In the early hours of the 21st November 2002, I held my Mams hand as she took her last breath. It was 14 years ago and I was just 18. We were in St Francis Hospice in Raheny; Mam had been there for 3 weeks. She had been sick for a good while and had put on an amazing fight but the cancer had spread everywhere. The days that followed feel like a blur but at the same time are etched so vividly into my mind that it could have been just yesterday. Time moves on regardless of what has happened in our lives, the world keeps spinning and everything goes on as if nothing has changed (it’s very bizarre)
We took time, cried a lot and somehow slipped back into day to day life. As the days, weeks, months and years passed though, I changed. I hardened. I’d also been particularly close to my Nan, my mams mam and when anyone asked of my own mother and I told them she had passed, I quickly followed it with ‘It’s ok, my nan raised me’. What absolute bull. Every time I said those words, I felt guilty and then hardened that bit more. I had detached myself from my Mam because it made it easier for me when she wasn’t going to be around. I told myself that we weren’t really that close, that we didn’t know each other, that she was always busy with work- all of these stories I told myself to harden my heart and to protect myself from the truth.
The truth is I love her and I miss her. The truth is my life changed completely. I miss her running her fingers through my hair as I sat on the floor in front of the couch watching Touched by an Angel and Dr Quinn Medicine Woman on the Disney Channel. I miss our chats and our fights, I miss Lionel Richie and motown music in the background. I missed her at my wedding and it breaks my heart that Sarah will never meet her Nan.
It took me sooo long to admit this truth and I’ll admit that even writing this hurts, my throat is tight, my eyes are watery and I know there will be tears later! But I wanted to share it with you because I know I’m not the only one who does this- who detaches from love, who closes their heart, who puts on armour to protect themselves from feeling all the crappy feelings of hurt, pain, loss, grief, disappointment, anger.
Also, it became a pattern for me in many different areas of life. If I felt like something wouldn’t work out, I would detach and harden. If myself and Colm were having a rough few days, I would detach and harden. Put on the armour and pull up the drawbridge. F**k that, I ain’t getting hurt so I’m not going to care. But I did care. I always care.
I see it all the time.
Loving other people, pursuing careers that you’re passionate about, following your dreams and trusting your heart takes a hell of a lot of courage because we know that it could possibly cause us heartache, disappointment and pain.
Love opens us up to vulnerability.
If you want to avoid the heartache, the disappointment and pain?
Then, you would have to do what I used to do. Detach. That you would have to put on armour to protect yourself. It would mean that people wouldn’t really get to know the ‘real you’ because you would be hiding under a mask or a duvet! It would mean that you wouldn’t have those strong connections with people. It would mean you are not truly honouring yourself and the other person. It would mean that your dreams and your hearts desires would be abandoned.
Over time, I learnt that this wasn’t serving me. I did care and I was tired of carrying this tonne of armour with me. Through coaching and counselling, I learnt to be more expressive, have a better connection between my head, my heart and my voice. I learnt to have the courage to be real and feel.
The bravest people I know are also the people who are the most vulnerable. They are the ones speaking their truth, following their dreams, leaning into their emotions and living and loving with their whole hearts. We admire these people. We look at people who put themselves out there, who are open about who they are and what’s important to them and we respect them.
But we are slow to follow in their footsteps because we don’t want to feel vulnerable!
To allow ourselves to be vulnerable takes a lot of courage, it means that we have to be real. It means that we have to be open and love and express ourselves. It means we have to connect with people. It’s a richness that we all desire in our lives- that true feeling of connection, of being seen, of being who we are. Real Love makes us vulnerable, whether that’s loving our partners, our families, our children or our work but you know what, even understanding that love and vulnerability go hand in hand, now; I’d choose love any day.
How about you?
I’m going out tonight with my gorgeous sis Lyn, to a restaurant that the three of us used to frequent and we’re going to raise a glass to toast the incredible woman that we were so lucky to have as our Mam.
I hope you enjoyed this issue of Progress! I’d love to hear your thoughts on love and vulnerability so drop me a line and let me know!