Comforting Words: Paradoxically Vulnerable

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Paradoxically Vulnerable

Have you ever noticed that until you purchase say a particular type of car, you were almost completely unaware of the number of them already on the road? All of a sudden, every other car on the highway is a black M-series BMW (yes, that is my dream car).

Well the same thing has been happening to me with a particular word. Recently, I was in conversation with someone and she mentioned her fears around intimacy. We discussed this and her concern had to do with vulnerability.

I thought about what she said and frankly could not fully understand her concerns. Who does not want to be open to love for example? Of course laying one’s soul bare to another has its risk, but what about the joy that comes from sharing and caring with another human being and from being on the receiving end of another’s desire to share and care?

Those of you who read Comforting Words frequently will know that my experience has been that once I become stubborn about something, Life will ensure that I get the point. Life always gives me a chance to see things from another perspective and thereby become more understanding.

Often I have wondered whether the fact that the prayer of St. Francis is one of my favourites and one that I meditate on quite regularly has anything to do with this. The line from the St. Francis prayer that is of relevance here is:
“O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.”

True to form, over the course of the week and in the midst of moving house, Life brought an angel in disguise into my space with the lessons that I needed. Let me share with you what I received through the Words from Scripture, the Words of Comfort, “Paradoxically Vulnerable” and the Words from the Heart.


From A Course in Miracles:
VIII. 1.5 – 7
“For is love is sharing, how can you find it except through itself? Offer it and it will come to you, because it is drawn to itself. But offer attack and love will remain hidden, for it can live only in peace.”


We agreed that he would arrive at 3:00 p.m. He knew what he was in for as I had given him every detail of what was involved. We agreed on a price. Everything was ready for him; I made sure of that. He would not have to wait a minute. We could get right down to business as he entered the house.

Then Life took over. In Jamaica, we have a saying, “Man a plan, God a wipe out,” and this turned out to be very true this sunny Saturday afternoon in Edmonton.

With many loose ends to tie, I went on the road to take care of some business before his 3:00 p.m. arrival. At exactly that time the first call came. “Mummy, the man just called and said he is running late and will not be here until 4:00 p.m.”

“That’s not too bad,” I said to A., my daughter, who was giving me this news. “Well then, I will go fill up the tank and run a couple more errands since I have some time,” I said, trying to find the positive in the situation.

I got home about 4:15 p.m. and he had not arrived but when it turned 5 o’clock and he still had not turned up and did not call again, I called him. That was the second sign to me that things were taking a less than desirable turn. At least, things were not going the way I had planned them.

“Hi Claudette,” he said as if we were the best of pals and this was a howdy-do call. “Where the hell are you?” was my response to his cheery greeting. He gave me a long story and reassured me he will be at my door in fifteen minutes.

Then Juds called. She had gone into work, expecting to be there until at least 9:00p.m. However, the party for dinner cancelled at the last minute and she was calling me to pick her up early.

Although she would not earn what we had anticipated, we both felt it was good that she would be home to help when he arrived and I would not be single-handedly trying to coordinate everything. Hurriedly, I gave A., instructions how to keep the man occupied until we returned and off I went to fetch Juds from the nearby restaurant where she is the Chef.

On the way back to the house, the phone rang and it was A. again. “Mummy,” she said, “the man is here.”

“Good.” I responded. “You showed him where to start?” I asked.

Thankfully, there were no cars close behind me as I slammed on the brake when A. replied, “No, he said he will not start until he is paid up front.”

“What?” I screeched. “After we have been waiting for him for over two hours he will not what until what?”

“Yes, Mummy, that’s what he said,” A. confirmed understanding my jumbled sentence. Then she continued, “And, guess what Mummy?”


She is now laughing and I am trying desperately to get the joke, “I don’t think that little van that he has can hold our stuff!”

“What the hell do you mean?” I yelled at the poor child and Juds is now looking at me wondering if I might have a stroke. “I told the man everything that we have, how can he come with a truck that cannot hold us?” I reasoned with A., “Tell me you are joking?”

It was no joke. Not only did this mover turned up two hours late, he came in an old F150 truck that would maybe hold one of our three bedrooms of furniture and wanted his money up front. To add insult to injury, he was reeking of alcohol and was telling me that it would cost us three times what he had quoted because he will have to do far more trips than we discussed and than I knew was necessary.

After I chased him off the premises, with a few choice words, we frantically started calling back other movers who we had declined to use this guy. Of course, to be calling movers at 6:00 p.m. on a Saturday saying that you want to move now must mean one of a two things – either your landlord has evicted you or you are on the run. Either case for them spelt desperation and so the price was quadrupled.

It was in that moment I began to understand another perspective of being vulnerable. I trusted the mover that he would be on time, that he could move us as carefully and efficiently as he advertised and that he would honour our agreement.

I was wrong and now we were all packed and no where to go. Internally, I wanted to curse God and the wicked people he placed on earth. I felt sorry for myself and thought I was being punished for trusting people too much and that life would be fair. “Claudette,” I asked myself, “why did you trust this man, why did you not ask more questions?”

