As evident by my initiation post: My Truth of Vulnerability and The Beginning of my Blogging Journey, I struggle with vulnerability. I love and respect when others show vulnerability, but I myself somehow feel it will bring shame or show weakness if I show vulnerability.
With Christmas five days away all I can think about is family and the friends that are family to me. The time in which I have last seen or heard from them is irrelevant. They are the ones who are on my mind. I miss them. I love them.
I think I struggle most between vulnerability and acceptability. Not acceptability in the form that others are accepting of me (although as quick as I dismiss that I realize they are in fact linked). But rather in an attempt not to be diplomatic what I am meaning by acceptability in this context is what the world “allows” or “thinks” is socially acceptable.
For instance, I felt horrible for Aaron Murray (previous Georgia QB and now Kansas City Chief player) and his family when he suffered a torn ACL. I had his number. We were not friends. We were acquaintances at best. I wanted to text him my warm wishes, as well as text his sweet sister Stephanie who is a fellow Georgia student with whom I shared some fun times freshman year. (Two years earlier mind you) I could have also texted their brother, Josh (from the Bachelorette) who I also knew and had his number. Despite my sorrow for their family, texting any of them, just did not seem right. Instead I prayed for them. Stayed silent in my feelings and care for them.
I come from an athletic family, I know all too well the fear when your loved one goes down on the field. I wanted to offer support to the Murray family. For me, if you are my friend, acquaintance or a stranger, if you need me, or not, I want to help. If I have shared time with you, I truly want nothing but the best for you. I had to remind myself that texting them was not socially acceptable. Instead, it was socially acceptable to stay silent rather than share with them my feelings and warm wishes for Aaron and the entire family.
A text may seem small and simple, but it is powerful. It can heal and it can damage.
I did not want to risk the shame that could come because the world would consider it weird that I cared for the Murray’s despite our brief encounters. I felt in my gut it was wrong to text them. I somehow made myself believe texting kind words would make me selfish rather than helpful. So I refrained from doing so.
Which is similar to a recent experience I have gone through. This situation happened with someone I feel I was closer with, an actual friend rather than acquaintance, and someone I care for still. Yet, it still did not seem acceptable to let them know I was thinking about them.
Why is it that we can care for people one day and a year later not feel we can reach out to them in a time of need? Why did it become socially unacceptable to show compassion and kindness?
The situation to which I am referring occurred with someone I once, not too long ago, consider a close friend. His name, Todd Gurley. I fondly recall spending time with him. During his time of need I quickly recalled the night that started our friendship. It was a rather laid back night for the town of Athens, Georgia. The thing is, his remarks as a freshman in college about the Heisman Trophy changed everything. This was a cold December, 2012 night. Johnny Manziel had just become the first freshman to take home the Heisman trophy and was now forever a member of the special college football fraternity. Todd, Molly and I drove through the streets of downtown Athens. The Heisman had been briefly brought up. Everyone of course wondering what Todd had to say, for this was a kid that was a monster on the football field, even as a true freshman. His brief statement I recall made me think, “This guy is a class act. He is himself. I could actually be friends with him.” I also fondly recall the few times we skyped while I was taking a semester off, how he talked to my nephew Aidan while we were in Michigan for my brother’s game against Michigan, and our texts about Baltimore, Baltimore sport teams, and the upcoming Super Bowl.
I never told Todd how much it meant to me that he talked to me despite my not being in Athens. He continued to befriend me despite the fact we had met right before my first Spring semester away from Athens and he was “The Man” on campus and around the country. He did not need to spend his time talking to me, befriending me, especially when it would be months before we could hang out in person. Yet, he did. He was not aware of what I was going through, but I am forever going to be thankful for the laughs during a difficult and life changing time.
