Lessons in Vulnerability

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.”  ~ Madeleine L’Engle

I’ve spent most of my life being strong. Being strong for others, being strong for causes, being strong because if I broke I feared that I would never get up again, or that the meager gains I’d made would be lost. Sometimes I had to fake that feeling of strength.  I had to wade in, teeth gritted, heart pounding with fear, and do the very thing I was afraid to do. Sometimes I’ve had to be who others needed me to be, even when I doubted that I could. That’s how I learned courage, and resilience, and self reliance. And all of those are good things.

But no-one can be strong all the time. That’s a recipe for burnout.  Or madness.

And every once in a while, in the middle of being strong, life will send a reminder that strength, like every other state of BEing, is impermanent.

This last week I got my reminder.  I came down with a virus.  At first it didn’t seem that serious – a sore throat, swollen glands, a little fatigue.  I dosed up on herbs and vitamins, ate well, had early nights and kept on going.  I had a full week of work ahead of me, after all…  But within a few days I ended up glassy-eyed with fever.  My head was hollow, and I felt so very strange – weak and detached from myself somehow.

I thought it would pass.  I put myself to bed.

It got worse. Fever, nightmares, the feeling of being on the other side of a wall of glass, not quite able to find a way through to my sane self and my ability to think clearly.

I cancelled a day’s worth of work (and I felt bad about it!), lay in bed, still feverish and disconnected, but convinced myself I would be fine.

I succumbed to a second day of rest, sent my husband back to the farm while I stayed in Brisbane, accepted soup from friends – embarrassed by their kindness.

Tough it out, I said to myself. But the fever wouldn’t leave.

I ended up with arrthymia. My heart, which has been so well behaved of late, woke me up with its flip-flopping and thumping and sudden stalling.  This is never a good thing with a healthy heart, let alone one that has suffered as mine has these past few years.

I lay in bed, gripped with fear, telling myself it would pass and that I would be fine. I am never one to make a fuss.  I hate to draw attention to myself.  I lay there in the dark discussing with myself how bad it would have to be before I might need go to hospital.

Image from hdwallpapersdesktop.com

My heart. My heart, right here in the middle of my chest… Writhing and kicking and racing and slowing.  It wasn’t like the pain I’ve experienced in the past. My heart was doing this crazy dance and I had no control over it.  Nothing I thought or did made any difference at all.

It finally settled down, although I then had a broken sleep. There is something quite terrifying about your heart misbehaving. If your heart doesn’t work, the rest of you doesn’t either.  All I could think was that I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready for this to be it.  By morning I’d convinced myself I was overreacting.

Then the arrythmia came back. This time it was the middle of the day and I was home alone, sitting in bed, one hand on my chest, trying not to panic.

Superwoman, with a full diary and a dicky heart…  Superwoman calling her cardiologist.  Superwoman back at hospital getting checked over.  Superwoman being given stern warnings, and promising to go straight to Emergency at the first hint of another ‘episode’.

This week I was reminded, in no gentle way, of the ongoing fragility of life. Of my own vulnerability. Of how everything can change in an instant.

Of how I need to remember, and live by, my values and priorities.

We are, all of us, vulnerable. That’s actually a beautiful thing. It forces us to be in the moment, to entwine our lives with others – to live with open hearts.

To be honest, I’m shaken. I couldn’t even meditate for a few days. Instead I sat and watched the birds, or the sunlight dappling the ground with shadows. I tried to tell myself it was all okay.

And it is. In life I’m fine.  In death I’ll be fine.  It’s all fine. A day or two removed and I’m seeing that more and more clearly.

But I’m still wide open and heart-felt and raw.  I’m questioning everything, even as I’m accepting that it’s all fine.  I’m looking over my shoulder, and trying not to.

I’m vulnerable.  And sometimes that scares me. Even though it’s true for all of us. And was ever so.

Image from layoutsparks.com

34 thoughts on “Lessons in Vulnerability

  1. I’m so sorry to read ths Nicole, I had no idea what was up, what a nightmare to go through! All through this you kept on posting selflessly about gratitude – how?! You are very strong and courageous and I’m so relieved you’re feeling better now, but please look after yourself. You’re so important to so many people, such an inspiration and a warm and beautiful person. We are all so vulnerable, even when we feel invincible, and it’s all down to that little ticker doing its job, something most of us rarely think about. I would have been completely panicking in your position, and unlike you I wouldn’t have soldiered on bravely, but your health is far more important than keeping appointments or doing your job diligently. If you don’t have your health, what do you have? I’m really glad you’re over the worst of this dreadful time but of course it’s bound to have left you shaken and upset. I’m thinking of you and sending you love and warm thoughts, and a nice big hug. You are much loved and very special.xo

    • Ah, sweet Lorna. I can blog from bed!

      It makes me feel useful, and to be thinking and writing about gratitude felt extra important with everything else that was going on. And to be honest, it was a comfort – to lie in bed with my gratitude rock and hold it to my heart and FEEL the energy we are all sending each other.

      I’m home at my farm now, with my darling cows and peaceful views from every window. I’ll be just fine.

      Anyway, I can’t croak it just yet. I haven’t visited YOU and I haven’t finished writing my books!