When we feel naked and ‘attacked’ by others, we want to lash out, we try to rationalize the situation and make it the fault and sinfulness of others. We shut down to people because they have only wicked intentions and will only do harm to you if you allow them. That is what the last person did -- in fact almost everyone in your life, so why should you give anyone else a chance to hurt you again?

I had the guy figured out in five minutes – he was a drunkard, a liar and a con man. Even more importantly, I thought, he wanted to swindle me because he heard my accent and felt I would not know better.

In a sense, on the last point I was right, but not in the way I thought then. The truth is many people in Canada, especially those like me of limited income and not too much furniture, move themselves. They rent U-Haul and with the help of friends and family, they move house.

It took us about an hour or so to figure this out and by Monday, after we had removed the seats from our mini-van and spent the rest of the weekend transporting what we could to our new place, we did the same.

I am happy to report that we are safely ensconced in our new home – yes, suffering much ache and pains in muscles we never knew we had. However, it is nothing a good massage and a few more hot, steaming baths will not cure. In my soul though, I feel blessed.

This is a circuitous way to reflect on a conversation on vulnerability – but who said Life was straightforward?

You see, the moral of the story is as the quote from A Course in Miracles states, when we feel attacked and vulnerable, that is the time to offer love. While I was cussing the man, both to his face and behind his back, I was basking in my vulnerability, seeing this as proof why you cannot trust people, instead of seeing the gift that he was presenting me.

What his seeming dishonesty offered me was an opportunity to retrieve my strength, confidence and power. This past week, through this experience and at least two others, I was reminded that we are never given more than we can bear, that I have the power to choose how I will respond in and to any situation or circumstance that confronts me.

This “shady” mover, reminded me that there are always options and that the best ones are those that empower me on all levels. I can only receive this empowerment if I remain open to Life – the “good” and “ugly” of it.

As we lifted our beds and my numerous boxes of books, we became stronger in the knowledge we have the power to say no to being conned and that no human being can stop our growth, our courage to move on and our ability to love. Therefore, wherever he is today, I am sending a blessing to this man.

He was a great teacher, for not only me, but also Juds. She, I believe, was reminded that Life always put us where we need to be in every moment – so there is little value in forever lamenting our seeming losses. Had the dinner party not been cancelled, the afternoon might have turned out differently.

My daughter also learnt some important lessons. In my estimation one of the most significant lesson she learnt as a young woman, is that as women we can do anything we set our minds to – even moving a three-bedroom house. She also learnt the value of friendship and that age is just a number as she watched Juds and I lift furniture with our 40-year old bodies.

As for me, I was reminded that being vulnerable is much more than being open to the love of a current or potential partner. Being vulnerable means being open to Life – in all its manifestations.

Bishop Spong speaks frequently of loving wastefully. I have often reflected on that but stopped short at loving people who I like and being open to what they have to teach me. Loving wastefully means loving all: all people, all experiences and in all circumstances, without blaming others but being blessed by them.

The paradox of vulnerability is being so confident that, in the words of Stephanie Dorwick, you are on Solid Ground that you are mindlessly defenseless and exposed to all, including seemingly drunk and dishonest movers.


Chain letters are not my favourite type of email but found it hard to ignore this one sent to me by my dear friend Sonya. As I reflected on vulnerability, it was hard not to see that we feel most exposed by those we love or could fall in love with.

I invite you to read these pieces of advice, ponder each of them for a minute or two. As you do so, consider where you feel most vulnerable and how you might see the paradox, the place where you can identify that you are on Solid Ground. As Sonya reminded me – remember, whatever happens in your life, happens for a reason – time will reveal what and why:

1. I love you not because of who you are, but because of who I am when I am with you.
2. No man or woman is worth your tears, and the one who is will not make you cry.
3. Just because someone does not love you the way you want him or her to, does not mean he/she does not love you with all he or she has.
4. A true friend is someone who reaches for your hand and touches your heart.
5. The worst way to miss someone is to be sitting right beside him or her knowing you cannot have him or her.
6. Never frown, even when you are sad, because you never know who is falling in love with your smile.
7. To the world, you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.
8. Do not waste your time on a man/woman who is not willing to waste their time on you.
9. Maybe God wants us to meet a few wrong people before meeting the right one, so that when we finally meet the person, we will know how to be grateful.
10. Do not cry because it is over. Smile because it happened.
11. There is always going to be people that hurt you so what you have to do is keep on trusting and just be more careful about who you trust next time around.
12. Make yourself a better person and know who you are before you try to know someone else and expect him or her to know you.
13. Do not try so hard, the best things come when you least expect them to.

Blessings, until next week.


Anonymous Yvonne said...

Hi Claudette,

Once more you have touched me with your true story.

I found it so amusing I laughed until I cried.

Your pain was worth the move... or is it the other way around?

Mon. Jun. 13, 02:09:00 p.m. MDT  

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