I didn’t want to need anymore. I didn’t want to need acceptance, companionship. I had resolved to not need to feel important or worthy; solely self-sufficient. I vowed to not need emotionally or even physically.
I walked into that hospital fully prepared. My labor and delivery bag included my day planner – complete with itineraries and contact lists. I had a freezer stocked with food, my fast and easy recipes were lined up on the counter for my return. I had the number to call strangers to bring me food if I ran out of strength. (Strangers feel safer than friends sometimes). My nursery was prepped with everything needed for a newborn. I had arranged toys and entertainment for my other two munchkins. Color coordinated pages of activities and time slotted chores where at the helm of this transition. I had it all planned out, every step. I was prepared to not need.
But I wasn’t prepared for her.
Less than 12 hours after checking into the hospital my life was in jeopardy. My feet were numb, my head was dizzy, my eyes blurry and I had absolutely no control over anything. There were male doctors and nurses placing sticky probes all over my chest. (Can I just admit that was intimidating in and of itself….) There were other nurses shouting out my blood type over and over again. My room number was broadcasted to the ENTIRE hospital and everyone was invited to join (and I mean EVERYONE). Then there was my obstetrician and her obstetrician friend probing, pushing, tugging, scraping my … well my other extremely private and vulnerable place. Then there was the Anesthesiologist rearranging the iv sticking out of my back (luckily I was numb and couldn’t really feel the pain) but his hands were there none the less. There were two more nurses to my left strapping down my arm, poking needles into my perforated skin. And yes, even janitors were there rearranging the walls!!!
I was vulnerable to an outcome I had absolutely no control over.
But she was different. She was gentle, steady, and she wasn’t searching for anything. She just was. She simply slipped her hand in mine and didn’t let go. She stood calm. I don’t know her, I don’t know her character or even her history. I only know her first name and her deep blue eyes. The room seemed to still for a moment while I allowed myself to notice.
I needed her.
Hours earlier I had resolved not to even acknowledge my needs. But suddenly I realized I needed her. She stood there with no other purpose than to hold my hand. She held my vulnerabilities – the emotional ones I was ignoring. She watched my vulnerabilities bleed all over the floor and make a colossal mess. I was exposed to her and she held on. She didn’t let go, she didn’t let go despite my hemorrhage of fear.
It was unfamiliar to be that out of control and exposed and yet feel so …cared for. I hate vulnerability but I crave touch, connection.
Vulnerability is the exposure of your true self. Being vulnerable is stepping out of the familiar into the unknown just as you are. It means being unfiltered. Vulnerability is expressive. It is being aware of your feelings, your dreams, your fears and disappointments. It’s exposure to both the embrace and the attack. Please hear me, I am not saying you must be open and exposed to the whole world all of the time, but you do need to be aware of yourself and open to someone somewhere… or you’ll disappear. You can’t be open to the embrace and not to the attack, they can’t be separated. You can’t wall off from vulnerability and still be whole.
My experiences with vulnerability have not all been so … touching. In fact many of them have been just the opposite. I have opened up and shared the depths of my soul to many and some of them have turned their back. Oh we punish ourselves for being vulnerable don’t we? When we share the messy, the scary, with someone and they shrug their shoulders and walk away; we’re left exposed and hurting. We then kick ourselves and use that as an excuse to continue the lie that we are worthless, we aren’t loveable, we aren’t wanted. We determine to be “stronger” next time and we vow harder and with a tighter jaw to not let the vulnerabilities out. We strive (sometimes to death) to appear loveable, to appear worthy of connection, to be want-able and perfect; only to feel toxic inside.
In those moments of physical chaos and darkness my eyes were opened to the fact that my needs, my vulnerabilities, my messiness are the essence of my authenticity. That nurse taught me through vulnerability I can find connection and it’s worth the risk. Not all connection is going to look or feel a certain way and will it always look the same. She held my hand and stood with me as I faced one of the scariest times in my life and then with the passing of a shift it ended. I haven’t been the same since. Even on the brink of darkness – death, in the middle of the mess, you are worthy of connection. You are worthy of acceptance and companionship.
I found myself at the end of that hemorrhage. Transfused with new life and revived, my essence emerged. I left that hospital authentically connected. Connected to my imperfections, my dreams, my needs… my character. Nothing has been the same since; relationships have beckoned authentic boundaries, duties have revealed true passions and time… well, time has become my barometer. Don’t wait, don’t hide.
“Open up before God, keep nothing back; He’ll do whatever needs to be done: He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day and stamp you with approval at high noon.” ~Ps. 37:5-6 (Msg)
*This post originally appeared on Faith2Shine in January 2014 And is linking up with Suzanne Eller for #livefreeThursday today, Feb. 26, 2015