The “V” Word
Have you ever noticed that until you buy say a particular type of car, you were almost completely unaware of the number of them already on the road? All of a sudden, every other car on the highway is a M-series BMW (yes, that was my dream car). Well the same thing was happening to me with a particular word just over a decade ago. I was in conversation with someone and she mentioned her fears around intimacy. We discussed this and her concern had to do with vulnerability.
Thinking about what she said I frankly could not fully understand her concerns. Who does not want to be open to love for example? Of course laying one’s soul bare to another has its risk, but what about the joy that comes from sharing and caring with another human being and from being on the receiving end of another’s desire to share and care?
Those of you who are regular readers of this blog know that since the beginning of March we have looked at various aspects of intimate relationships. Subscribers have been receiving Weekday Wisdom© every Monday through Friday and this week the conversation is about vulnerability. This post is a republishing of one that I wrote on this topic over ten years ago. The substance of it has not changed, so with minor editing, it is re-shared with you today to illustrate an understanding of how to be vulnerable and allowing it to work for you.
Once I become stubborn about something, usually negatively so, Life will make sure that I get the point. Life always gives me a chance to see things from another perspective and thereby become more understanding. Often I have wondered whether the prayer of St. Francis being one of my favourites and one that I meditate on quite regularly has anything to do with this. The line from the St. Francis prayer that is of relevance here is: “O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.”
True to form, ten years ago over the course of a week and in the midst of moving house, Life brought an angel in disguise into my space with the lessons that I needed. My spirituality reading library is quite extensive and one of the books that is often read for guidance had this say about love and vulnerability that sets the tone for the story that I want to share with you:
For is love is sharing, how can you find it except through itself? Offer it and it will come to you, because it is drawn to itself. But offer attack and love will remain hidden, for it can live only in peace. A Course in Miracles: VIII. 1.5 – 7
A Lesson In Vulnerability – A Story
We agreed that he would arrive at 3:00 p.m. He knew what he was in for as I had given him every detail of what was involved. We agreed on a price. Everything was ready for him; I made sure of that. He would not have to wait a minute. We could get right down to business as he entered the house.
Then Life took over. In Jamaica, we have a saying, “Man a plan, God a wipe out,” and this turned out to be very true this sunny Saturday afternoon in Edmonton ten years ago.
With many loose ends to tie, I went on the road to take care of some business before his arrival. At exactly that time the first call came. “Mummy, the man just called and said he is running late and will not be here until 4:00 p.m.”
“That’s not too bad,” I said to my daughter who was giving me this news. “Well then, I will go fill up the tank and run a couple more errands since I have some time,” I said, trying to find the positive in the situation.
I got home about 4:15 p.m. and he had not arrived but when it turned 5 o’clock and he still had not turned up and did not call again, I called him. That was the second sign to me that things were taking a less than desirable turn. At least, things were not going the way I had planned them.
“Hi Claudette,” he said as if we were the best of pals and this was a howdy-do call. “Where the hell are you?” was my response to his cheery greeting. He gave me a long story and reassured me he will be at my door in fifteen minutes.
Then my partner, who was a budding chef at the time, called from work asking to be picked up earlier than the previously arranged time as the party for dinner cancelled. Although this would impact our budget, we both felt it was good that there be extra help when the mover arrived. Hurriedly, I gave my daughter instructions how to keep the man occupied until we returned and off I went to fetch my partner from the nearby restaurant.
On the way back to the house, the phone rang and it was my daughter again. “Mummy,” she said, “the man is here.”
“Good,” I responded. “You showed him where to start?” I asked.
Thankfully, there were no cars close behind me as I slammed on the brake when she replied, “No, he said he will not start until he is paid up front.”
“What?” I screeched. “After we have been waiting for him for over two hours he will not what until what?”
“Yes, Mummy, that’s what he said,” she confirmed understanding my jumbled sentence. Then she continued, “And, guess what Mummy?”
She is now laughing and I am trying desperately to get the joke, “I don’t think that little van that he has can hold our stuff!”
“What the hell do you mean?” I yelled at the poor child and my partner is now looking at me wondering if I might have a stroke. “I told the man everything that we have, how can he come with a truck that cannot hold us?” I reasoned. “Tell me you are joking?”
It was no joke. Not only did this mover turned up two hours late, he came in an old F150 truck that would maybe hold one of our three bedrooms of furniture and wanted his money up front. To add insult to injury, he was reeking of alcohol and was telling me that it would cost us three times what he had quoted because he will have to do far more trips than we discussed and than I knew was necessary.
