Thank you Lindsey, it is a huge honor to appear on your blog. I’m grateful for you, my friend.
That which we love
Three years ago, a night nurse broke my infant son’s legs. The abuse was intentional and she served (only) one year in jail. In the course of the investigation, we learned that six months before coming to work for us, the thirty-one year old woman also broke ten bones on two-week old twins in Belgium, before fleeing in the middle of the night when the parents took the babies to the hospital. A native of Utah, she was convicted and sentenced to four years in Belgium, with an extradition hearing set for March.
I share the story above only as context for the letter below to my sweet, hilarious, healthy, happy three-year-olds regarding vulnerability. Because the only thing I know for sure is the things and people we love most make us vulnerable. And the path of being truly alive includes how to remain that way.
To my sweet little unfurling souls, Kalvin and Grace,
Vulnerability. The concept has always been a tricky one for your momma having been raised in a Midwestern family where emotive displays contrasted sharply with the stalwart moral value (dare I write) of keeping a stiff upper lip. Add to that years exhibiting steadfast calm behind the goaltending hockey mask regardless of thousands of people yelling insults, and to say I was less than comfortable with being vulnerable would be an understatement.
And so in adulthood, I tackled it from a cerebral point of view, defining vulnerability as having the ability to say, “I don’t know” and “I’m sorry” and “I feel x, y, z.”
Actually, then Daddy and then you.
The three of you cracked me wide open, drastically changing my definition of vulnerability, because it’s like this: the people and things we love utterly and completely, and dream for and about from the deepest place within ourselves, and yearn and ache for such that our chests feel too small; they are what make us vulnerable. Disclosure warning. Your momma has suffered public and private humiliation, crushing heartbreak, the betrayal of close friends, violations of trust and love, pain, loss, rejection, devastating guilt, and deep, deep profound loneliness. All because I have loved. The pain exists; it is real. And it will be for you. The fact that there is nothing I can do to prevent your pain is at the heart of what I’m attempting to convey in this letter to you.
Because, my sweet little beings, I hope you love the world anyway. I hope you have the courage to fall in love with as many things as possible, over and over again. I hope you always remember how to melt into the moments in front of you, as you do so naturally now; how to be present with the stars in a clear mountain sky, the spontaneous laughter of a great friend; the yearning regrets of a parent, the curiosity of a toddler touching snow for the first time, the dog who will not leave his injured owner’s side, the snow crystals than hover suspend in the air, as if we all lived and breathed amongst billions of tiny diamond fairies. I hope you feel it all.
I think Momma’s friend Lindsey is right, vulnerability and presence are inextricably linked. And being present for the good stuff is much easier than remaining present for the hard. But to truly live, I believe you need to be open and vulnerable to both. In order to evolve, you need to learn to carry those contradictions gently in your hearts.
Someday you will ask me about what happened to you. You will ask about depravity and pain, and I hope I will be able to convey with empathy and compassion that yes, evil exists. It lived and breathed in our home, it smiled and laughed at our dinner table. It tortured babies. It injured you. And yes, knowing of evil is different than experiencing its existence, as you have.
But the same is true of love. And you know so much love. And I know so much love. And our home is full of love. And so I hope you will have the fortitude to choose, despite human depravity, to see beauty and live in a way that is a tribute to overcoming the darkness. I hope you will have the courage and the grit to know you can handle anything life throws at you. I hope you will have the bravery and the resilience to stay open, vulnerable and porous (Lindsey’s word) such that even when you feel like a lonely drop in a vast ocean, you will remember you are not alone, for you are the ocean itself.
Because here’s the spoiler alert, even the people and things you love will break your heart. Wide open. Especially those. Sometimes they break it to let the light in. Sometimes they break it so your heart can heal stronger. Sometimes the things we love break our hearts so we know just how strong we are. And sometimes, the heart just breaks.
But therein begins the challenge, path, and destination all in one. Can you continue to honor what your heart is feeling and the life you’ve been given, no matter what? Can you stay open anyway; can you live with what is?
Because more than anything that happens to you, how you react and the choices you make will determine the quality and course of your lives. Your choices will define you, not the darkness, not the hard, not the evil, not what anyone else says or does. Just you. Life simply unfolds. It’s going to do its thing. And we all have the choice to jump in, lean in, learn and grow. Or we can choose to shut down, resist, and close. We can be the victim. We can live in fear, afraid of what happened or what may happen. We can live in tight little boxes of routine and comfort, secure behind the walls of distractions, rigid belief systems, over-exercise, strange restricted eating habits, closets full of perfectly folded clothes, calendars full of social engagements we don’t really want to attend, DVRs full of whatever, and the myriad of other ways people hide and defend themselves against the world. We can blame, justify, rationalize. We can fold.
Or we can live. Laugh, dream, cry, play, break, weep, despair, love, fight, hate, dance, and do it all again. Stand up, fall down, get back up, be your own hero, forgive yourself. Forgive yourself, my little Gracie girl and Buddha bear. Honor the manifestation of creation that is unfolding right in front of you, whatever it may be, each and everyday, knowing you will be okay. You will be okay. You are already okay. So you don’t have to close. You don’t have to shut yourself off from life. It may hurt at times, okay. Ouch. Huge ouch. But try not to close. Try to surrender and melt into the magic because that is where the good stuff is found. That is where you reside now, even within our busy and chaotic days that are changing at a dizzying pace, you live totally and completely, with effortless resilience and affection, open and aware in each moment, ready for each adventure.
And so I want to live there too, with you. Your Daddy already lives there. His innocence and vulnerability both terrify and inspire me, just like yours. I’m all too aware that my need to live with three of you in wonder and awe leaves me vulnerable. And that’s ok. Because we are alive, together.
I love you both, with all my everything, love, Momma
It is a huge honor to share Sarah‘s beautiful words with you today. It has been a privilege to get to know Sarah, in person as well as online, and I count her among my dearest friends now. I hope you loved her writing as much as I do. You can learn more about Sarah on her Writer page, here.
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