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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Vulnerable

As I sit here trying to write, I have a cat sitting on my lap, wedged in between my body and the table in front of me (he's a pretty big boy), purring furiously, occasionally rubbing his face against whatever body part of mine is nearest to his face. This is the cat my parents were reluctant to take when I left, the one whose permanent home is now with my parents.  He jumped on my lap because I wasn't paying him enough attention.  I think he's been a bit lonely, since my parents are out of town and the dogs are kenneled at the vet.


Earlier I was reading someone else's blog about how we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable if we want to be a part of community (http://rachelheldevans.com/exercising-in-public).  We need each other and have to be willing to admit that, or we can never get the help we need to become better versions of ourselves.  As I read, I was thinking about my own willingness to be vulnerable...or not.  More specifically, I was thinking about how I'm not always so good at expressing when I need help.  Why?  Because I don't want to appear weak or needy or...vulnerable.


I know I've written some posts about the many times I asked for help from strangers as I traveled.  It's true that I had no qualms about going up to complete strangers and asking directions.  I was also willing to ask for help from some of my Couchsurfing hosts.  However, my needs were the "normal" kind of traveling needs, you know, the socially acceptable kind (at least in my mind).  I also allowed my softness to show when I said good-byes.  It was OK to cry.  It was acceptable to express my love and care for those I was leaving.  


But there are other vulnerabilities I wasn't and am not so comfortable sharing.  If we were having a face to face conversation, I probably wouldn't say these things to you.  Funny how I can put this out to the world, to anyone who happens upon this post,  when I don't have to look you in the eye.  It's easy to confess a few of my vulnerabilities when I know we won't have to discuss them.  Or I hope we won't.  And if we ever do, let me apologize ahead of time if I back away from the conversation and pretend I'm doing just fine on my own.   


The truth is I am...and I'm not.  Certainly there are many things that I'm doing on my own.  I am capable and willing to do them.  I am enjoying getting my garden in order...on my own.  I've put my house in order...sort of... and enjoyed doing it solo.  But there are boxes of stuff, papers mostly, that I haven't managed to organize (and didn't before I left), so they remain full and closed with me pretty helplessly looking at them. Have I asked for help?  No.  My mom has offered, but I haven't taken her up on the offer. I think I need someone with a little more neutrality towards me and my stuff (thanks and sorry, Mom).  I have a number of friends who are organizational gurus, but I haven't (ever) asked them for help.  What if they walked into my house and saw how I really live?  Well, the friends I'd ask know I'm messy (though I haven't ever allowed them into the worst of my messiness) and they're still my friends.  I'm certain they'd still be my friends even if I allowed them into the full-on hurricane-like chaos that sometimes exists in my house.  And I know they'd be kind to me (even if a "tough love" kindness) if I ever asked them for help.  But I haven't...and probably won't.  I'm still pretending I'll magically be able to do something I've never been able to do without help. 


While traveling I didn't let anyone carry my big backpack, something I prided myself on, but the truth of the matter is that I would've loved for someone to carry my burden from time to time...but I rarely allowed it, even when people offered.  A few times people insisted on carrying the pack and I apologized for the weight of it.  I'm much more willing to be the strong one carrying someone else's load (literally and figuratively) than I am to shift my burden to someone else.   But here's the thing: we all have a heavy load sometimes and we don't need to apologize for needing some help to carry it.  We are not meant to bear it alone.  That's the beautiful thing about community...  


I didn't admit when I felt desperately lonely on Christmas.  I was in a Sikh home with a lot of people I didn't know very well.  I cried (well, tried to keep myself from crying) alone, wishing I was with my family.  I felt guilty for feeling lonely, since I'd been welcomed into this Indian family's home with open arms and hearts.  Thinking back on it, I know they would have understood my feeling lonely on Christmas, but I didn't give them the chance to understand or to comfort me.  I missed an opportunity to be more a part of their community during a time when I really needed community.  

Those are just a few examples.  I also think about my writing.  At various points some of you have commented on what I've written, sometimes pushing me to think a little harder about what I've said.  Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me.  Unfortunately, sometimes my immediate reaction has been to get defensive.  I think that in some of my comments back, I've cut off what could have become a valuable dialogue.  I was too scared to show that I'm not perfect and don't have it all figured out.  That may seem strange since I write about how I'm not perfect and don't have it all figured out and even ask for your feedback.  But somehow when you acknowledge the above truths and try to help me to get closer to perfection and closer to figuring it out, the insecurity sets in. "Shit!"  I think.  "They've got my number.  They know that all this is just pretty talk and that in reality I'm sort of a disaster." Sort of like my messy house.  Maybe someday I'll let you into the mess and not apologize for doing so. I'm not at that point yet. 


I wish I were more like the cat on my lap, willing to push my way towards you when I need some TLC, wedging myself into your care, expressing my needs and asking you to fill them, and then contentedly thanking you by showing you that I am well thanks to your attention.  Vulnerability, care, and gratitude:  essential elements of community. I guess I'll work on the first step: being OK with being vulnerable... 

2 comments:

  1. Wow, do I relate to this! I like the line about being sort of a disaster because when I read it I thought, "Exactly! Me, too!" Maybe we're all sort of disasters and some people just hide it better?

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    1. Yes, I think you're right. I wonder if the people who hide it best have a hard time. I mean, it must be exhausting trying to hide it, don't you think?

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