Love and vulnerability

I was thinking the other day about love. What it’s like to love and be loved in return – in all of its iterations. As a child. As a parent. As a friend. As a lover. As whatever other role you might be in someone’s life or they might be in yours. They’re all so different, but at the end of the day, they all require vulnerability, humility and honesty in order to really embrace them.

Photo by C.Valdez on Unsplash
Image of two koala bears hugging in a tree

Love is hard to reconcile against some of our uglier instincts – a want to be right, a want to have our way, and some of our understandable but less helpful instincts – a want to avoid pain, a want to hold some part of yourself back, just in case. It’s hard to say my want to be right is less important than your need to feel heard. It’s also hard to say, ok, I’m not going to hold back any important parts of me in case you see that last vulnerable part and you’re out. 

And yet. I don’t see another way through to real, vulnerable, open, honest love. I say all of that in the context that I’ve opened myself that way as a mother and to a couple of friends. And I can’t say it’s all roses and clover. Each of those people has hurt me deeply from time to time. The kind of hurt that is gutting and leaves you trying to catch your breath between sobs. The kind of hurt that feels like it won’t heal. But you know what? It did. Each time, fully, completely and it didn’t take as much time as I might have guessed that it should. I wonder if that’s part of the full giving of yourself. You know who you are. They know who you are. You remain you even when they cause you inadvertent or deliberate pain. And when you get to the other side of it, you love yourself more deeply than you did before and they generally do too.

So, why am I writing this? Because being able to be that open and know that you’ll be hurt because of it from time to time but that you will always heal up, my god that’s powerful. It gives me the freedom to love them more. Be open more. Be as beautiful or ugly with them about what I’m feeling or thinking at any point. It’s a glorious feeling. And each time I hurt, I learn more about myself, my place in the world, who I show up as for others. And I’m a better human going forward because of it.

Photo by Elias Maurer on Unsplash

Image of a forearm and hand covered in fairy lights shaped into a heart

Knowing all of that has put me in a place where I no longer want to be hyperprotective of myself and stingy with my love. In 5 years, I don’t want to say I’ve been open that way with my kid and a couple of friends. I want that number to be bigger. I may not be as close with new friends as I am with my most trusted now – but I can still take down my protective barriers and take a risk and likely experience a much more fulfilling and rainbow spectrum sort of friendship because of it.  Nevermind 5 years. Next year. Next year around candies and hearts and flowers time, I want to come back and tell you all about all the people I’m learning to love and be vulnerable with. I want to tell you how it feels. I want to tell you how it changed me. I want to tell you I’ve been hurt. I want to tell you it’s been worth it.

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