My vulnerability and why I’m thankful for it.

Dad and I shooting pool. We both won.

Two years ago, I wrote this last-minute Thanksgiving blog about my mom’s recent heart surgery, and my gratitude that she survived.

This year, she’s gone.

I lost my best girlfriend, but I gained a surprising new confidante–my dad.

What’s important is our current connectedness.

When I was sixteen, I never could have imagined sitting on the couch next to my dad with my legs up on his lap, discussing our dreams and fears late into the night. I never could have imagined us side-by-side, holding hands, sharing our deepest feelings. Not that long ago, if you had told me a day would come when no one in my family would understand me as well as my dad, I’d have suspected you of imbibing a little too much holiday sauce.

Yet, it has all come to pass.

When I was younger, my dad and I didn’t relate well to each other. He was an involved father with all six of us kids–changing diapers, building a backyard ice rink, attending games and performances–whatever was needed. He said, “I love you,” regularly, and I knew he meant it. But we just didn’t bond emotionally. I closed my heart to him. The complicated dynamics of our previous relationship don’t really matter–what’s important is our current connectedness.

I’m trying to pinpoint when this new relationship with my dad started, but it was less a point and more an evolution.

Since 2016, when my declining health forced me to leave my job, Dad has never neglected to ask me how I’m feeling. And in spite of the embarrassing symptoms, humiliating symptom-management, and undignified procedures I’d endured, nothing was ever TMI for him. His only concern was for me. The more I shared my distress, the more love he gave.

Vulnerability is an opening for love.

Vulnerability was not a state or characteristic I’d have associated with my dad in the past. He was used to being the family provider, his rock-hard Catholic faith buoying him through stressful times. But as my mother’s health declined, and she became more and more in need of care, my father wondered what the future held, and for how long. His faith wobbled.

Dad felt unmoored, perhaps for the first time. And I felt deep compassion for him, perhaps for the first time. His floundering to find his footing opened a place in my heart that had often been closed to him. It was an opening for love.

We’re often afraid to share our angst, our fears, our unsettledness. It’s risky. Others may think poorly of us or act unkindly. They may use our weakness against us. It’s wise to be cautious.

But sometimes a risk pays off. It did for Dad and me. I’m glad we’re flawed human beings because it is our shared vulnerability that brought us together.

This Thanksgiving, you may have an opening to share your vulnerabilities. Dare you take it? If you do, please let me know!

Regardless, I wish you a day filled with deliciousness of every variety.

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I don’t know me.

I finally sat down today with my freelance editor’s notes on section 1 of my memoir manuscript. Section 1 describes the years leading up to my son’s diagnosis with a brain tumor. My editor told me it would need a lot of work, and it does.

So often in her notes, my editor questions why I am who am I, why I reacted–or didn’t react–the way I did. The reader will want to know, she indicates, and I agree.

But I don’t have an answer.

Why do I keep so much inside? Why do I hide so much of my deepest thoughts?

I don’t know.

I don’t know me.

I don’t know how to know me, today, or 31 years ago when I was a new mom.

I’m probably overdue for therapy. With a painful memoir like mine in the works, I should have been in therapy long ago. I love therapy, actually, being able to talk about myself ad nauseam. I guess I’ve never wanted to subject family and friends to that self-absorption. But the reality is, with my chronic health conditions, and frequent medical appointments, the thought of adding another appointment to my week seems impossible. And a Skype or phone appointment just isn’t the same.

So I sit here on the couch and hold it in. And I cry.

And I decide to be vulnerable with you, my followers.

This, actually, is a step forward. This feels like a different kind of writing. I’ll try to do more of it and I hope you’ll weather the storm with me.

 

 

 

 

 

Is that a dog?

Years ago, we had new neighbors move in to the upstairs apartment in the house next door.  One Saturday afternoon shortly after the couple had moved in, I saw them out with their dog on the grassy median strip dividing our residential street. The couple was talking with some other neighbors, so I went out to say hi.

After meeting the friendly guy and his girlfriend, with no introductions to their scruffy dog sniffing at my feet, a question formulated in my head:

“Is that a male or female dog?”

(Because, really, how can you tell without being, y’know, obvious?)

In a moment of supreme brain-body disconnect, the question that came out of my mouth, however, was:

“Is that a dog?”

Write that down as an excellent example of how NOT to make a good first impression.

But it still cracks me up when I think about it, even though it happened over 25 years ago.

I probably take myself and the foibles of life too seriously much of the time.  But I also love laughing at myself.  Not in a way that feels like a self put-down, but in a way that makes me feel human and hopefully approachable, in an “I screw up, you screw up, we all screw up” kind of way.

If I’m at a party, I’m not alway a great conversationalist.  I’m not especially politically astute (although for some reason lately, I’ve had more of an opinion than ever before – go figure). I’m not good at remembering details from trips and vacations, so I can’t name that “memorable” restaurant on the lake in Skaneateles, NY, and I can’t discuss which historic sites we visited in Philadelphia.  (Other than the Liberty Bell, of course – the memory bar isn’t set that low.)  I’m also severely “directionally challenged,” so don’t even ask me the best way to get from East Poestenkill to Cropseyville.  You might end up in Massachusetts.

But I can tell a funny story about myself and I always seem to catch a listening ear.

Our imperfection – our vulnerability – is a great human connector.  Like the K’nex building blocks that my kids played with years ago, it pulls us together and helps us stick with each other.  In fact, a little more self-deprecating humor and a lot more K’nexing may be what the world needs right now.

What about you?  Can you connect us here with a funny story?