Monday, November 03, 2014

open book without a cover

Raw. Exposed. Vulnerable. This seems to be this month's mantra. Events seem to conspire to make sure that I am off-balance, uncomfortable, to shake me up and pop my illusions like balloons.

I have always felt that I could counter uncertainty with preparation; if I do the right things at the right time, I am safe from the upheavals that seem to knock others for a loop. I'll never be the last lamp-lighter or even the last of the layoffs. I observe, I anticipate, I prep and I move before things happen to me. I'm in control, master of my fate.

So when the ceiling fell in, quite literally, I was knocked for a loop. I was at the office! I was doing exactly the right thing, at exactly the right time. And I still had to run for my safety, to avoid being doused in boiling water from the steam pipes. A little slower and things could have been devastating. I got out and that's good. But I had a sudden kick in the pants -- hey, I'm as mortal as the next person. I can't prepare or plan my way out of the fact that someday, I'm gonna die. And I have no idea when and where.

I've always been smug about my good health. I eat a healthy diet, watch my weight, get moderate exercise. I meditate. I almost never get ill because I do all the right things, or so I like to think. But the stress of having to bolt from my chair, the adrenaline and nerves and everything else caused a couple of very bad weeks. My feet broke out where the filthy water had soaked into my socks. I had a few small burns. I started having a burning in my chest. I ended up at the doctor, with echocardiograms, stress tests, blood tests, ultrasounds -- like a sick person. Ultimately, I was fine. I had a little gastric reflux, that has since gone away. But it scared me, and reminded me that health isn't a given. Just because I am healthy today doesn't mean I will stay that way. Even if I do all the right things. It is another thing outside my control. I am vulnerable to the same diseases and disorders, to the same accidents of timing, as everyone else.

 I've always been a sort of open book, what you see is what you get, kind of person. But there is a difference between that and being truly exposed and vulnerable.It's still a narrative of sorts -- I show only what I've chosen to reveal, in the way I choose to present it.  I've had moments lately when I have been defenseless, when my carefully constructed walls have come down, when my public face has cracked, and I've been out there, raw,  in a very real and authentic way. It's terrifying, but also freeing. There is a a weightlessness, as if you are in zero gravity, or as if all the layers of protection had a heaviness to them. Stripped away, I begin to see the cost of keeping all that stuff in place.

I'd like to say that now that I've experienced all this, I will just choose to be open and vulnerable all the time. But there is a lifetime of habit attached to my "armor". I doubt very much that I can muster that much bravery on a day in, day out basis. But I can make strides in that direction, a little at a time.

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