A Visit with Vulnerability.
This morning I sat with my ol’ friend, Vulnerability.
Although our relationship goes back to my earliest conscious memories, our time together is very rarely voluntary, and truth be told, I usually keep our meetings as short as I possibly can. In most moments, when Vulnerability comes calling, I do my very best not to answer.
Instead, I quickly busy myself with whatever mundane task I have available to me, and if I acknowledge its presence at all, it is only to slide a hastily written note under the door that expresses something to the effect of, “Sorry, not today. I don’t have time. I don’t have the energy. I know what you’re going to say already, and I’d rather not hear it. I’m really very much better off without you and your insistent reminder of everything I stand to lose. So thanks anyway, but please, just leave.”
And even when Vulnerability doesn’t exactly accept my eviction notice… even when it stubbornly sits outside on the front step and I can feel it waiting, patiently, for me to run out of things to do other than succumbing to entertaining it… most of the time, I keep myself busy enough to ignore it until, eventually, I don’t feel it looming outside anymore.
But today, maybe because I was tired of feeling like a prisoner inside my home of better things to do, or maybe because I was finally lonely enough to see it as some sort of a companion, or maybe because it has been so long that I had forgotten what it felt like to really be with it… I let it in. I poured us both a cup of tea, and we sat, quietly, together.
Initially, my mind was racing with thoughts about what a distinctly terrible idea it had been to open the door. I was painfully uncomfortable, and aware that this kind of meeting was bound to affect the rest of the schedule I had jam-packed with to-dos for virtually every waking moment of the day that lay ahead.
I silently cursed my momentary lapse in judgment, but unsure of how I could reverse the decision now that Vulnerability seemed to be filling every inch of the room we now shared, I continued to sit with it — motionless on the outside, with every imaginable alarm bell ringing like hell on the inside.
I avoided eye contact, at first, and then, succumbed to looking directly at it, and not only that, breathing it way down deep into my suddenly seemingly fragile body. And before I knew it, Vulnerability had invaded my very bloodstream… so, when I say I let it in, I mean it in every sense of the word.
To be fair, it wasn’t only I who seemed uncomfortable, initially. While Vulnerability had inarguably barged its way through the tiny crack of my hesitantly-opened door with such breathtaking force, once inside, it seemed a bit unsure as to how to proceed with this impromptu meeting as well.
I, for fear of encouraging it to stay even a second longer than was necessary, refused to engage in conversation, and for the first several minutes, Vulnerability had nothing specific to say. I could feel its aching presence in my bones, behind my eyes, rippling across my goosebumps-covered skin, and most prominently, deep inside my beating heart… but my ears rang with the deafening silence that hung between us.
It became clear that we were not the kind of old friends who were never left without something to say to each other; rather, all the time that had passed since we had last sat together like this seemed to span out before us like an endless cavern — the grandest of canyons — and neither one of us seemed sure if it was possible to build a bridge that could support the weight of the history I hated to admit that we shared.
But then, despite myself, I heard my voice croak out a very tentative, “Hello?” I suppose it was more of a question than a statement. And Vulnerability, encouraged by this direct attempt at communication, thundered back, “IT’S ABOUT TIME.”
What happened next was more emotional than verbal, and perhaps more spiritual than emotional. In a period of time that I still cannot accurately define, I not only sat with Vulnerability, I was vulnerable.
Every single cell of my body became immersed in a flood of the awareness that I — not only my body, but the entire combination of body, mind, spirit, soul, consciousness and awareness that collaborate to make me Me — was wholly, woefully, terrifyingly susceptible to a whole collection of things that I (and probably, most of us who share the classification of human) had worked so very, very diligently to avoid.
Suffering. Failure. Pain. Rejection. Hurt. Loss. I was vulnerable. To all of it. Whether I liked, or chose to acknowledge it, or not.
Put another way, I suddenly understood that all of my running, hiding, resisting, and childish attempts at sliding eviction notices under the door to free myself of having to face Vulnerability, hadn’t done a damned thing to change the cold hard fact that I was vulnerable, inherently, every single moment of every single day… of… My. Entire. Life. And for whatever reason, it was only today that I had finally let the vulnerable part of myself in.
Webster defines vulnerability as the state of being exposed and susceptible to injury or attack; physically, mentally or emotionally, and interestingly, in the context of playing bridge (symbolism, anyone?) it is defined as liable to increased penalties, but entitled to increased bonuses. Let’s think about that for a moment.
If being vulnerable is an unavoidable state for all of us (no matter how much we don’t want to hear it, it truly is), then what is it about Vulnerability that we find so abhorrent? Why do we cause ourselves all sorts of consistent pain and anguish — and worse, rob ourselves of so many opportunities for joy, and even love! — trying to resist the awareness that we are always susceptible to pain and anguish? Hmm. It doesn’t seem to make sense, until…
Speaking from my own experience, and more specifically, my experience on this unusual day, I am beginning to recognize that there has been an all-out war going on inside me from an early age. This silent battle was waged by my ego against the deep wisdom embedded in my core, which knows unequivocally that security, or protection, from virtually any kind of vulnerability, is an illusion.
If my ego was forced to acknowledge this, the entire façade that I could exercise complete control over my life (and the lives of those around me) would crumble at an alarming rate, and therefore, the ego would be exposed as a less-than-credible, and ultimately, far less powerful, source, certainly not the supreme ruler it enjoys being hailed as by the majority of the human population. So, what often happens?
Because the ego sees the truth about vulnerability being an aspect of our natural state of being as catastrophically damaging to its influence, it starts conditioning us to be highly uncomfortable in its presence from a very early age. And for some of us, this leads to an intense resistance to allowing (ha!) anything we perceive as vulnerability into our lives. We won’t even open the door.
And we will hide out with all the shades drawn, perpetually busy, missing the sunshiny-est of days, rather than willfully entertain something that we already are, and could never be separate from– vulnerable. An amazing hoax, impressively orchestrated over lifetimes by our local, resident (albeit probably well-intentioned) egos.
So, back to today. Back to the moment when all of this awareness rushed in like a tsunami and enveloped my entire consciousness. Back to the undefined fragment of time within which the floodgates opened and I found myself sitting across the table from the very same force I had so staunchly resisted admitting entry to my life for as long as I can remember.
Back to that instant when, suddenly — or maybe more accurately, finally — I had the courage to really see it. As I lifted my tearful eyes to lock gazes with this so-often unwelcome visitor, whom I had feared since childhood, I saw what I would never have expected.
Deep inside Vulnerability, shining like a beacon so bright it took my breath away, was the unmistakable glow… of Possibility. All this time, existing quietly inside a part of myself I had dared not get to know.
And then it made sense. Possibility! That magic through which allowing ourselves to be liable to increased penalties entitles us to be eligible for increased bonuses. At least in this moment, I get it. I understand the connection between accepting, and even embracing, our inherent vulnerability, and simultaneously creating a whole new slew of possibilities in our lives.
They go hand in hand, and by acknowledging one, you are introduced to the other. And so, from this day forward, I think I’m going to institute an open door policy with my ol’ friend, Vulnerability, and any other parts of myself that might come seeking a visit. Because, it is indeed about time.
Lisa Pedscalny experiments with creative expression in many forms, using her words, photography, art, and music to explore herself and the world she lives in. She is blessed to reside on Vancouver Island with her husband and two sons, where she is continually inspired and humbled by the beauty of her natural surroundings. Through her art, she hopes to share her passion for loving, celebrating, honoring and protecting the earth that sustains us all, while awakening other humans to their connection to the environment, and each other.