TO BE VULNERABLE
Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make
sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it
carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe
in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless,
airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable,
irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable. -- C.S. Lewis
12 January 2002
The above quote is one of the prompts for this month's "Random Acts of Journaling."
It struck a cord with me. One of the reasons it struck me was that another quote of
C.S. Lewis (or at least one from Shadowlands, the story of Lewis and the wife he
lost to cancer) is one that I have used countless times and one that sustains me in times
of pain: "The pain now is part of the happiness then" (or something like that)
There is a price we pay for anything. In matters of the heart, pain is the price we pay
for pleasure. When you think of it, sooner or later we will lose everyone that we love,
whether by death, by separation, by break-up, by slow fading away.
The intensity of the pain is in proportion to the intensity of the love. For example, I
loved most of the foreign students who stayed with us. It was very painful to send them
back to their own countries, knowing I would probably never see them again. As the years have passed and we have lost contact with
each other, there is a pain that they are no longer in my life--but it is a little pain, a
passing pain, a pain I barely notice.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the death of our two sons. A pain that is sharp,
intense, and unremitting. You can put it aside for lengths of time, but you can be certain
that there will always be "moments" when it comes rushing back. It's a pain that
will live with me for the rest of my life.
The only way to avoid pain is to close that door to your emotions and lock it with a
huge lock....and then throw away the key. But what a way to live. A life in shades of
grey, with no colors. TV before the NBC peacock!
Opening ourselves to loving someone lets in the sunlight...Dorothy opening the door of
her sepia-toned Kansas house into the bright, intense color of Oz.
I think of "moments" with David and Paul -- Toddler David running up the
street and throwing himself into my arms, covering my face with sticky kisses. Young Paul
singing "Gary, Indiana" in his first big role. Teen aged Dave with eyes glowing,
dancing at a Lawsuit concert. Teen age Paul rushing home to tell me he'd been selected for
the Jazz Choir. Adult Dave with his huge smile, his big hugs and his wonderful laugh.
Adult Paul calling me in Houston because he just needed to talk with his Mom. ...more
moments than I can count. Beautiful moments. Moments of brilliant color.
May 18, 1996. April 20, 1999. The days the color died. The somber group gathered around
a tiny plot in a cemetery, shivering slightly in the wind, the grey skies matching the
If I could go back and consciously make the choice, whether to give birth to those kids
or not, knowing the pain that was ahead, would I have?
I loved Gilbert. He was my dearest friend for many years. I think of the moments of
color I shared with him--learning computers, watching cartoons, sitting and
talking--knowing that he didn't open up to anyone else, sitting behind him during a show
and watching him conduct. Moments of brilliant color.
July 14, 1986. The day the color died. Standing on the deck of a small boat in the
middle of the San Francisco Bay, the grey fog swirling around us (is it always grey at
funerals), watching his remains become part of the bay floor.
If I could go back and consciously make the choice whether to allow him to become such
a part of my heart, knowing the pain that lay ahead, would I have?
The answer to both questions is unequivocally yes. Yes..yes..yes! I could have been
safe. I could have made the choice not to give birth. I could have maintained a
professional relationship with Gilbert, kept our friendship casual, kept him at arms
What joy I would have missed!! It's the joy, the memories of beautiful times that
sustains me in periods of pain. I wonder what sustains people who have never opened
themselves to the beautiful color--where are their memories?
Loss is inevitable. There is an end to every beginning. Sometimes the end comes soon,
sometimes later, but it will very definitely end. If I have the choice, the thing I want
to carry with me at the end is not a lifetime of holding people at arm's length because I
don't want to risk hurting. I want to embrace life, to give myself to the joy, to take
each day, one day at a time and to know that when the pain comes, I have a lot of
wonderful memories to keep me warm on grey days. If I protect myself from the pain, I will
never experience the joy. I don't want the sepia of Kansas...I want the brilliant color of Oz.
The pain then is part of the happiness now. That's the deal.