Sometimes I think that I think too much. I process and analyze, explore and consider. Amidst my reflection and efforts to summarize the incessant activity of my brain, I’ve come to find that occasionally it seems others can articulate my thoughts better than I can.
Lately I’ve been reminded of an entry written months ago by a former co-worker of mine in her blog documenting her experience living and working in China. Her beautiful words struck me then, and have apparently stuck with me. Below is a segment of her prose:
I never knew this man before he became sick. I don’t know what his laugh sounds like or what he likes to do on a Saturday evening. I only see a man lying in a bed, staring off into space. But Mary has had more than 20 years to memorize everything about him. I see a man who is very sick with little hope of recovering. Mary sees her best friend. Her partner. Her love.
I felt like an intruder when I saw her touch his face. It was so tender.
There is so much uncertainty ahead for this family. And yet Mary is unshakable in her love and in her hope.
Yesterday I walked away from that hospital knowing two things very clearly:
It would be such a privilege to love a man that much one day.
I am absolutely terrified to hope that a man could ever love me like that.
I think about all the things I put my heart into. I think of my friends and family – relationships that are secure and won’t walk away. I think about the jobs I’ve had and how much I love the work set in front of me. I think about the causes that I care so much about. I think about how easy it is to deliberately put my heart into something that can’t love me back – because then I don’t have to risk being disappointed or abandoned.
There is safety when I don’t allow myself to hope.
But looking in Mary’s eyes yesterday, I realized that the last place I want to be is somewhere safe.
Beautiful, isn’t it?
Vulnerability. Such a sweet-sounding word that holds tremendous weight. It invokes fear, yet offers great hope and love. Caroline’s words portray an image of vulnerability, of trust and deep, lasting love. Her last two lines sum it up well – on the surface, the idea of safety is attractive and comforting. Upon further consideration, one realizes that safety may not be truly what they desire. The choice arises between what is safe and what is uncertain, requiring a bit of faith and a healthy dose of fear. It’s all or nothing. You jump, I jump. Out of the comfort zone. The great unknown. You get the picture.
Why do we allow ourselves to become vulnerable? Why risk the heartache, trepidation and abandonment? Why do we pick ourselves up, shake off the hurt, splash some cold water on our face, bandage the wounds, and get back in the ring for another round? Are we sadistic? For a selective few that might be the case, but I’d like to think we persevere for reasons other than the sheer enjoyment of pain.
We come to see that it is better to be battered and bruised than to be unscathed and isolated. There are things in this world that we are willing to sacrifice our comfort for. While it might evoke tremendous fear, we stand with our gloves ready, anticipating the punches and jabs, grateful for those who stand in our corner.