Saturday, October 5, 2013


Sparks of David Photography

                /ˈvəln(ə)rəbəl/ adj.

1. Exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally: (e.g., everyone)

"Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength."
-Sigmund Freud

(Source: Oxford Dictionaries)

Have you ever gone to the pool for a swim and dipped your toes in the water only to find that the temperature is frigidly cold? This is called toeing the waters. Over time you gradually expose yourself to the uncomfortable waters before fully immersing yourself and soon afterward you're swimming freely and confidently splashing around. The other option, of course, is to dive in quickly and watch as your body naturally adapts to the new environment. 

I recently joined the military and every morning when I awake I'm faced with a dilemma. I sleep on the top bunk and when I finally swing my legs over the mattress and let them dangle below, I groan. Quickly switching gears from the ultimate state of vulnerability to a high-octane day can be shocking and dreadful. I'm hesitant and the trip from bunk to bottom feels more like skyscraper to concrete pavement. Every morning I say aloud "Come on, Dave. Just jump in the water" as if the floor below is an icy pool and I'm avoiding total immersion and every morning -- despite my displeasure -- I take that leap and land on the floor with a thud. The phrase has become so common that if my fellow cadets see me dawdling in bed or stuck in my morning stupor they'll say "Come on, Dave. Just jump in the water." It's a friendly reminder that despite fatigue, fear of the unknown, and the fact that you are so far removed from what some call "normal life" you must believe in the blood rushing through your veins, dive into life's challenges, and prevail.  

Essentially, each and every one of us is vulnerable in some way or another. Aside from obvious times when we're not on guard, like when we eat and sleep and other states, we must face other psychological and ideological vulnerabilities. Religion and science are at odds as to the fundamental questions of when and why we were created and we all know that regardless of the answers we had no choice in the matter. Unable to foretell the future, we wake up every morning vulnerable from uncertainty and must patiently await as the external factors of our fate progress every day. 

Vulnerability surrounds us all. It strikes when you really have to pee while on a bus and someone comes over to talk to you. It hides in your luggage when you travel to a foreign land and are unable to speak the language. It rears its ugly head before an important job interview or when you ask your crush out on a date. It's by your side when you have a disease running through your veins and when you can't seem to shake the chains of a troubled childhood. It whispers into the ears of the artists who publicly display their work and haunts the dreams of parents whose children are just gaining their independence. Vulnerability is when you are one of 7 billion human beings living on a spherical planet that always seems to be on the brink of death and destruction.

Abuse is knowing that a victim is vulnerable and then trying to exploit that vulnerability. When a perpetrator targets peoples' innate desires, fears, feelings of loneliness and lack of knowledge in order to attain dominance it highlights the criminal's own insecurity. Their fiend for supremacy and strong desire to manipulate their own vulnerability manifests itself in their unspeakable acts. 
To love, on the other hand, is to embrace vulnerability. It means giving somebody else a large chunk of your inner-self and trusting that they won't destroy everything that you have built yourself up to be. Although, when you've been hurt many times before there is an almost natural reluctance to re-enter the sometimes terrifying world of dating and intimacy. Protective barriers are built and fortified over time and the prospect of allowing another to occupy your heart is unsettling. But much like other uncertainties in life, love requires risk and courage. It takes guts to dust yourself off and try again but when hope and action prevail your only obstacle is time. And in due course you will find what you are looking for.

I think that because I'm so vulnerable I (naturally) try and protect myself from harm and look for security. I look for constants in life, final answers to unanswerable questions, and, of course, I plan plan plan. Maye it's laziness and I'm trying to secure my future so I don't have to constantly return to my responsibilities. That when I find those answers the quest will be over or when I make something official I'll have it forever and not have to maintain it. I'm still learning that I can't control it all or have the answers to everything. That I need to embrace mystery and take risks because life's more exciting that way.

I can't always escape my vulnerabilities but when I can find the courage I believe in my personal capacity to have a great life and my ability to face uncertainty with wit and wisdom. When I stand up to speak to a crowd or introduce myself to someone I admire or try something new I remember that we all have our vulnerabilities. I remember that guilt, insecurity, pain, fear and uncertainty are universal emotions and feelings and that while we are all unique our commonalities outweigh our differences. I remember that we're all in this thing together and that somehow comforts me.

When things turn sour I try to embrace the suck and forge on through. I keep my eyes open for pleasantries and when all else fails I wait for the hourglass to turn or the cycle to change. Despite my vulnerabilities I give it a shot because I know the glory days exist and I look forward to their arrival. I anticipate the summits, the days when I'm the winner. When energy, flow, clarity, meaning and connection surround me. When I have no problem diving into the water.

It requires courage to leap into the pond without knowing whether the water is hot or cold. But when we start to swim and see others doing it too we realize that we were all on the same boat to begin with.