From David Whyte (audio here).
“We tend to think of vulnerability as a kind of weakness, something to be walked around. But it’s interesting to look at the origin of the word, from the Latin word “vulneras,” meaning “wound.” It’s really the place where you’re open to the world, whether you want to be or not. You’re just made that way. You were just grown that way. You feel that way. You feel the pain of others that way, and you feel your own pain that way. And it’s actually interesting to think about it not as a weakness but as a faculty for understanding what’s about to happen and where you need to go — the ability to follow the path of vulnerability. And yet, as human beings, we’re constantly hoping that we can find a pathway we can follow right to the end, which will never disappear; where we won’t have our hearts broken. We first of all try that in romance. Every time you have a new relationship, you say, “At last, the person who will not break my heart.”
No. You’ve chosen them out for that exact core competency. Why? Because you care about them. Anything you care about will break your heart. It will move out of your line of control and understanding at times.
Then we go into our work, and we hope, in work, with the armored professionality of a vocation, that we’ll be held immune from the heartbreaks of life. But if you’re sincere about your work, you should not know how to proceed, at times. That tells you you’re sincere. You should not know how to get from here to there.
And that puts you into a proper relationship with the world. Why? Because you have to ask for help. You have to make the invitation to the people who will help you create the conversation, which will help you follow that path of vulnerability into the world and give your gift to others along the way.
Then we have parenting. And the first thought is to bring a child into the world, to bring joy into the world and to bring joy to you. But you’re also bringing your own particular form of intimate heartbreak into your life. There’s never been a mother or father, since the beginning of time, who hasn’t had their heart broken by their child. And they don’t even need to do anything spectacular.
But usually, they do, do something spectacular. But all they really need to do is move away from you, grow out of the child you first knew, grow out of infancy, grow out of their adolescence, and then, leave the door. And then they live with you, as spies and saboteurs for years, watching your every psychological move.
Until one day, when you have your back turned to them in the kitchen, one day when you’re making something for them, the emotional stiletto goes in exactly the right place, and you say, “How did you know exactly where to place it?” And they say, “I’ve been watching you.” [laughs] You can’t have a child without being humiliated. They will see your flaws. They will see where you are not held together properly.”