Each morning, I am reminded of the word vulnerability. It’s in the eyes of our Rachel as she looks up at me, watching me take the cloth to bathe her skin. It’s in her muscle tone that either resists or allows me to move her arms and legs into her clothes. It’s in her hands as she either pushes me away or pats my shoulder, as I move her to get the sling underneath her body in preparation for transfer from bed to wheelchair.
In those moments, I am affected by her vulnerability. She trusts me completely. She smiles as I strain to move her growing frame - and doesn’t have reason to believe that I will do anything other than provide my best care. Ultimately, she allows me to control the pace at which we go through the morning routine.
Mind you, there are some mornings when I rush through the motions of getting her and Janneke ready. And Rachel catches on quickly to my short temper and frustration. She grimaces sooner than smiles and sometimes frowns at me. I all but hear her voice saying, “Settle down, Mom. Take it one step at a time.”
Our Janneke, on the other hand, is full of zip and giggles from the moment she wakes up. She’s knocking on her bed, hollering out, as if I need a reminder that she needs to get ready. Sometimes, she’ll sit up and bounce, and other times, she’ll turn to her side, propping an elbow underneath in a pose. She then shakes her leg and head together like one of those ladies from the 1980s T.V. program “20 Minute Workout.” If she could, I’d hear, “three more, two more, one more - and take it from the top.”
When I sit her up to get her dressed, she shakes her legs and arms again, poking and gently hitting me in a rhythm all her own -all the while laughing. Her free and emotional spirit is contagious, and I soon find myself laughing with her. It’s a wonder that I can get her properly dressed with her arms and legs flying and body dancing.
That too is vulnerability.
Which makes me think about the rest of us - and how we display (or don’t display) vulnerability.
Leaving the last word to this quote:
Communion is at the heart of the mystery of our humanity …Communion, which implies the security and insecurity of trust, is a constant struggle against all the powers of fear and selfishness in us, as well as the seemingly resilient human need to control another person. To a certain extent we lose control in our own lives when we are open to others. Communion of hearts is a beautiful but also a dangerous thing. Beautiful because it is a new form of liberation; it brings a new joy because we are no longer alone. We are close even if we are far away. Dangerous because letting down our inner barriers means that we can be easily hurt. Communion makes us vulnerable. Jean Vanier