Vulnerability has been a buzzword for awhile. The concept isn’t new. The struggle for intimacy has been the root of our relationship issues forever, hasn’t it? And vulnerability is the key to intimacy. I can’t have close relationships if I don’t engage. Show up. Be myself. Risk being hurt. Open my heart.
I’m in a time in my life when I am physically vulnerable. And as I age further, I will be very fortunate if I don’t give up some degree of independence. In fact, I already have. But giving myself over emotionally is different and just as difficult.
My parents were not an example of vulnerability. They raised me with many good values. They showed me who and how to be in the world. And they didn’t teach me intimacy. There were no chinks in their parental armor. In the story line they were upright people who didn’t make mistakes. I don’t blame them for this – I believe it was generational.
And It’s hard to retain one’s role as a parent to adult children and maintain an intimate relationship with them. it’s necessary to expose yourself. To be human. (Kids know the truth anyway.)
I don’t pretend to have this mastered as a parent. Willingly surrendering my position as “parental model” is effective to some degree. We talk about how young I was. My ignorance is probably legend.
My kids are well aware that I’m far from perfect – I’m good with that. Some things I share make them uncomfortable because of the way they were raised. (Or perhaps I feel uncomfortable and overlay their response with mine.) But I am trying in little ways. Exposing my fears, my hopes, my likes, and dislikes.
I think about intimacy in relationship to my grandchildren. In some ways it is difficult to reach across the generations. In other ways it is easier because they’ve never seen me as parent. And they have been parented differently.
My granddaughters can talk to me about their lives and hear the flaws in my behavior and relationships without much difficulty. I don’t think they share everything – and I still protect my history, somewhat; but there is more of a true intimacy. My children might be surprised at the stories the next generation could tell. The difficulty is to be real in the scant time I have with them. They have their own lives and can live them beautifully without grandparents in the foreground.
Oh well! I’ll keep trying to be my authentic self – no matter who is watching and listening. I’ll try to remember to lead with my heart. Then I will always respond just right.