more importantly, within her own heart.

    This episode discusses the idea of true connection, forgiveness, and letting go of the past in order to heal and move forward. As you listen, we hope you are filled with an understanding of why love is the answer, and how to make peace, even in the most painful moments.

    Highlights from the Episode:

    [4:10] “I think love is the driving force that allows us to be there for one another. If we’re not there for one another, then really, what’s the purpose? What’s the point?”

    [5:15] “I’m grateful for all the things that I’ve been through because it’s things that I’ve learned from. It’s something that I can tell somebody else and say, ‘I understand you. I understand where you’re coming from. And this is how I did it. And this is what worked for me. And I know what you’re going through... I know what you’re feeling.’ And that’s a world of consolation to me. It helps me realize that what I went through wasn’t in vain, but only an instrument for helping others.”

    [6:45] “Who’s to know that what might be a tragedy to me, might be a blessing [to someone else]?”

    [7:00] “We don’t really know what’s going on. We just know that suffering is a part of life. And we know that God is there to help us through it. But it’s not that we’re not going to suffer, it’s just that we can handle it when we have God in our lives.”

    [9:30] “I had to forgive myself to love myself.”

    [10:10] “I was only able to love myself when I was able to acknowledge that God did love me after all.”

    [10:30] “I think that’s what holds so [many] of us back from truly seeking God and having his goodness in our lives. Because we feel that we don’t deserve it... And so we keep ourselves from having a close relationship with Him.”

    [11:35] “That’s all you can do—focus on the next moment, the next step, the next choice you have.”

    [12:45] “You have to be patient in the process because that’s how it gets better. It’s that messy, difficult process—that’s the most important.”

    [13:05] “Just trust God. And you never get worried, you never get afraid, you never get stressed if you simply realize that God is in control.”

    [14:00] “Just because things don’t happen right away doesn’t mean they’re not going to happen.”

    [14:30] “When my prayer isn’t answered in the way I want it to, [it’s because] there’s always a better answer.”

    [18:30] “God’s love never dies, it never gives up, [and] it’s always there, no matter what you’ve been through, where you are, or what you’ve done.”


    To check out Aimee's book, click her...

    • 21 min
    Episode 30 – The Secret To Lasting Happiness (ft. TM Hoy)

    Episode 30 – The Secret To Lasting Happiness (ft. TM Hoy)

    What is happiness? How can we achieve it? Is it something we can ever fully 'have'? In this episode of the VulnerABILITY Podcast, host Marisa Donnelly welcomes guest T.M. Hoy, author of The Secret To Lasting Happiness, to talk about how people can look inside themselves and grow from within.

    Our minds work in mysterious and powerful ways, and the first steps to happiness, Hoy and I share, are healing internally and developing powerful and intimate relationships — starting with the one we have with ourselves.

    Highlights from the Episode:

    [2:20] “The secret to lasting happiness is really quite simple: it’s healthy relationships, nurturing relationships. Starting with the one with yourself.”

    [2:40] “Most people spend their entire lives never having that internal dialogue and chasing the wrong things. And they never find happiness. It’s a terrible shame. That’s why I’m driven to get this message out. To try and help people understand that happiness is right within their reach if they’d just have a little bit of patience and a little willingness to make an effort.”

    [3:15] “Sometimes finding happiness isn’t necessarily stumbling upon it or fighting for it to happen. Sometimes it’s simply having patience in the process, even when it’s difficult and messy and challenging.”

    [3:30] “[Happiness] starts with healing internally and [building] intimacy...You can’t be intimate unless you’re vulnerable.”

    [3:50] “You start that internal dialogue with the things that cause you pain and discomfort. You have to be willing to be patient with yourself because there [are] parts of yourself that don’t want to go there. And making that discovery, learning who you really are as a person means understanding the things that bother you the most. [It’s learning] the things that disturb you... addressing them and being patient and kind to yourself. Saying ‘I need to get to the bottom of these things’ and [letting] the healing begin.”

    [7:10] “[Many people] are just following a program that someone else put inside them. And that doesn’t lead to happiness. It doesn’t matter how many material things you have, it doesn’t matter how much status, or power, or wealth, or fame. None of that matters when it comes to happiness. What really matters is that you discover who your true self is, and you pursue your life goals, and you fill your life with loving relationships. And that starts with loving yourself.”

    [8:20] “You’re not going to know every single thing about yourself, have yourself totally figured out, and always have a positive outlook towards yourself. But you [must] have some semblance of understanding of the basic things that you believe in, the basic core values, and your own sense of self-worth. Otherwise, you’re going to be trying to find that identity in everything and everyone else.”

    [11:35] “When you develop a healthy relationship with your inner self, when it begins to trust you — then tremendous transformation is possible.”

    [13:35] "Any time you look around the world and see all the destructive practices, all the problems, all the violence, and all the conflict — all of it comes from that inability to love and the inability to have a healthy, nurturing relationship with yourself and those around you. Because if you have that, then all the things the world values and promotes become rather unimportant.”

