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  • Writer's pictureTracey Lee

U and V

Uneasiness and vulnerability

In a complex world uneasiness is almost unavoidable. That feeling that isn’t panic, anxiety or stress but something that feels almost instinctive. It’s a restlessness and sense of worry that comes from a myriad of sources. Physical and mental exhaustion, pressure from expectations, sleeplessness, examinations, medical events, unfamiliarity and change are a few of the contributing factors to uneasiness.

I love the word disquietude. It essentially means uneasiness but it has a sense of the dissatisfaction that comes with a lack of ease. And what is ease? Does it mean everything is easy? Or that one is at peace with the world around them? Or we are just in the lay back frame of mind? And who are those people who are experiencing this…are they conscious?

That was envy talking. I’ve always wanted to be serene and have mastered a Zen-like existence but as I was endowed with a significant capacity for disquietude I spend much of my time trying to quell the habit of building a mountain out of a molehill. Take for example a recent health event. I had a cataract operation last year and in the last month, after a year of precision sight, things went blurry. I had unease in bucket loads. I mean the internal workings of my disquieted mind could have lit up a small village. By the time I made it to the specialist I had convinced myself that I had a myriad of unsolvable problems. Being blind at the top of the list. Perhaps I’d moved into panic. But the uneasiness was dispelled by a rather calm doctor who simply announced that he would fire a laser into my eye. I expressed my disquietude with clarity. He proceeded. All was well.

On more a serious, and less hysterical note, perhaps we are rightly uneasy. We might all be sensing something is not right and to quote (reluctantly) Star Wars, ‘there is a disturbance in the force.’ The world is experiencing wide reaching dysphoria. The environment and climate are in a declining state and many of us are experiencing eco-anxiety. The pitting of the powerful and against the powerless in several theatres of war can only cause us to be worried about where this is heading, not to mention our breaking hearts at the loss of innocent lives. And socio-economically we should collectively sense the terrible tide that has turned to create homelessness, unrest and disconnection. They are real things that should make us feel uneasy.

The response to uneasiness is often worry. The most useless of the human emotions. It takes away the joy of the present and disallows common sense action. In fact at times it paralyses us from action. The answer to uneasiness…do one thing that contributes to change, be good to someone with no expectation of reciprocity and for those of us who live in safe places, with a roof over our heads and food on the plate perhaps we could take our personal disquietude down a notch or two.

The last being advise to myself.

As a rule, men worry more about what they can't see than about what they can.

And vulnerability.

It comes from the Latin ‘vulnus’ which means wound. The definition refers to the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally. Not exactly appealing as a concept but it is utterly necessary if we are to ultimately exist successfully in human society. If not we have to sit in a room and not move.

Generally we are okay with our physical vulnerability. We can discuss the weaknesses of the human physiology when faced with the impact of the cold, the heat, disease, punishment, the ricketiness of ageing and failing eyesight (re comment in uneasiness regarding laser man!). We expect to be vulnerable physically when under duress from the dangers of the environment and the limits of our bodies. But our emotional vulnerability is a whole other box of dice. And we have come a long way regarding our ability to show our emotional tenderness but still we attempt to put up the barriers to keep the hurt at bay.

Why is it easier to be furious and act badly than say I’m afraid? Why is it simpler to be disparaging that say I’m lonely? Why lash out at the weak rather than speak about your feelings of inadequacy? I think it’s because we are really afraid of rejection, of seeming to be weak and failing to meet our own expectations of being perfect. We fear that feeling of being vulnerable.

Vulnerability is an uncomfortable feeling. It feels like standing in the spotlight of life and being asked ‘who are you?’ ‘What right do you have to be here?’ Those are terrifying questions. Presenting your authentic self, the warts and all version, not the ‘instagramable’ you, is difficult. There is no filter, no flattering lighting, and no supportive soundtrack. It is just you. And some of us do what ever we can to avoid it.

But to experience life fully one must be prepared to be vulnerable, to be wounded. To survive the pains and losses that might be thrown at us. When you try and fail, fall in and out of love, get rejected, replaced, forgotten or criticised you are wounded. But you are not done. You have simply showed up with the best version of yourself, learned a lot more and had to limp off for a little rest before trying again. That is being vulnerable. That is living.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable. C.S. Lewis

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