Thursday, July 10, 2014

Vulnerable

I want to blame them so I'll feel safe, and that's always suspect.

It's a thought I had a couple times today, working through a tough situation at work. I hear so many painful stories and stand witness to so much suffering that sometimes I find myself wanting to distance myself by blaming. I catch myself thinking "this is your fault because you did/didn't...." and I know I'm just trying to feel less vulnerable. I'm trying to believe that I'm different, I'm safe, that whatever terrible thing is going on could never happen to me.

Here's the thing, though. It's a lie. It's untrue. Oh, sure, there are common sense things you can and should do to avoid basic hazards. Wear seatbelts. Don't drink and drive. Things like that. But the reality is that life is messy, life is dangerous, life is brutal. Really bad things happen for no good reason and no one is safe. And in the end, no one gets out alive.

It's not my favorite thing to think about. I'd rather think about the beautiful parts of life, or at least the parts that leave me feeling in control. Let's talk about holidays and family gardens, about crafts with my daughter and knitting projects. Or let me wax philosophical about resting, or meeting challenges at work, or about religious topics. That's much more fun. It's much safer and less painful. It's not that those things aren't true. It's just that they aren't the whole truth.

I find the feeling of vulnerability horribly painful. Knowing all the bad things that can happen, being honest enough to admit that I am not safe, that no right action and right choice of mine will keep me safe, is dreadful. I have no magic power to keep myself and those I love safe from harm. It stirs anxiety in my heart and I want to crawl under the covers and never come out.

Except. Even hiding under the blankets, I am still going to get hurt. Dramatic things could happen. My bed could collapse or my house could fall in. More realistically, I would end up with bed sores and pneumonia and urinary infections, because that's what happens when you can't get up and move around. Worst of all, I'd have the pain of loneliness. I'd have the pain of missing all the good stuff that is the other half of life's story. I would suffer anyway and not even have any joy to balance out the pain.

Safety is just an illusion. I can't skip pain as a part of life; it's not an optional portion of the curriculum. All I can do is find my way through. I can live in a way that is rich and vibrant, so that when pain hits I have good memories and good ideas and most of all good friends to carry me through. I can engage suffering with compassion instead of blame. When I catch myself clinging to that illusion I can choose to wake up, to be honest and kind and brave. I can stay open to love and joy. It isn't easy. It's just the only answer I've found so far.