I feel a sensation running just below my skin, a twitch of an itch, and my stomach is a touch uneasy, like a butterfly with wings upside-down. Don’t call the paramedics. These are just my flags—markers that I’m about to enter a vulnerable stage.
Vulnerability is my reluctant partner in development. I’ve come to understand the nuances and remain patient. I call this my tentative state, where a path doesn’t exist, there is no black or white, no right or wrong, in fact, there is only colorful desire.
Desire makes me smile. It’s a yearning that drives me to meet myself anew. It’s like the dogwood tree that only opens it’s flowers upward, reaching beyond. Or the magnolia that flowers with whites and pink even before the green leaves appear. Even the quaking aspen’s leaves return bottoms upward, so that the top branches remain bare, as the wind shakes its leaves. Desire hides behind the ever-faithful rhododendron that keeps its year- long greenery, fully dressed, unexposed as new growth buds.
Last week, I invited an acquaintance over for lunch. We’ve only known each other through writing and from other friends. I remember as a kid, knocking on doors in our new neighborhood, just as the moving vans left our driveway. I was five with my wise sister of six. She’d knock and when the door opened, I would look up with saucer sized brown eyes, “Do you have any kids here we can play with? It was easy back then to acquire playmates. Even if there were no kids in the house, the adults took us under their wings.
But now with patterns set, creating new lasting relationships takes time. I must be willing to reveal myself slowly and pay attention to the life of another. Real relationships create a bend, an opening where none existed before. You can’t rush laughter, listening, wonder.
Retiring from my restaurant of fourteen years, keeps me home in my paradise. I find myself content, yet still yearning. It’s that desire to establish another way that pushes me to seek out local writers, other groups than those I worked with in my business life. But I’m still the same person with the old resistance to driving at night or in unfamiliar areas. I find excuses to stay in my comfort zone, not willing to commit to a project, if I’m not willing to give it my all. I tip-toe, exploring Friends of the Central Skagit Library, the local writer groups.
My friend, vulnerability, reminds me that when I am ready, I’ll launch. Baby steps lead me to the library often. I bring home stacks of books based on whims. I read, I return weekly, getting to know the staff, finding my way.
I dip into the past, finding on Facebook, childhood friends from Pikesville, Maryland, my old neighborhood. Names jump out at me and I click the request. They all respond. I’m overwhelmed that they remember me from sixty years of absence. My awkward stages are what they knew. Because of this, it’s easy to connect. Vulnerability creates common ground, imperfections shared without expectations.
There in lies the key to all relationships—no expectations. Desire’s motivation stems from caring, a passion of discovery. Like the bare tree trunk growing towards the sky, rising without knowing if the leaves and flowers will come. Commitment only works if the caring overrides the stoppers.
My twitches manifest even as I read the stack of books by my night-table. I’m confused by stories written with no direction as in Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday. Three separate stories interlocked, and I failed to find the connection although my heart felt for each character. I left disappointed that I had failed as a reader to get the author’s message. In reading, How to Read Water Tristan Gooley, the subject fascinated me, but I lacked scientific abilities to grasp the complex concepts. I was more comfortable reading Everything Here Is Beautiful, by Mira T. Lee, and The Pianist from Syria by Aeham Ahmad, as I was grounded in the places and actions based on my own life and travels.
My discomfort didn’t keep me from finishing the books. I found lessons despite my reluctance. Examining why I cared about the books or failed to, gave insight into my readiness to open my mind, to think critically. The overriding commitment was to learn, not to master or like any one subject.
Being earnest is an attribute, but I’m reminded that forcing a situation, a change, or desire, puts the me first, and leaves out the connections. No matter how lofty the goal is, I can’t push a rock up a steep hill. And if the rock is important, then I need some help. Asking for help reveals my vulnerabilities. The joy follows when the task is shared, whether the rock arrives at the top of the hill or even if it slides back down.
I have muddled memories that don’t coincide necessarily with my childhood friends. The island Gail and I discovered and named with our initials BRAG (Bober, Rolnick, Abbe, Gail) wasn’t part of Gail’s memory, nor the long walks where a developer was building a shopping mall. But it was what I cherished and relayed to my children explaining my life as a kid. Gail’s fondness for me, she explained, was that I paid attention to her life.
I can remember back to kindergarten, when my teacher decided to have a picnic outside. She asked me to let her aid know. For some reason, I felt those butterflies flip-flopping inside. I knocked on every teachers’ door in the school and invited them to join us down by the pond. My teacher never reprimanded me, even as ten classes of little kids streamed down the hill. She thanked me for my passion, my willingness to share my joy.
I still feel the upside-down flutters of the butterfly. I’m patient. With no expectations, I smile at my desire, and rejoice when the tulips Jim planted last year, found a way to rise despite a harsh winter. Vibrant will—connects me to colorful desire. I’m committed to the journey. Yes, I’m vulnerable. Who knows what is next?Continue reading