Beauty in Vulnerability—Looking in the Mirror
By Nita Gilger
When anesthesia goes into my veins during a medical procedure, I know I am completely vulnerable during the time I am being given care. Such was the case recently while undergoing routine tests that had been delayed during this past pandemic year. I am grateful to say all went well and I am blessed with great health. But what about being vulnerable when I am just trying to live my life in the normal course of things? Can vulnerability be beautiful?
John O’ Donohue writes about this in his book entitled Beauty. He says when we become vulnerable, any ideal of perfect image of ourselves tends to fall away. We all need a certain level of idealism in our lives to keep hope and excellence alive. Most of us want to realize what is best in ourselves. Who doesn't want to reach beyond our known limitations to something new and surprising? And yet, there is a certain beauty and profound becoming that can happen when our ideals allow a kind of hospitality towards our woundedness, weakness, failures, and humanity.
Fortunately, I have not been too much infected with the virus of perfectionism. Some perfectionism may be good but when it becomes so entrenched that it slows life to a halt or is debilitating, then perhaps, some modification is warranted or would be freeing.
O'Donohue says this:
It is a wonderful day in a life when one is finally able to stand before the long, deep mirror of one's own reflection and view oneself with appreciation, acceptance, and forgiveness. On that day one breaks through falsity of images and expectation which have blinded one to one's spirit. One can only learn to see who one is when one learns to view oneself with the most intimate and forgiving compassion. Such a glimpse of one's essence can utterly rejuvenate a life and enable one to find the hidden wisdom in the beauty of the flaw.
Yesterday, as I stood before the mirror in the surgery area to change into my hospital gown, I looked at a woman whose body shows some signs of aging. A few sags and bags, age spots, wrinkles and grey hair were reflected back to me. I looked at a woman who is nearing the age that colon cancer got the upper hand with her father's life. There I was naming the reality of what the image in the mirror revealed to me. But as I stood there in a place of total honesty and vulnerability, I also thought.... You, my dear, are a beloved child of God with many ways to live into the world with Spirit gifts and love. You, Nita, may have more weathered, aged skin than you once did but your wounded, vulnerable heart is more real and wise than any other time in your life. You, lady in the looking glass, have much beauty to still give and experience. You can view yourself with appreciation, acceptance, and forgiveness.
And so, I did.