blog, monthly theme

Latent Lollygagger: Limits on Vulnerability

OR, the ways I’m being tested

OR, the things I’m learning

This month’s theme is Vulnerability and Trust

I’m exhausted.

You are, too, I’m sure.

This is exhausting.

Part of me wants to write about something other than COVID-19. All of me wants to think about something other than COVID-19.

That’s a tall order when every aspect of life seems to be influenced by it.

My commitment is to keep with the monthly theme of vulnerability and trust. As I think about those concepts in the context of the worldwide pandemic, I wonder what they may have to do with the intense anger, the nearly obsessive indignation and self-righteousness, that I feel when I witness others not taking social distancing rules seriously, when I can’t stay six feet away from someone on a path because they refuse to move, when I learn of “pacts” between families and see picnics in the park or on the beach, when healthcare professionals don’t have the equipment they need, when people hoard toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

Photo by Joel Mott on Unsplash

I could keep going. My brain automatically finds all the rule-breakers and selfishness.

It would be obvious to say I am having a hard time trusting. But it’s more than that.

I think it has to do with the limits of my own vulnerability.

It takes vulnerability to be compassionate to those making different decisions—decisions I categorize as “wrong.”

When I reach the limit of my vulnerability, I switch into fix-it mode. I see a problem, I want to solve it. Solving it makes me feel productive and useful. And it removes the focus from me to everyone else.

So I spend a lot of time looking for problems, and then a lot of time thinking of solutions.

And many times those solutions are obvious to me but totally out of my control: they rely on other people changing their behavior. If everyone just stayed home like they were supposed to… if companies manufactured more equipment… if leadership made different decisions…

We all do it, have those conversations with like-minded friends and “solve the world’s problems” in a half hour.

But this locks us into a narrow mindset that relies on others changing which is an impossible place to be. Of course I will feel frustrated when I require others to change in order to carry out my solutions.

Yes, it takes a certain kind of vulnerability to pivot, to say, “What can I do that doesn’t depend on anyone else?”

I can choose where I walk and run and, yes it sucks and I can get annoyed at the fact I can’t run on my normal routes… and I can be grateful that at least I can run around the streets of my neighborhood because car traffic is lighter. I can be an example rather than a preacher. I can find ways to use my words to help others.

I can remember that everyone is scared and anxious and not thinking clearly.

I don’t want to totally release the anger, because I am truly angry at the system that makes it possible for such disparities in access to healthcare and supplies and safety to exist. I am truly angry at incompetent and dangerous federal leadership. I am truly angry at the trend of individualism over collective benefit.

It takes vulnerability for me to correctly place my anger and not lash out at people for “disobeying” the rules I have in place in my own head. It takes vulnerability for me to know my brain has the tendencies it does to find problems and latch onto them.

We are all being tested every day, every moment. Ironically, it takes more vulnerability to make decisions that benefit other people than it does to benefit only ourselves. It takes vulnerability to accept our limitations and our hubris.

What scares you the most or lifts you up right now? Comment below or on my Facebook page.

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