      Big, big love to you, my friend,
      Nicole
      xx

      • I’m very glad to hear that your lovely cows and relaxing views are helping with the healing process and that you’re resting up nicely. What you say about the gratitude feeling extra important makes perfect sense. You bring so much positivity to your blog and, as Lucinda says, you practice what you preach. There are a lot of good feelings heading towards you from all over the globe, and I’m delighted that you’re receiving and using that energy. You have a lot still to do, as you say, and I can’t wait to read your books and pour you a nice cup of tea one of these days! xo

  2. Nicole you are amazing and so strong. I have been putting you in my meditations and I saw you sitting bolt upright one day? You are amazing how you keep blogging the challenge was amazing and i understand about writing from the bed- you are such an inspiration and i am looking forward to coming to visit you soon at the farm maybe on a market weekend?
    Sounds lie you have some ME time still for you sending you healing love and big hugs
    Namaste
    Suzie xxoo

    • Yep, that’s about how it looked, Suzie… Thanks for the healing energies. :D

      I loved blogging the challenge, and after inviting so many people along I wasn’t going to let you all down for any reason other than death, LOL. Seriously, writing from bed is no hardship, and now I’m home I’m looking forward to some lovely healing energy from my farm, lots of cuddles and sunshine, and maybe a book or two.
      Market weekends sound like a plan – so keep me posted.
      Much love to you
      Nicole xx

  3. Sending you much love and healing.
    And a big, big Thankyou!! For the gratitude challenge. Which I plan to continue doing everyday… You take care and rest up!! ❤❤

  4. thank you Nicole. . . .so beautifully expressed. . .and written. . .I was right there with you. You know how to take care of yourself. . .so all is good. . . . .Life such a fragile dance. . .. one I’m so familiar with. . . .much love to you dear Nicole. . . .marilynxxxx

  5. Beloved Nicole…whew! glad you didn’t leave us yet…what would we do without you…not to mention your Hubbie, your doggies and your family? Strength to soldier on at all costs rings a bell for me as well and then your soul steps in and gives you a big dose of reality. Take care of your precious heart sweetheart and so glad your home here in ‘Rainbow Country’ to heal & nurture. Big hugs of LOVE….XXXXX

  6. Oh our dear darling Nicole, you are so special and strong and beautiful even your tricky heart. Know that you are loved, arrhythmia is such a warning. My husband has had it for about 6 years and it is managed and he is just fine, I am so pleased that we found it cause now he has better protection against strokes and heart attacks. Each person is different of course but I am sure you will be getting the best advice. I am sending you lot’s of love and healing light. Bless you Nicole you do so much for others it is our turn to hold you in our hearts. xxxx

  7. lots of recovery time sounds good! hope you’re feeling much better, but don’t be afraid to empty out that busy diary if needed, we all understand that you and your family are the number one priority! much love sx

  8. Nicole, what a powerful and honest post. Having gratitude, true gratitude, in the face of adversity and fear–that’s the real test, isn’t it? And you’ve proven that you practice what you preach, and that makes your gratitude challenge all the more poignant. It’s equally important for you to give yourself permission to heal, and to accept healing energy (even when it’s a pot of soup) from the others who love you. I’m also a die-hard believer in the power of prayer, and I’m praying for you, your family, your health, and your emotional well-being. Hugs and love to you. –Lucinda xo

  9. I’m so sorry to hear about your heart troubles but find you so inspiring for dealing with it the way you have! You give so much to those of us who read your blog, that I hope you’ll make sure to give yourself time to heal- we want to keep you around! :)

  10. I’ve learned, the hard way, Nicole, that even illness or dis-ease can be a lesson – and one for which we should be grateful, because it reaffirms the preciousness of life. Your wonderful teachings on gratitude have made such an impact that all the love you’ve imparted to us will find its way back to you (your heart). If you think of this recent episode as yet another lesson in gratitude, perhaps that will make it less scary. Rest easy, rest long, rest well.

  11. I appreciate your honestya dn candor Nicole, thank you for sharing this with everyone, it is truly ebautiful and menaingful. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Bless you, Samantha

  12. Oh I am so concerned for you Nicole! Your heart is so huge with generosity and it seems to want to have a nap. Please let me know you’re getting better. Love Julie

  13. You give so much FROM your heart Nicole it would seem it needed to remind you it needed a rest. In the only way it knew how. Sending a big bisou and so pleased to read that you are drawing as much positive energy and vibes from so many diverse things xo

  14. Nicole, I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the Gratitude Challenge. I was in a really bad place when we started but I persevered and somehow managed to find the good in each day. It has made a huge difference to my attitude and outlook and I am sooo very grateful to you , thank you, thank you, thank you x Secondly I also would like to say that I think that ‘ The Queen Of Hearts ‘ is just the perfect name for you, it fits you like a glove! Sending you lots of love and many thanks xxxxx:)

  15. Thank you dear Nicole that you show us your vulnerability and that we can accept ourselves even when we feel lost. You can be strong in your weekness. We are not our bodies. Take care of yoursellf, I send you my love, Jetske (-:

  16. Oh….I hope you’re feeling better Nicole, and that they could give you some medication for your heart.
    We live in a world where vulnerability is not accepted. We always have to be strong and perform our 200%. I think it’s crazy.
    Take care Nicole !

  17. Nicole, As a recovering superwoman, I empathize with you. It is very hard to be vulnerable and admit that something may not be working properly, or that we might be sick. My love and gentle thoughts to you as you embrace your vulnerability and continue to bring awareness to your life. Love and hugs to you. Brenda

  18. I hope you’re feeling a lot better now. I know very well what you’re talking about. I have congestive heart failure and never take any symptom seriously. Same thing for the depression symptoms. It’s so hard sometimes to seek help.

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