As I was taking a solitary walk in the moonlight, I slipped and fell. In a moment that seemed to freeze in time, my feet slipped forward then off the ice and into the air as my head lurched backward. In slow motion, I watched as my back arched, head sailed then crashed, lights flared behind my eyes, body landed, and the thought “What do I do!?” echoed across my mind. Automatically I started to scramble up, registered my head was not cracked, and became aware of what I needed to do. I laid back on the road, burst into tears, and cried.
As I laid there, I felt a sense of gratitude that I could stop and create space to cry, instead of engaging in my habitual response of brushing off my own fear and pain. Shortly I realized I could do even better. I reached for the phone in my coat pocket and called my adult son, who in that moment I reckoned most likely to pick up. At first he worried, and asked if I he should drive over. “No, I just want you to be here with me now.” He stayed on the phone while I cried, and I could take in his empathy like a soothing, healing energy. My crying stopped after a few minutes, and I felt and shared a deep appreciation toward my son. All better, I got up and went on my way, enjoying a long walk, the crisp air, and the magnificence of the night sky.
There’s something magical that can happen when we drop down into vulnerable states of fear and sadness, that can’t happen when we avoid these places with dismissal or anger. It’s only in these places that we can receive genuine empathy, meet our basic deepest needs to feel cared for, important, valued and connected, experience emotional healing, and come more alive.
Except for jarring, painful moments like landing on my head on an icy road, it’s hard for me to drop into my own places of vulnerability. I’m used to being responsible for my own well-being, which pretty much means focusing on doing and accomplishing rather than going into my own fears and sadness. Most of the time, I cope pretty well on auto-pilot, and am unaware of underlying insecurities and losses. That doesn’t mean they’re not there. They sure are, and they get in the way of my feeling more alive, and being the best person, partner, family member, and friend I can be.
I’m working on it. I’m incredibly grateful to have a partner that’s interested in the vulnerable parts of me, and who helps me find, share and heal them. I feel an enormous gratitude for my professional training and experiences, which give me the privilege of witnessing daily the magic that happens when we safely explore our most vulnerable places, uncover old pockets that have been holding on to negative experiences and beliefs, and release them to lighten our load and wipe away layers of no-longer-needed protection.
Whenever I can cry with pain and the joy of caring and connection, whether it’s my own pain or empathy for another, that’s a marvelous thing. I’d love to hear your experiences of this too!