It’s already hothot here and the time is 06.30. When the daily heat rises to around 40 degrees we know a storm is coming. Storms here are like the best firework display ever. Lightning cuts the sky into bits with striations of yellow fire, as if a Jedi master was out practicing with his light sabre. The boom of a thunder drum is sudden and deafening and the kittens both dive for cover under something. When I babysat them one stormy evening, that something was me, or, to be accurate, my dress. I hunkered down to offer a reassuring cuddle, whence the smallest kitten dived under my dress and refused to come out. It was excellent work for my calf and thigh muscles, balanced as I was in a crouch, and for some long I-can-do-this minutes. The other one disappeared under the bed clothes.
It made me consider vulnerability. I like that word, and what it means, now that I understand it as a goodly thing. In accepted teaching we have a different take on the word, the condition. We don’t like to look nor to appear vulnerable, and, yet, it is our very key to freedom. It is the antithesis to weakness. In order to manage whatever our lives demand of us, we work overly hard at not looking or sounding vulnerable. We must appear strong and confident in all we do and say. Our protective outer layer must be strengthened and repaired when it cracks or grows weary and we must never be open enough to show the real truth about us. This is what we are taught from childhood. After all, vulnerable people are on a list, aren’t they? The homeless, the abused, the children, the mentally challenged, the old folks…..surely these are the vulnerables? Yes, they are, but not in the way I mean. In order for us, any of us, not on that list at all, to really get how a life could be lived to its very fullest, we need to learn to be vulnerable.
For starters it helps us to look with a greater compassion on the world, on other people. By opening up our own truth, in letting it show and be heard, we let go of the armor plating and its tight constraints. After all, it is only ever by doing something ourselves, first, that we can look with genuine compassion on another. A sort of Walk the Walk thing. We can talk about compassion and the state of the world today till the cows come home, but, unless we actually make personal alterations through research and daily practice, we might as well howl at the moon and expect it to reply. Secondly it makes a better person of a person. As someone lets go of the fear-that-protects, the outer appearance, the language of confidence that (often) clearly does not tie up with the inside,then that someone becomes connected with an inner honesty which will turn a man or woman into a veritable giant. Think, now, of someone, past or present, with whom you feel completely at ease – a person who you trust, aspire to be like, believe in. I am betting that person was open and honest, vulnerable, in other words. He or she didn’t have to look like a media celebrity or be able to move like Jagger on the dance floor. That person just is. Or was.
Fear is our ready guide through life, if we welcome it in. However, we can be forgiven for thinking it is of huge value, for this is what we have learned from pretty much everyone bigger than us. And, there are times we really need Fear to save us from death or disaster, but we make too much of a friend of it. The media doesn’t help with its culture of bright lights and false reality, leading most of us into a destruction of comparison and disillusion. If I don’t look like her or him, sound as good as that, speak with big long confusing words, win this prize, make that much money etc, then I am just boring old me. Don’t believe any of that. Bin it now. It is a socking great fib. Ordinary lives are what most of the world lives. The salacious glamour is at best mildly entertaining and at worst a death sentence to those who will never be seen on the screen, never win the lottery, never walk the red carpet. Like me. Like you.
So how does learning to be vulnerable help me, clever clogs? It will open you like a flower. It will turn an ‘ordinary’ life into an extraordinary one. Not overnight, but eventually, with practice. Speaking truthfully at a job interview? Try it. Making that connection with a ‘lost-in-technology’ child or grandchild just by being bold enough to feel vulnerable? Try it. Speaking out (vulnerable)to a partner on a tricky subject, without anger (fear of the fallout)? Try it. Befriending the most undeniably irritating work colleague (nobody likes him/her)? Try it.
It is easy to be outwardly kind and compassionate to those with whom it is easy to be kind and compassionate. Anyone can do that. Nil Points. Learning to be vulnerable requires no map or demographic. It asks only that we take off our own armor and that we relocate the one thing in our minds that bothers us. Something we so badly want to do but through fear have avoided, sometimes for years, a circumstance in which we feel frustrated, impotent, stuck. Well, nobody is stuck, and this switch to being vulnerable requires no conversation. It is a private shift, just me, only me, no committee meeting.
Be bold, that’s what I say. Be vulnerable and find the freedom that comes only when the self-protection, the what-will-they-think-of-me armor is off. You can feel a bit weird at first, as you would if you went to Tescos in your underpinnings, but so very quickly things change, because you are changing. And, change is a scary thing. However, if, like me, you are sick of living through fear and self-protection, then there is only one thing do, and it isn’t to apply for an X Factor audition or to change jobs or move house or to give a bunch of cash to charity.
It begins with you.