Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Vulnerability. It's What Love Is.

I like to think of myself as being a strong woman. A pillar of strength for my friends and my family, a role model, a leader, even a furniture mover when necessary.

But, I'm not strong.

I have been a single mom for the past 5 years. Braving the boogie man, the monsters under the bed, the others in the closet, the strange creaks at night, and the startling crash of thunderstorms. Fixing the ear of the teddy bear the dog chewed on, the holes in the t-shirts, the TV remote control, the computer when its too slow, among countless stuck zippers. Teaching how to tie a shoe, button a shirt, ride a bike, throw a football, and show kindness to others. Comforting when a knee is scraped, the flu is caught, a fever is breaking, legs are aching, or a tummy just hurts.

But, I'm not strong.

I have been a manager, leading a team of advertising professionals, who also happen to be some of my closest friends. I've conducted meetings for company presidents and chief officers, held forums for giant corporation VPs, and presented at the front an entire organization - not to mention high schools and elementary schools.

But, I'm not strong.

I have managed to move a full-sized sofa, circa 1970-something, out of a living room, through a hallway, aroung the dining room corner, and down a flight of 20 steps. Which, rather than strength, was far more of a show of stubborn resolve combined with the advice of my father to slide it down the steps on it's back. ...He just didn't realize over the phone that I was doing this solo. Regardless, his brilliance proved a positive result for me to get what I wanted: that 70's sofa outta there and myself unscathed!

But, still, I am not strong.

I've shown strength, but not because it's what I am. Because it is what I have had to do. It was always as a response or an action. Not a state of being. While experiencing all of those situations that have forced me to exhibit some level of strength may have helped to form who I have become, it isn't the situation or the strength that defined me then or now.

Because I am not strong.

I seem to do a fair job at keeping up with the appearance of having a modicum of at least inner strength, but in reality, I'm only strong when I have to be. When there is no other option but to be strong, until the moment comes when I can fall apart. It inevitably happens... most comfortably in my own bedroom, after my son is sound asleep, and I am by myself.

Because I am vulnerable.

Feeling vulnerable is scary. Letting others witness your vulnerability is even more scary. At least it used to be, for me. But I've found something magnificent. Relieving, really, when you stop to think about it. Because I've found this crazy thing that allows me to let my guard down. And a person who catches me when I fall down, feel down, break down. I assure you, I am far less than beautiful during these times.

But he loves me still.

That's what real love is. It is the allowance to let it all out to a heart that listens, cares, understands, and doesn't judge you. A real love enjoys the best of you, laughs with you, plays with you; and when you need it most is there for you with a shoulder cry on and arms to wrap you up with, which manage to make things better somehow.

It's knowing that you don't have to do it all on your own - not that you aren't capable, but that there is more than you. It's sharing - not just the good times, but also those that you aren't quite sure how else to get through.

It's an accordance. It's acceptance. It's vulnerability.

It's what love is.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

All We Need is a Little Bit of Carelessness

I've come to a startling conclusion. A disturbing self-realization, to be more exact. I've discovered that I'm opinionated, often narrow-minded, maybe even stubborn, and (yikes!) not necessarily always right.

Ouch. It's a painful awareness...

And here I had this admittedly biased understanding of myself as being some sort of open-minded, listen-to-reason, cool-and-collected super mom. Nope. Not even close.

As long as things are going my way, I may appear to be open minded. Maybe even cool and collected. But once things are different than I had thought them to be in my perfect little plan that exists only in my head? Cool and collected is out the window. And I find myself frantically attempting to gain back that control of perfect plan going as planned, perfectly. It makes me anxious, and not in that I'm-so-excited-for-Christmas sort of way. Anxious, like sick-to-my-stomach sort of way, where-did-I-go-wrong sort of way, the-world-as-we-know-it-is-ending sort of way. And all I can think to myself is "holy cow! calm down and give me a break!" I mean, that's the exact sort of thing I'd say to my son if he were having a mini-meltdown over something that completely doesn't matter in the long run.

I've found that, regarding the mantra "practice what you preach," I'm great at the preaching part, but the practice part needs... well, a little practice.

So I wonder to myself, when did I get to be such a control freak? When did my laissez-faire attitude turn into one in need of stringent order? I remember a time when order was the enemy and caution was thrown to the wind. These days, the only place my order-opposing past is evident is on the top of of my desk at work... and maybe my kitchen counter. Okay, yes, definitely my kitchen counter. But it's hardly chaos. It's the catch all of my orderly necessities. My son's school papers that need saving, my retirement statements that need filing, and the rest of my mail that needs sorting. It's a place where my need of order just has yet to occur. So, it's kind of like a waiting place for my neurosis. ...disgusting.

Maybe I need a little childlike carelessness back into my way of thinking. Maybe we ALL need a little bit of childlike carelessness. Not too much - a little goes a long way. There are still responsibilities that need to be upheld. But, sheesh! Let's have a little bit of fun!

Life is just too short to worry about the little things. Let a little laissez-faire attitude back in. Whatever will be, will be. We never really get to control what happens, anyway. While our choices may determine which route we take, we really only control our reaction to it and our attitude along the way.

As I say this, I realize that I'm going to have to ask my son a favor. "Alright, kiddo. Show me how we do this. It's been a looooooooooong time." It's not so bad learning something new. Or, rather, re-learning something I maybe shouldn't have forgotten in the first place. Especially from my son.

And I'm more than positive I'll be better than I am now for it.