    [15:30] “It doesn’t matter if you’re fantastically wealthy — if you don’t have a good relationship with yourself and those around you, you’re going to be miserable.”

    [19:05] “What is driving my life? What are the belief systems and idea structures that drive me?...

    • 23 min
    Episode 29 – Honoring The ‘Golden Rule’ (ft. Scott Shay)

    Episode 29 – Honoring The ‘Golden Rule’ (ft. Scott Shay)

    What does it mean to have faith? And how can people—regardless of their religious beliefs—connect with one another? These are the questions host Marisa Donnelly and guest Scott Shay, Wall Street businessman and author of In Good Faith, discuss in this podcast episode.

    "People become drunk with their own power," Scott says, explaining that this contemporary version of idolatry keeps us from finding commonality and connections with one another. At the end of the day, when we're so focused on our personal 'bubbles' - perspectives, ideas, experiences - we can't find ways to understand and respect one another.

    In this episode, Scott and I discuss that there is only one fundamental truth that connects us—regardless of whether we identify as a monotheist or atheist—and that's the 'Golden Rule.'

    Highlights from the Episode:

    [4:11] “People become drunk with their own power.”

    [9:00] “People deify themselves and use money as a tool.”

    [10:25] “I think the one thing that can bridge believers sand non-believers is the ‘golden rule (which [in] the way the Bible says) ‘Don’t do unto someone else what you wouldn’t want done to you.’ And that means looking out for the other person.”

    [12:00] “It’s so easy to walk away... but the Bible is saying even though there’s a personal cost and even though it might be hefty, you can’t avert your gaze.”

    [17:45] “If you don’t believe in the ‘golden rule,’ then fundamentally you don’t believe in the beginning of the Bible, which is that everybody is created in the image of God—man, woman, every race, every creed—we all share that same spark of divinity. And if you don’t believe that, then I don’t think you’re really grasping the Bible.”

    [18:20] “The ‘golden rule’ applies to all things—not just to the group you happen to be a member of.”

    [18:45] “At the core, we’re all created equal... And when you keep sight of that, first and foremost, then it helps all the other decisions and perspectives stem out from that. But if you don’t have that, you don’t have [faith].”

    [20:05] “Prayer is that one point when you can’t make any excuses because you have the harshest light, the brightest light on you. Because you can’t lie to the Almighty! So it forces you to look at yourself and say, ‘Okay, where am I screwing up? What am I not doing? Where am I averting my gaze? Where am I nursing grudges that I shouldn’t be nursing, or avoiding topics and people that I really need to grasp? Or not dealing with a wrong that’s right in front of me.’

    ...And if prayer’s really working and it goes beyond... to the real, hard work of prayer... then that’s where you can get in touch with your authentic self.”

    [21:40] “Prayer is about a relationship... and it’s about a clearer look at ourselves. It’s like looking into a mirror and really seeing your reflection so that you can then reflect that onto other people.”

    [26:50] “I think if we expose ourselves to [the] bright light that only the Almighty can shine on us, or we can only shine on ourselves when we’re talking to the Almighty—where there’s no way to lie to ourselves, or the Almighty, and we know that we’re doing and being our best selves—then we can feel comfort and [at] ease.

    [27:20] “Even if we can’t see the immediate reason for whatever the outcome is, it’s the right outcome.”

    [29:45] “What prayer does is offer is that additional coordinate of, ‘Am I doing something that is going to be better for the world?’”

    [30:35] “Prayer is about not only you,

    • 33 min

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5
14 Ratings

14 Ratings

Der Bandersnatch ,


Just listened to the first episode and looking forward to more. I think that the previous review sums up a point that I considered, but I was also reflecting on how perhaps in the state of your connection with each other this may be the norm. Perhaps Marissa doesn’t take offense or doesn’t feel belittled. Critiquing people whom we don’t know, projecting onto them the expectations we have of ourselves, does little to bring us together and foster connection. Maybe that is addressed in another episode later on as well. The only critique I would have is sound related; playback is rather quiet...but perhaps that forces me to pay more attention. 🤪

I’m grateful for this podcast for sure. Working in the realm of psychotherapy, and really in all circumstances of my life, I yearn for connection. I seek to foster vulnerability and to display compassion with everyone I encounter. In the world we live, we see a lot of pseudo-openness or indirect vulnerability, and that leads to more disconnection.

Thank you both for beginning the podcast that I wanted to create and I look forward to following along!

addhammrix d ,


Generally a good podcast, very relevant to how dating and self love go hand in hand. My one comment though is that I find it irritating when Abraham cuts Marisa off. Whether he does this intentionally or not, I think it’s important to point out because for me as a listener, I am engaged in the conversation and I want to hear out the person who is speaking. While colloquial dialogue is appreciated, some of the comments Abraham made came off to me as condescending or brushing Marisa off while she was mid-sentence and it actually got to the point where I just turned off the podcast because it was annoying me. Both speakers have good points, so give each other a minute to get it out rather than impeding on someone’s train of thought.

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