When I declared in my Longing is not desire post that I wanted “to touch and be touched by everything”, I knew that this required a degree of openness and vulnerability I had not yet allowed myself. Was the statement an invitation? Or is that way of thinking too reductionist and simplistic? I don’t know. What I do know is that, shortly following a fall in the middle of May this year, I experienced a mini-stroke that rendered me more open and vulnerable than perhaps I have ever been since I was an infant. I had no energy to resist feeling this vulnerable – I had to just allow it. My body literally shook for several days at frequent intervals, like a rabbit who has had a near miss with death. I could do nothing – go nowhere. At first I had difficulty thinking and speaking. It was over a week before I could even begin to reflect on what had been happening. I was open to every emotion in and around me and found myself often in tears. At some point in this time, the new neighbours across the road had the beautiful tulip tree in their front garden cut down. I howled in grief and then wanted to kill. Thank goodness I had no magical weapon to hand. The swifts did not return when they usually do and I cried whenever I thought of them (some have now come back). My friend wisely told me to stop listening to the news, because it was upsetting me so.
But the really interesting thing in all this weakness, openness and vulnerability was the kindness and love that washed towards and through me from so many people. Now, I passionately believe in caring (see Do you care?) and I have been more than able to care for others: friends, lovers, my children, my students and clients and the many creatures we share this world with; but I have had to work very hard to allow myself to be cared for or cared about. Not an unusual story, I know. It’s all about vulnerability. You have to allow yourself to be vulnerable in order to deeply feel the caring of others. My stroke rendered me deeply vulnerable and the care flooded in. I hope I never stop crying about this. Not only am I loved – but I have allowed myself to feel loved. It took a stroke to get me there. I wish it had not been so hard. However, I am very lucky. It was only a mini stroke, from which I will completely recover – not a full blown stroke. And this huge lesson is the gift of it.