Sunday, December 29, 2013

Vulnerable Peace

The online writing group to which I belong has laid claim to a particular word, to be used as a prompt. Why now? Why this word?

Only the good Lord knows, and I suspect He does, as the hopes and fears of all the years are bubbling up in the peculiar twists and turns of our phrases.

And I have been ruminating, thoughts have been percolating, I have been meditating, which turned to cogitating, on this one observation from the past week. It seems to fit with the prompt, in a way I doubt I fully understand, but hey.

I'm gonna go with it.
With David, my 'baby'

My family, we are touchers. Feelers. It seems to be deeply ingrained in our turning to one another, our assurances of love. When we talk, when we listen, we catch hold of each other. The girls, especially; but it's in the boys as well, though probably a little less natural and uninhibited.

With all the kids home for a few days last week, there was much hugging. Squeezing. Head scratching; seriously, with the girls, we are are prone to sit next to one another and just stroke each others' hair.

I don't know; it sounds crazy as I write this, but it is true. We do this, and it is nothing but an expression of love, a firm place to stand, a declaration that Yes, I am here and I hear you and I am with you and there is this intimate thing between us and we love one another.

I don't know.

I don't think about it much. It just is.

But last week, there was much cuddling. I found myself drawn to the couch, squeezing four of us in when only three should fit. I held them all, one by one, sometimes two at a time, just to sit. To be with. To hold.

At one point, my youngest daughter and I were on the couch, watching television.

I held her hand in mine, and with nothing distracting me - no work to be done, no chores waiting - I was very aware of the surface of her skin. It startled me, the stark contrast between our hands, the curve of our joints, the plane of our flesh. Imagine this, the fresh hands of one who has had a scant 20 years on this earth, compared to mine, which have lived and lifted and cleaned and held and gripped and let go for three decades longer. And there are more miles to go, I know; I held my own mother's hand as we prayed over dinner and understood the path I have yet to travel, she who has two decades and more on me.

But there, I felt my daughter's hand and knew that my hands had once been such. Smooth, lacking the coarse, callused geography.. And my mother's hands; certainly hers were the same at 20, open to promise and adventure and the work ahead.

And her mother's. And so on, so far back that it is almost ridiculous to try to acknowledge it.

My hands have aged. They have held much and let go of even more. With my daughter close to me, her skin and her future bright, taut, uninterrupted, I felt the weight of reality honing in; a sort of recognition of this irreversible, undeniable truth.

I am vulnerable.

My skin is aging, I am losing ground with this body that I have for as-yet unfinished business while on this earth. I am losing a battle that I was never meant to win. I am vulnerable to the waning days, getting along with the passing years in a way suddenly contrasts quite starkly with the smooth skin of a 20-year old girl.

My body will not last. There will come a day when I live no more.

I am vulnerable.

And that is, surprisingly, okay.

See, the surprise here is not the sudden, if somewhat stupefying realization that I am getting older. What shocks me is this:

It's absolutely okay.

Something has happened. I have grown up. Some invisible line has been crossed, some mercy has been cast, and the thing that has long frightened me - being exposed, being unguarded, being susceptible, being out.of.control. - something has propelled me to existence right there in that wide open space. And I am okay.

I cannot help but think of this saying that I have heard in and out of Christian churches for decades; the apostle Paul says that God's power is made perfect in weakness. I've always viewed that line as a connecting point for seeing what God can and will do; it's been a leadership lesson for getting things done. But like everything in this rarefied, newly minted middle-age sensibility in which I find myself, I've got a bit of a fuller perspective these days.

I like what I read in The Message: 

'My strength comes into its own in your weakness'. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift.

Each day is a gift. Each day, I am closer to the end of the days allotted me as a frail human. I used to think that acceptance of that knowledge would bring terror.

Instead, there is peace.

In rereading this before posting, it occurs to me that I might be unique in my "sudden" realization that I will not live forever. Maybe that sounds really stupid.

But I submit that I've never really had to consider my mortality, beyond a glancing nod towards the future. Undoubtedly others have sat in this reality in real, quite challenging ways. I pray no offense toward anyone…this was simply my moment of vulnerability and a deep awareness life of the other side of youth. I know many of my friends (and readers, some of whom are both) have battled illnesses and have certainly arrived at this destination in a different manner. Again, I ask for grace and offer gratitude for the parts of the journey that you have shared.

I just wanted to write about holding hands with my daughter.


Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

My children, grandchildren and I are touchers. I love how you explained it. I love what you did with this word. Our bodies have served us well haven't they???

Thank you for this.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lori said...

That was/is a beautiful post Beth. Touching, literally and figuratively. I love that you are touchers, I am too. And perhaps too I think we all reach a point in our lives where we ponder our own mortality. And yes, we do feel vulnerable. Even growing older, and as you used your hands, a perfect example since our hands do so much, they change.. not only in appearance but things only we notice. Maybe a little stiffer... There is something though about being vulnerable to life... is that we can often pick up and truly live it.. as much as we can... not about being driven, but really looking at our lives and seeing the beauty and peace it holds for us. That leaves us vulnerable... so see such love and grace around us.. makes us feel so very loved.
Thank you... this was such a gift. I like your hands.. they are very expressive...

Mary Wilburn said...

I have done the same with my little girl and had those same feelings that you put into beautiful words. :)

Brandee Shafer said...

"Imagine this, the fresh hands of one who has had a scant 20 years on this earth, compared to mine, which have lived and lifted and cleaned and held and gripped and let go for three decades longer." So beautiful. When you become a grandma, you should make a point of doing the 4-gen hand-stack thing in photos. Anjie did that for us, sliding one of her rings onto each of the girls' ring fingers, in turn. Almost a year later, my aunt called looking for the photo b/c my grandma's rings had been stolen. Come to find out, they were pawned and melted. Glad I have the photo.