Mike Armiger has written on Twitter very powerfully today about how our practice “can plunge us into a pool of vulnerability” and how his own vulnerability is shown often around grief and bereavement. Go onto Twitter and find his thread for 21.09.2018; I won’t jump on his bandwagon (much) here: Mike’s voice is more powerful than mine. His thread – or his own part of it, since it has touched a number of people as well as me – ends with these astounding words:
Embracing the vulnerability has been worth it. And the best part? It no longer scares me.
But it continues to scare me, I must admit. The vulnerabilities around bereavement especially, are, as the etymology shows, about the vulnera, the wounds, that are capable of being opened up when I think I have gone wrong in some way. The wound of my mum dying when I was 18; the wounds of loves botched (I’m thinking of the down-to-earth melancholy of Spender’s poem I quote below, remembering loves and poems lost) or loves rejected; the wound of our son dying… They are as tangible as the knee I injured when I was nine that still has a scar, and still aches sometimes. Such regrets and hurts are not smoothed away by time, nor, I think, do they make me, in some muscular way, a Better Person. What they do do – or can do, or maybe I am fortunate or blessed that they have done for me – is suggest to me that this very vulnerability makes us approachable for others. The vulnera, the wounds, make us vulnerable, woundable, and can, maybe, create something of a unity with a person we encounter who is also hurting. It is more than simple memory, but something bigger, as Spender suggests:
Are not diminished distances, perspective
Vanishing points, but doors
Burst open suddenly by gusts
That seek to blow the heart out.
Stephen Spender, One More New Botched Beginning