What would she think?

Sometimes it seems that I’m trundling along the railroad of life when a friend, up ahead, pulls a lever that shunts me off onto another line. The other day I had lunch with one such, whom I hadn’t seen since before Ngaire went. He started by saying, “I guess you must be over people asking how you are….”
There is a kind of celebrity attached to being the “other half” of one who was so well and widely loved. It is not the kind of fame that one seeks. But I do appreciate when people ask how I am; mostly I answer with, ”OK”, and then search the eyes to see if this is someone who is able and willing to listen to something deeper.
In a similar way, whenever I start to write, I second-guess myself. Wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve is a saying that, in our society, carries a weight of impotence. You hear it often, usually used in a derogatory way about someone sharing his or her feelings or life issues. Most often, in the political arena, it is used to denote – ever so carefully – a sign of weakness, or of someone not being adequate for the task (but, the qualification is that they’re a nice person). If he is a man, then he is certainly not acting like a man. A man does not express his true feelings; we are taught to cover them up.
I don’t doubt that most of the women who are reading this whole-heartedly approve of a man making himself vulnerable in this way, but I suspect that a lot of the guys might feel pretty uncomfortable. If that’s the case, then I’m sorry guys; I have discovered on this path, that the only way to effectively love and be loved, is to make oneself vulnerable.
So, what is vulnerability? I’ve been tossing this around for a while. Put simply, it is openness, being willing to be known for who you are, warts and all. Within a community – a group of friends, club or church – vulnerability can be our gift to one another. In many respects, it is the only way we can connect with another person, soul-to-soul. When we protect ourselves and don’t allow others in, we are often betraying the fact that we are hiding our shame or sense of inadequacy that if others saw what was within, we would in some way be diminished, humiliated or not accepted. I suspect that machismo mostly hides frightened little boys.
A couple of weekends ago, my dear friend, Mick, talked to a group of us on this very subject:
“Let’s open ourselves up to the gift of vulnerability; start with one or two. Begin to open up; build trust; let down your defences; take some risks….”
Our vulnerability connects with others in a way that no teaching or opinion can because it connects with another’s heart. This is how we read stories and watch movies. Usually the storylines we love the most revolve around the characters that we can most relate to – connect with. Every superhero has a flaw. Why? Not for the sake of the story, but so that the audience can relate to their humanity; otherwise we wouldn’t care about them.
This has been the failing of a number of “competition-type” lifestyle shows. It’s not the format that people care about so much, but the characters. The successful ones don’t build their audience around the competition itself, but around the characters involved, their personalities, feelings and vulnerabilities. Once you can relate to a character, you’re hooked on the show, because you care about what happens to them. Conversely, if the characters are nasty or “stand-offish”, we quickly lose interest and don’t care about what happens, ratings drop and the show is pulled off air, if we’re lucky!
Vulnerability – openness – is also the way that you give others an opportunity to connect with you and give them the chance to be open with you. Your vulnerability creates a “safe place” for others to be open themselves.
So, why go there? Why does it matter? What is so good about being vulnerable with one another?
The way I see it working is, as a two-way street, but usually that will mean someone has to take the first step. Remember that your openness creates a safe place for others to be open themselves, and being vulnerable is the first step towards emotional healing. I am convinced that we wouldn’t, as a society, spend a fraction of what we do on psychologists and counsellors if we practised openness in our close relationships. It is also the entry point for going deeper into life and love; the more open we are prepared to be, the deeper we can go; and there is treasure to be found in the depths.
Are there dangers in practising openness? Sure. Others can perceive it as weakness or that you are “using” openness as a means of getting sympathy or attention – which you may well be. You also make yourself vulnerable to being hurt emotionally, should others take offence at or criticise you.
That’s why it’s important, like my friend Mick said, to start small, just one or two close friends whom you already trust. Open the conversation; start talking about the beauty and depth to be found in openness and vulnerability. Gossip is the enemy of trusting relationships, so be a safe place for your friend and ask them to be that for you. Most close friendships are already at that place, so explore the path together. Open yourself up to the gift of vulnerability.
To some extent, I didn’t mean for this blog to be about this subject, as you can probably tell from the title, so let me be open with you.
I was driving to work the other day, listening to some old music from my youth that pushed all the right “feel-good” buttons (Chicago – Saturday in the Park, for those who need to know). I had the windows down and was singing along, actually feeling a real sense of joy. But even as I contemplated that, my thoughts turned to Ngaire; would she be hurt that I was having a “happy” moment; what would she think?
I began to feel a little guilty, almost ashamed that I could allow myself this indulgence. But, we had walked the deep roads together, and I knew that she had no doubt of my love for her, and I certainly had no doubt of her love for me. Our mutual happiness was one of her greatest desires. So I turned up the music and sang along.

2 thoughts on “What would she think?

  1. I so love to hear your heart and your wisdom Matt. And I so wish I lived in Sydney and see and hear more of you my friend. Keep singing. Much love.

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