Beep…beep…woosh. Beep…woosh. The sounds of a hospital room at night are at best predictable at worst terrifying. In between the two feels like madness. DING. He’s fine. I can see his stats on the monitor. The nurse set the alarm for his blood oxygen level to 86. DING. Urgent, muffled, voices are repeating codes while rushing past our closed door. I can see my 11-year old’s stats at the nurses’ station flashing yellow, green, yellow, red. Ding.
It’s 3 am. He wakes up irritated and has to go to the bathroom. His numbers look okay so I take off his monitors and oxygen to navigate the iv stand into the bathroom. I wait behind him, both of us pretending he has enough privacy but too tired to really care. He turns and we start to make the trek back to bed when he looks up at me…pauses…his eyes go blank as the word “help” slips out of his mouth before he falls into the wall.
I get super focused then cagey in situations like this. Constantly calculating how to fix. Searching for the tiniest detail, action, code that will unlock the solution. What is the ticket that will break us out of this moment? Too long sitting in the focus and a feral type of instinct kicks in and I’m screeching to regain control over an environment that rationally or irrationally seems hell bent to harm.
Days then Weeks
When this moment of vulnerability cascades into days then weeks, the pressure really showed what being laid bare does to best intentions. Suddenly, most bets were off and the illusion of control cast aside. I want my child to feel better. I want what made my child sick to not exist. I want my child’s organs not to fail. The rage around the situation that put him in the hospital wants to fully take over. I pray. Please hold my rage so I can take care of what is at hand. Please carry this fire so I don’t sever relationships before this is sorted.
Believe it, I fully buy into the benefits of vulnerability and the power behind choosing it. There’s an amount of self-awareness and willingness to feel uncomfortable that is required when practicing it. Much healing and relational growth can happen with this skill set.
Here’s why vulnerability sucks. Sometimes it shows up unexpectedly and uninvited. It forces its way into day 6 of your son having covid in the form of a chest x-ray riddled with covid pneumonia. No thanks vulnerability, I’m not interested in growing today.
This type of rudeness then moves in and wants to show everyone your deepest darkest fear. Ones you might not even know exist. When you don’t choose vulnerability the sorted gets disorganized and protected parts feel like they are laid bare for all to see.
When my youngest got the news that his blood oxygen level was high enough to head home after days of antibiotics, steroids, blood thinners, and infectious disease doctors checking in we both sighed as I put the car in drive. Whispering “thank you God” I turned the wheel towards home. Not realizing my relief was audible, I hear from the passenger seat “thank you that two of us are leaving, not just one.” The jolting vulnerability of the past couple weeks poured over me and the fear I had been staving off was ready to be addressed. The anger asking to be remedied by action.
Desperation to Regain Control
To magnify it all, the hospital stay confronted me with the reality that this feeling, this desperation to regain control, the raging fire to blow it all up until something changes, anything changes, is the feeling a ton of disenfranchised people feel. People being dragged from their cars because of their skin color, people left without choices because of their socioeconomic status, mommas choosing which kid gets to eat today. That’s vulnerable.
I’m embarrassed to point out that it took three weeks of covid mess to remind me that there are more people than not who are forced into vulnerable scenarios every day. Constantly. No wonder people behave and make the moves they make. Our four days in the hospital is absolutely not the same situation, no buts, yet it redirected my thoughts toward empathy.
Fear is a Powerful Motivator
Thinking about the part of vulnerability draped in fear reminds me loss of control or lack of control can make people do and say some caraaazeeee stuff. Admitted or not, the fear that accompanies lack of choices can be a powerful motivator. I don’t have to agree with the behaviors when people are functioning in this fear driven state of vulnerability, but it does help me understand.
People refuse to get vulnerable because it feels really freaking scary. It is not the safest place to start anything. A lot of us are in situations that are inherently vulnerable but completely out of our control. When interacting with pretty much anyone, let’s all remember that maybe a weird interaction you had or the hard line they draw about a topic that makes absolutely no sense to you is probably coming from a place of vulnerability that hasn’t been or cannot be sorted. Instead of tossing facts at them or arguing logic maybe try to find time for eye contact and loan them a moment of respite.
Beep…woosh. “His eyes went blank, and he fell into the bathroom wall while he whimpered for help,” I sob telling the pediatrician on duty that night. Bending down, trying to meet my eyes she found my shoulder with her hand through all the protective layers. Beep…beep…woosh. In the shadows of the blinking monitors she says “I bet that was really scary. I want to tell you why that happened and why he is doing okay now.” No hard facts or you shouldn’t haves. She saw the humanity in my vulnerable moment, and she met me in it. Ding.
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