Part of my life turning upside down was learning I have both a rare health condition called Transverse Myelitis as well as Multiple Sclerosis. Neither condition can be cured, the Multiple Sclerosis may or may not get worse, and I now need to help sustain my current health by injecting medication. Having been someone who has never relied on chemicals to heal my ails, has anxiety over not feeling in control of my body, and has a strong phobia of needles, it has been quite a personal challenge. The process of finding the right medication has been trial and error, and the first brand of medication, unbeknownst to me, was progressively making me very unwell. I was not aware until it hit acute crisis in July. I had to be immediately taken off the drug (and another) to bring me back to safety. It was quite a shocking experience, especially to learn that the medicine I was being asked to trust was more harmful than the illness I was doing my best to manage. I had been asked in consultation how things were going and did not know at the time that the medication was making me so unwell. In the process of the change, I also discovered that the medicine had been hugely limiting my physical capacity each day. My quality of life had been reducing. It has taken a couple of months of very tough struggle to pull myself back from the brink, it was an incredibly awful experience. I've changed to a different drug (albeit taken more frequently), but I have begun recuperating and cannot quite believe the remarkable difference. This first stage of the travel (aside from the art project) was to support my recuperation and also to learn my natural capacity now that I was no longer affected by the previous medication. It has been a gift, widened my awareness; and in the end, I am so fortunate and grateful to still be here in this life to experience it. It brought me to reflecting on how much we as humans are vulnerable on our own. When we are born, we need to rely on something external to be nurtured, nourished, and safe, else we are easy prey to the indiscriminate. Unlike other mammals and animals, we are born incapable of looking after ourselves in a self-protective way and this continues for "years" as opposed to weeks or months. We are truly at the mercy of our environment. As we grow, we need guidance to learn what is safe and what is not, how to conduct ourselves in order to survive (and during this time, we need those who are doing the guiding to be in good standing themselves, else we may not get all of what we need to grow, survive, and thrive). We are vulnerable to misinformation, projected fears, emotions of others, mistakes, manipulation, to being attacked, and to neglect and other forms of abuse without having the ability to stop it, walk away, and keep ourselves safe. Most of the time, we don't even know that we are not safe. As we age, we have to use our experiential knowledge and natural instinct to keep us safe. If we become sick, there are many forms of treatment from holistic to pharmaceutical, but we need to rely on information given to us by others to tell us what is best; we can't just innately know... We can try and see for ourselves, but sometimes that's safe and sometimes it isn't, sometimes we don't know something has affected us dangerously until much later. As we become older and less able to understand and discern what is supportive for us, we need to rely on others yet again to keep surviving because we are vulnerable. We need to rely on others.
"With each passage of human growth we must shed a protective structure [like a hardy crustacean]. We are left exposed and vulnerable—but also embryonic again, capable of stretching in ways we hadn’t known before.” ~ Gail Sheehy
Much fear is born from our vulnerable places, anger evoked in an attempt to protect. Insecurity lurks within us as we try to have faith and trust in others whilst holding awareness of our vulnerabilities and relying on others when perhaps they didn't keep us safe or support what was needed at the time. To be human means to be vulnerable.
A fantastic TED talk from Brene Brown eloquently and so honestly talks about this. The Power of Vulnerability:
"Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light" ~ Brené Brown
Here, also, is an article from her which addresses our vulnerability as the very thing that builds emotional intimacy and how the societal fear of being vulnerable (shame) robs us of our desire to be connected with those we love. Only by sharing our most vulnerable selves can we build truly intimate and fulfilling relationships. How we can stop living disappointed lives... by not avoiding feeling vulnerable.
As humans, we are hardwired to be connected with others. We are designed, naturally intended, to be interdependent with others, but we tend so often to experience fear within our connectedness because we become aware of our vulnerability. The deeper we open our loving, connecting selves with others, the deeper the degree we will experience fear. Fear is symbolic of the existence of deep love just as dark is to light. Societally, we have been taught that being vulnerable is shameful, weak, wrong; however, being vulnerable is at the heart of our very human nature and is the key to authentically learning how to be in this world. I have been spending some time sitting within my own vulnerabilities, feeling into them, exploring and understanding how they have arisen. I have learned that to know your vulnerabilities and accept them "just as such" brings a gentle kindness into our lives and reduces harmful and unhelpful, stunting judgement, giving space for growth. It's ok to be vulnerable. Vulnerability and trust are such tentatively dancing bedfellows (I'm also, as well, saying vulnerability and safety because trusting is about discerning safety). As humans, we often err on the edge of both knowing we are vulnerable and working at trust trying to find the balance and our ability to have faith. To know our experiences of what has and hasn't been safe, where fear may have emulated unsafe; when actually, we have been safe and where we have known safety clearly. Showing our vulnerabilities depends on how secure we feel on the inside. When managed well, vulnerability and trust grow experiences of love and joy, and we need faith in the nature of life to take the chance to find them.
"We’re never so vulnerable than when we trust someone—but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy.” Walter Anderson
Again, there is so much to explore artistically and I hope that the themes begin to connect up as I go. So... more later on the subject.