Needless to say, he meant something to me. He means something to me. He was my friend. I am forever going to be loyal to him which is why it was so hard when I knew he was struggling this past Fall. We have not spoken in a year. I still have his number. I wanted to offer my love and support while he was being investigated by the NCAA and then again when he went down on the field his first game back after his suspension. Later, we learned he suffered a torn ACL. Despite the closeness we once felt and the easy access I had to contacting him I felt as though it was not acceptable to send him a text and certainly not give him a phone call. Instead,I did what I often do. I do not reach out. I think about them. I pray for them. I hope and pray that I am doing the right thing by not contacting them. Then I think: Why is it that kindness is not acceptable. All while understanding reasons why it might not be. Oh, how very complicated!
Here is my current example of my fight between allowing vulnerability and showing compassion; all while trying to be socially acceptable. I am thinking of someone who I am almost certain from my fear of vulnerability I broke his heart.
I think about this person quite often. I know now that I am back in the Washington DC area for maybe the 12th day this year, memories of our past will most likely flood my mind. The DC area is where our story took place. As I drive past the country club where we would park our car, sit, and talk for hours. Just the two of us. Without a sole knowing besides the two of us. I think about him comparing my hand size to his. His planning our future lives as husband and wife. His teasing me about my eye color. Him teaching me about quarterback numbers. I think about him as I drive past the school where we met by his determination. (I still smile thinking of how he made meeting me a reality)I am flushed with fond memories.
I am a sensitive sole, so I fondly recall memories of the past. Think of the people I shared those fond memories with and pray they are doing well. Sometimes, often times, I am hurt that we might no longer be in the place we once were. There are also times when I thank God I am no longer an active player in their life nor them in mine, but I do remember to be thankful for what I have learned from our friendship. This is a practice I try to always remember: Thank God for what he has given you, recognize and learn the good that has come from it, and trust in his timing. (Note: WAY easier said than done! But well worth it!) I know I am getting side tracked as I am trying to give some history of myself to make this all make more sense. Which of course is probably doing the opposite. I apologize.
Anyway, back to the person who has inspired this post. A boy, no better yet, a man, I believe I left broken. While I often recall this man. Today there is a clear reason why I am thinking of him. He and his family are going through a particularly hard time. This hard time is due to the recent death of their father and husband. His father fought a strong and brave fight. Many might say he unfortunately lost the battle, but I prefer to look at it as he won the key to the gate of Heaven. (But lets be honest to those who’s lives he touched, those who are in the dark spot that is grief would probably want to punch me for saying that or hug me. This would probably change minute to minute as they go through the toughness that is grief). His father fought an evil battle that so many unfortunately have to fight. A battle the world is all too familiar with. Cancer. A friend of the devil and an enemy of the world.
So today, this man is on my mind because I wish there were something I could do to take his pain away. I know there is nothing one can possibly say or do to take a pain like this away. They can try. They should try. It will fail to fill the hole in your heart and the pain of your grief but it certainly is a comfy cozy security blanket and a helpful start to your new reality of life.
Unfortunately, I am no stranger to grief. I am saddened that I know all too well the feeling he and his family must be going through, yet, selfishly thankful that I do not know the exact feeling as I have not lost a parent to cancer. I am also thankful that I have gone through the grief I have, not because it was ever the reality I wanted to live, but rather because it now gives me a special power. That special power is that I have been through grief so now I can hopefully successfully offer others my support through their time of grief.
It was rare that others truly knew what I was going through, but the rare glimpses of those who did brought more comfort to me than imaginable. That is what I hope to be able to offer to even just one other person in this world.
I sit here on my couch with my mother to my left working on this Saturday evening (life of a single mother of 4, am I right!?). My sister in Dallas hopefully studying for an upcoming real estate test she has, my eldest brother to my right playing FIFA 2015 on my other brother’s new PlayStation. While that brother, Conor, is up in his room probably watching something on HBO Go getting ready to fall asleep as it is almost 11:30pm. I sit here surrounded by people I love hoping that the man I think I broke and I know is left broken by his recent loss is also blessed enough to be with the one’s he loves, either friends or family.
