Lent Day 4 - #UULent reflection word: Vulnerability
Ooof. I have a love-hate relationship with vulnerability. I’ve been reflecting on what to post all day. I’ve watched Brene Brown’s vulnerability TED talk probably a hundred times. As a Minister, my work naturally places me in spaces of deep vulnerability, accompanying people and families in some of their hardest moments. It is an honor and privilege and their vulnerability in those moments is profoundly beautiful.
But, embracing vulnerability in my own life is hard, and I am not a fan. I am the kind of person with the personality that thrives on achievement. I thrive on being seen as professional and hard working, organized and smart—on her game, in control. Vulnerability is the exact opposite of that. Vulnerability is about the mess and the struggle and the uncertainty of life; about sharing your deepest fears and worries and shame and longing and doubt. It is the courage to be imperfect, and often in public.
And that is an uncomfortable and sometimes terrifying space to occupy and my first response to all of that is no f-ing way. Not it.
So, here it goes.
Last June I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer—the “good kind” apparently (do we really use those words when talking about cancer?). I have not shared this publicly, just with a few family and friends (and my congregation which felt plenty public and vulnerable). I’m sorry that some of you I dearly love will be learning this on Facebook. The cancer was non-invasive and early stage and very treatable. But, as a result of this diagnosis, I had some genetic testing done and learned I carry the BRCA2 genetic mutation, which not only greatly increases my overall risk for breast, ovarian and a few other cancers, but drastically changed the course of treatment.
I had the first major surgery in November and a follow-up surgery just a week ago. There will likely be more surgeries in my near future which will remove even more of my parts (I am not sharing details here, vulnerability does have limits, but you can infer a lot). Before last year, I had only had one other surgery in my life (at 40 to repair a torn ACL) and my only experience in a hospital was giving birth to my kids.
Oh yeah, and all of this came about from my first-ever mammogram. That felt like a gut punch. The whole experience has been an emotional roller coaster and just hard, exhausting, scary, and full of grief. There have been moments of joy and gratitude, yes, and I have had great medical care and have been loved and cared for by so many. But that still does not erase the pain and vulnerability of it all.
I am one of the lucky ones, I know. I know. And still, I have cried tears of deep sorrow and still wrestle with so much internal emotional turmoil all in the midst of a pandemic and a world on fire.
This is my vulnerability reflection for Lent 2022. And I am quietly chanting to myself, vulnerability is courage not weakness.
Vulnerability is beautiful. Yours, too.
My photo reflection is a picture I took of my legs in the hospital after the first surgery, wrapped in the air compression thingys. And also a picture of the downtown skyline outside my hospital window at 4am.
NOTE for those who read to the end a want of offer a comment. I kindly ask, or rather beg of you, please do not begin your comment with, “At least…” it is not helpful. And, I will still love you.
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Rev. Sara LaWall
Justice minded, Unitarian Universalist Minister, mother & wife serving Boise, ID