After I chased him off the premises, with a few choice words, we frantically started calling back other movers who we had declined to use this guy. Of course, to be calling movers at 6:00 p.m. on a Saturday saying that you want to move now must mean one of a two things – either your landlord has evicted you or you are on the run. Either case for them spelt desperation and so the price was quadrupled.
It was in that moment I began to understand another perspective of “vulnerability.” I trusted the mover that he would be on time, that he could move us as carefully and efficiently as he advertised and that he would honour our agreement.
I was wrong and now we were all packed and nowhere to go. Internally, I wanted to curse God and the wicked people he placed on earth. I felt sorry for myself and thought I was being punished for trusting people too much and that life would be fair. “Claudette,” I asked myself, “why did you trust this man, why did you not ask more questions?”
Do Not Blame Or Punish
When we feel naked and ‘attacked’ by others, we want to lash out, we try to rationalize the situation and make it the fault and sinfulness of others. We shut down to people because they have only wicked intentions and will only do harm to you if you allow them. That is what the last person did — in fact almost everyone in your life, so why should you give anyone else a chance to hurt you again?
I had the guy figured out in five minutes – he was a drunkard, a liar and a con man. Even more importantly, I thought, he wanted to swindle me because he heard my accent and felt I would not know better.
In a sense, on the last point I was right, but not in the way I thought then. The truth is many people in Canada, especially those like me back then, with limited income and not too much furniture, move themselves. They rent a U-Haul and with the help of friends and family, they move house.
It took us about an hour or so to figure this out and by Monday, after we had removed the seats from our mini-van and spent the rest of the weekend transporting what we could to our new place, we did the same. We were soon enough safely ensconced in our new home – yes, suffering from much ache and pains in muscles we never knew we had. However, it was nothing a good massage and a few more hot, steaming baths could not cure. In my soul though, I felt blessed.
This is a circuitous way to reflect on a conversation on vulnerability – but who said Life was straightforward? The moral of the story is as the quote from A Course in Miracles states, when we feel attacked and vulnerable, that is the time to offer love. While I was cussing the man, both to his face and behind his back, I was basking in my vulnerability, seeing this as proof why you cannot trust people, instead of seeing the gift that he was presenting me.
What his seeming dishonesty offered me was an opportunity to retrieve my strength, confidence and power. Through this experience and many others over the years, I was reminded that you are never given more than you can bear, that you have the power to choose how you will respond in and to any situation or circumstance that confronts you.
Vulnerability Means Staying Open
The “shady” movers, friends and lovers remind you that there are always options and that the best ones are those that empower you on all levels. You can only receive this empowerment if you remain open to Life – the “good” and “ugly” of it.
As we lifted our beds and my many boxes of books, we became stronger in the knowledge that we have the power to say no to being conned and that no human being can stop our growth, our courage to move on and our ability to love. Therefore, wherever he is today, I am still sending a blessing to this man.
He was a great teacher, for not only me, but also for my partner who was reminded that Life always put us where we need to be in every moment. So there is little value in forever lamenting seeming losses. Had the dinner party not been cancelled, the afternoon might have turned out differently.
My daughter also learned some important lessons. In my estimation one of the most significant lessons she learned as a young woman, is that as women we can do anything we set our minds to – even moving a three-bedroom house. She also learned the value of friendship and that age is just a number as she watched us lift furniture with our 40-year old bodies.
As for me, I was reminded that “vulnerability” is much more than being open to the love of a current or potential partner. Being vulnerable means being open to Life – in all its manifestations.
The only preacher man who I ever truly cared for is Bishop John Shelby Spong, who often speaks of “loving wastefully.” To this day, after meeting him almost 15 years ago now, I reflect on those two words. In the past, I would stop short at loving people who I like and being open to what they have to teach me. But loving wastefully means loving all people, all experiences and in all circumstances, without blaming others but being blessed by them.
Vulnerability is a paradox – one that means being so confident that, in the words of Stephanie Dorwick, “you are on Solid Ground that you are mindlessly defenseless and exposed to all,” including seemingly drunk and dishonest movers, friends and lovers.
Do join us the conversation on vulnerability and other topics by subscribing. As a member of the community, you will receive my FREE monthly newsletter and daily motivational emails as well as access to my E-books that are not shared here.
Until tomorrow, have a wonderful Monday!