I am also selfishly wishing we were still in contact. This is so I could be there for him. I know that is incredibly selfish. I hurt him once and I should not try and help him now. I should leave him be. But then again, what if he needs me? What if I am suppose to enter back into his life now that I have grown and realized what I did wrong. All while knowing I am just in the beginning of my journey of realizing my fear of vulnerability and the traumas that have taken place in my life. I know I am not ready to be the person I want to be for him. The person he deserves for me to be for him. For the person I knew him to be four years ago. The person he was willing to be for me if only I would have let him. And remarkably the person he was able to be, for me, despite my forever pushing him away-which I now know was a fear of…you guessed it, vulnerability.
Here is my current struggle of vulnerability and knowing if I reach out to someone I more than likely caused pain. Last night, as I was driving from Athens, Georgia to the DC Area. I thought of him, his family, and the pain they must be feeling. Having someone you love pass is hard. The first holidays without them are just awful. It is an indescribable excruciating pain that hopefully you can find some good in by recalling happy memories of the ones you have lost. This family lost their father and husband days before Christmas. They are a fellow Irish Catholic family so I know family and spending time together during the holidays is important to them.
I did not try too hard to think what I would be feeling if I were them because that would be a waste of time. That would be speculation. I have the best mother in the world, but I do not have a loving father. I have not grown up with a father. I cannot, at this point in my life, possibly, truly know what it is like to loose my father; my hero, to cancer.
So instead, I thought about my experiences with loss. At first, I thought “Is this selfish and bringing it back to myself? Thinking about my losses rather than theirs? That is NOT right. I should be thinking about them. Damn it, now I am thinking about myself, my loved ones, and the other people that loved the one’s I have lost. How terrible am I? Clearly, I am selfish!” but then right as that thought entered my mind it was silenced with a whisper from God saying “You, my dear, are not selfish. You must recognize that in order for you to truly empathize with the ***** family, you must take from your own experiences in life.”
….or maybe that is a crock of bologna and just something I was telling myself that God was telling me so I wasn’t worried that I was a selfish human. Who knows! I can worry about that later. For now, I need to worry about this family and their difficult time.I thought about my experiences so I could pick the pieces that made the pain and suffering feel less lonely. The times and things that others did that helped. I called on all of my losses, but especially the one that is most fresh. The day my cousin, Brendan, entered the gate of Heaven. The reason I called on this loss the most is not only because it is my most recent loss, but also because the family to whom I have been referring, much like mine, is a strong Irish Catholic family. I thought- I know. I want to be there for him, for them. I know I have already sent him a message on Facebook without expectation of a response. The problem with that is not that he has not answered, but rather that I want to do something for the entire family rather than just him.
This is not a delusional try to enter back into his life, but rather because I know all too well the feeling of grief and loss. If there is even a chance I can take their pain away for a millisecond, or put a smile on their faces, I want to try. Stranger or not. I want to help. That is who I am. I may be afraid of being vulnerable but I am a lover. I am a very emotional, deep, and loving human being.
Still driving. I am trying to decide if this would even be a good idea given our history. Given the time that has past since we have spoken. Let alone seen each other in person or have spoken on the phone, facetimed, videochatted, etcetera etcetera. He probably does not want a thing to do with me. I sent him a message on Facebook. I should respect that he did not respond. This is the tricky part: Is this another vulnerability scared wall tactic thing or is it the fear that its socially unacceptable and “weird.” But wait, aren’t these in a way the same thing, or at least, in the same family? I will have to do research and call upon psychologist who specialize in vulnerability to get an accurate read of this. But again, that is not the point. Despite what might seem weird. I should stop living in fear that it will allow people to perceive me as weird or whatever they are going to perceive me as. Here is the truth: doing what you want or not, people are going to perceive what you do they way they want to perceive it. If you are lucky, they will see it the way you meant it. But remember, reality shows the way in which you meant it will not be the way they perceive it. So do what you want. Do what fuels your heart and soul.
