I wondered what it takes to get people to admit that they have been hurt or frightened or felt vulnerable. I wondered what fear prevents us from speaking these deep truths.
Another blogger reposted these statements from my previous post, and when I read them, I realized they were really rhetorical questions for me. I know what fears keep me from showing my vulnerability—fears of disappointing someone, of looking weak, of seeming needy and incapable of taking care of myself, fears of being rejected.
I have learned, though, that those fears are unfounded and that, in reality, when I show my vulnerability, instead of being rejected, I am much more likely to be embraced, a lesson I learned most clearly after I left l’Arche.
Living in l’Arche was the most difficult thing I had ever done, and when I left, I was broken—emotionally and spiritually. I had failed at living in l’Arche, failed miserably, and was too embarrassed and too proud to return to Pennsylvania, despite friends’ encouragement to come back. My shame was overwhelming and paralyzing; I was in a deep funk.
Then a friend invited me to live in her community and made arrangements for me to live in a house down the street from her. I was welcomed into this home and given a second-floor bedroom in the front of the house. My room had a big window that let in lots of sunlight and I remember being deeply aware of the contrast between the light streaming in from outside and the darkness I felt inside.
My energy level was very low and I did not have much to give to this new community. Mostly, I moped around during the days, and in the evenings I watched the community members enjoying their time together. Because my sense of self-worth is closely connected to what I am contributing—and I was not contributing anything of value—I had no expectations that these people would accept me.
But they did not seem to mind if I needed to sit at the kitchen table and look out the window for hours on end or if I sat in my room feeling the warmth of the sun pouring in. They kept extending invitations to join in their community activities, but without pressure. Eventually, I started to join in, and their welcome and acceptance started to heal me.
My image of my life at that time was that I was drowning when I left l’Arche and my friend had tossed out a life-preserver. For a while I clung to that preserver, and it kept me from going under. In time, I started to float, and then bit by bit, the community members pulled the rope ever so gently and I came closer and closer to them.
I recall that time whenever I am feeling vulnerable and fears start to surface. I remind myself that fear is useless, and what is needed is trust.