vulnerable…and loving


When I was a young girl, I had an argument with my parents that led to me storming into my bedroom, picking up a clock radio, and smashing it against the wall while screaming, “You’ll never hurt me again!”

What had they done? What had I done? I can’t answer either of these questions but as I look back over my life, I see how afraid I’d been…afraid of being hurt by those people whom I loved and how I’d allowed that fear to gradually build a hard, defensive, shell around my heart.

I can also recall times when that shell felt good and strong and protective…and maybe it was. Maybe it served a purpose when I was so young and fearful, but the older I became, the more I realized that fear (which I almost always expressed as anger) was too small.

I used to sense that my life was not expansive enough, but the answer, I thought, was in doing something different; new work, travel, experiences, exercise, diet…whatever. And while these new activities added some sparkle and energy to my life, I knew deep down that I wasn’t living fully.

My breakthroughs have always come by surprise and often in the most unexpected ways. The last major breakthrough came in the summer of 2016 when I had my heart broken by someone whom I’d deemed incapable of hurting me in that way. And the reason that I didn’t think I could be hurt so deeply was because I’d never really committed my heart to him. That “vow” that I’d taken as a child was still functioning as a shield to love…the kind of love that demands vulnerability…and feels incredibly risky.

I hadn’t known how afraid I was until I was faced with a hurt deep enough to break me open…. but it did break me open and I allowed it to happen. I knew it was happening for me, not to me, and as the days, weeks and months passed, I hoped that the opening would be a one-time deal and that I wouldn’t revert back to self-protective, fearful, thoughts, but this hasn’t been my experience. When I got sober in 1986, it was a lighting bolt, life-changing moment: I never wanted to drink again, and I never have.

But this new opening has not unfolded in that way. I’ve had moments of intense anger (fear) that have made me feel like a victim who needs to protect herself from further pain. I’ve had moments of suspicion which have led to anger (fear) and yet again, the desire to self-protect and proclaim, “You’ll never hurt me again!”

But what would I be running from if not myself? I would be running from thoughts and feelings, my thoughts and feelings, that tell me I am not safe.

So as I walk this new path, I walk with the awareness that there is nothing to lose but my old belief that I am not safe and that I must protect myself. I cannot protect myself from getting hurt unless I also agree to limit my capacity to love and I am no longer willing to do that.

Several nights ago, I dreamt that I had escaped the clutches of an evil woman only to find myself back at her house. As I stood before her she said, “You have changed me” and I knew that I had nothing to fear…that she was a friendly force.

I am vulnerable and it feels like a freedom that I am just beginning to grasp the significance and power of. I invite you to join me on this path of trust…trust in our deepest essence and its wisdom to lead us to more life, love, and an inner peace that cannot be explained but can only be lived.


“When we fight with our failing

we ignore the entrance to the shrine itself

and wrestle with the guardian, fierce figure on the side of good.”

David Whyte


I’ve had this quote of David Whyte’s on my computer for a while…without ever looking him up or reading anything he’d written. Below is his TED talk, A Lyrical Bridge between Past Present and Future, and it is incredible. You can also find it on YouTube.–a





6 thoughts on “vulnerable…and loving”

  1. Mary, darned if you haven’t done it again. I have Wh.F.Farm on my toolbar and last night I clicked on it to make sure I had not missed any posts from you…and here you are today, coming into my inbox. How many times has this happened….

    Cautiously, I’d like to say I more than agree with your premise of today’s thought and I admire you more than anything in being able to open up and leave yourself vulnerable to that openness. However, I can’t relate that I’m up to making the grade with you on that…years ago, after a suicide with my late husband, I was left bankrupt….unknowingly… with two small children to raise and a mortgage on the home in my name which had been forged meaning I was going to loose my home as well. The signature on the document was quickly proven not to be mine but the bank involved me legally to defend myself for four years and in the end, I had to sign a release saying I would never take them to court for their actions towards me. And that in a nutshell is why I protect myself financially….it’s a shell, as you say, it involves my emotions…it doesn’t rear its head up often but when it does, you can see how fresh it is as the day in 1972 when the police came to my door. I don’t live with it everyday, it’s in the past but loving someone and being hurt by them is one thing, financially protecting oneself doesn’t equate and yet it does, doesn’t it….we don’t forget the things that hurt us. Treading new waters, feeling released from keeping some things inside us, is cleansing. This is one I won’t cleanse my soul of, but other hurts, I’ve gradually learned to let go and it is good. One thing in my favour: I am banking with the bank that years ago tried to take my home from me. I’m a good customer, I love interfacing with the young bank tellers, in fact, it’s the highlight of my day to find them working there, we laugh, I flirt (I can do that at 80, no-one takes me seriously)….so in a way, the energy is cleared to some degree for me…except, I do not like lawyers…and I have a perfectly nice brother-in-law who apologizes for being a lawyer…!!
    Good to see your posting coming in…I’ve wondered where you were and what was happening in your life.
    SandyP, in Canada

  2. Gulp! I like how you bring up fear/ anger…, would live to explore more. Been asking self- “ why am I so angry ?” Ah ha- you brought it forth- it’s because of fear. Sigh..,
    D Whyte is really a force of nature, and enchanting! Urge you to follow him as he does some speaking.

  3. Healthy fear can be protective: fear of heart failure sent me to my cardiologist this week; fear of Breast Cancer guides me to my annual mammogram. Fear of some people at some times is a gut reaction based on healthy intuition or old tapes of real bad experiences. I too had a dream recently of a former colleague who had always been my adversary. In my dream I was admiring her for how gracefully and healthily she was aging; she was swimming the full length of an Olympic swimming pool with long strokes and I said, “She works at it”. The dream was more about my admiration for a way to go and be than competition and frustration with someone I really had a lot in common with.

  4. A beautiful reminder that we are constantly breaking ourselves open again and again. Thank you as always Mary. I was just thinking a day or so ago, we haven’t heard from Mary in awhile and today here you are.

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