So, then I figured I needed to listen to myself. I needed to do what I wanted to do. I needed to do what would fuel me to be a better person. What would fuel my heart and soul. I considered what others were probably doing for them. They are probably getting food sent and made for them. Their friends with whom they are still in contact with are probably spending time with them and trying to distract them. These are typical things to do for a grieving family. Very helpful and I encourage you to continue to do these if they are something you do.
I then thought: “I know! I will write a card with an Irish Blessing. Send a few short words on behalf of myself and my family. Ending with the classic Irish Blessing ‘May the road rise to meet you, May the wind be always at your back, May the sun shine warm upon your face, The rain fall soft upon your fields and, until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of His hand.'” This card would be signed by myself, my mother, two brothers, and one of us will have to sign for my sister as she is in Dallas until the 23rd. Then I would go to a local liquor store, buy a pack or two of Guinness or Smithwick (anything that is Irish. Perhaps I should pick up some Jameson for something stronger), attach the card and drop it at their home.
I can think of a million reason why this is a bad idea. Kind thoughts for others are often the thoughts and desires I have. However, I will convince myself not to follow through with them. That it is a bad idea. I will use any and every excuse. I will use the excuses as a way to hide from what I now know is vulnerability. After the time passes, I will recall my kind thoughts and feel badly that I did not act on them. I will try, and most of the time succeed, in letting it go, but I have never, until now, been able to realize all of my failures to do what I have wanted to do such as deliver a note and gift in hopes it can bring cheer and joy to another, was my fear of vulnerability.
This has been a complete disgrace to myself for I have hidden and not let my real, true, loving heart live the life it was meant to live.
So, yes, this family and their friends may think this is incredibly weird. This man could think I am stalking him. He could think I am using his pain as a manipulative measure to get back in his life. His family, especially his mom, could be angered in protection of her son. I could look like a fool spending my money and driving to their house, and so on and so forth. All of those thoughts do not matter. They are all ridiculous!
I need to be done hiding who I truly am. Be who you truly are in your heart and in your soul and you will live a fulfilled life. One in which you are proud.
Therefore, I need to risk the possible shame this intention of kindness could bring and instead ignore those vulnerability gremlins. I am going to be me and in order to be me I need to recognize being me is trying to think of a way to hopefully bring even a millisecond of happiness to a struggling soul. I do not want it to be generic and unoriginal. That is still kind but for it to be me, I want to give it a personal touch and my love. In regards to this family I believe it would entail making the traditional “I’m sorry for your loss” unique and personal by making it Irish.
(Side note: I do indeed recognize that it is probably unwise, psychologically that is, to offer and encourage alcohol to someone who is grieving but forget that A) we are Irish B) alcohol during a time of grief does not mean I am going to create a family of alcoholics and C) GO AWAY VULNERABILITY GREMLINS!)
What are your thoughts? Should I finally follow through with one of my thoughts to hopefully help ease another’s pain? What are your thoughts on vulnerability and social acceptability? Have you been through a time of grief, what helped you?
May you and your family have a very Merry Christmas. If you are struggling through grief, please reach out to me. You are NOT in this horrible pain alone. I have been there, I am there, and I want to be here with you. Sincerely. May God Bless you and your family through this difficult time. May God Bless the family I have been referring to in this post. May God Bless my family as we go through our first Christmas without our Brendan, May God Bless the family I just heard about on the news whose 15 year old son was struck by a vehicle (hit and run) yesterday morning, May God Bless the two NYC Cops who were executed in their vehicle while on duty and their families (Kristen L. Rouse’s beautiful post in honor of these men and NYC), and may God Bless all of the families who will experience a great and deep loss this Holiday season.
You are not alone. It is okay to be mad. It is okay to ask “why?” It is also okay to be vulnerable. It is okay to ask for help. If you, too, struggle with vulnerability you can try it by reaching out to me. We can try going through it together 🙂 ❤
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays my friends!