1 : capable of being physically or emotionally wounded
3 : liable to increased penalties but entitled to increased bonuses after winning a game in contract bridge
Last night I went to my twenty year high school reunion. To say that I was nervous about going is an understatement. But one of my longest standing friends (we met in 4th grade) was organizing the reunion and as I agonized over whether we should make the long drive for a few hours, J said to me, "We should go. You should honor those friendships." It was just the right advice and I'm thankful that I took it.
Prior to leaving for the reunion, I described my emotional state to someone as feeling like I was piece of laundry being treated none too gently by a pioneer woman. I felt like I was being twisted and wrung out, until I was dripping, before being put through a tortuous device to straighten, dry and unfurl me. It was not pleasant, not fun and positively terrifying. I felt like God was stretching me in many directions, asking me to do things that I didn't much feel like doing. I still feel this way to some degree, but last night showed me that it's sometimes worth it to stretch, unfurl and leave yourself vulnerable.
J and I got lost on our way to the reunion. Instead of trusting my instincts on how to get to the restaurant, I trusted Google maps. I should have known Google wouldn't know this part of the world as well as I did. Alas, I wasn't feeling like I could trust myself. Which led us to a dead-end road and a fifteen minute detour. When we finally arrived, we parked in the wrong area, moved the van and tried again. I was getting progressively more nervous with each fit and start.
We walked into the restaurant together and were directed to the room for our private party. I took a deep breath, glad of J beside me and walked through the door and down the stairs. And didn't see a single face that I recognized. In the few moments before I can turn to J in my nervousness, two friends got up from the table at the far end of the room and walked over to me. "Shannon! Let me be the first to give you a hug," K said. Then W gave me a hug and shared a tidbit from high school, "Did you know that people used to ask me if we were sisters? Apparently we look alike." And that was all it took. I immediately felt better. After a few minutes of chatting with these two women - neither of whom were close friends all those years ago - I felt much better and a few people I knew better had spotted me and come down from the bar.
The night progressed a bit like high school itself. J and I sat by my best friend from way back when, across from a friend who took all of the same classes I did, down the table from my high school sweetheart. I knew everyone at our table and couldn't place a lot of names and faces from the other tables. As the night went on, my nervousness eased and I was shocked to realize how well some of these people remembered me. One commented on my hair being so much darker, several asked after my mom (their high school math teacher) and the two who knew me best remarked to me and each other how surprising it was to find all these years later that I am a mother to three. (And not much more - although that was mostly left unsaid with only a vague reference to a valedictorian who is now a full time mom.)
You see, back in high school I swore I would never get married, much less have children. Yet here I am, fifteen years into one, eleven years into the other. And I love both states of being. As I made the long drive back home today, I pondered why I ended up having children after plans to never do so. J is the answer in part. He always wanted children and had me convinced before we were even engaged. The bigger reason, I suspect, is that God knew how much I would learn and grow from motherhood. I knew how to take care of myself before I had children, but I didn't know to care for myself - or anyone else, really. Having children makes you aware of how many needs people have. I've seen how unashamed my daughters are of their needs and asking to have them met. They eat when they are hungry, rest when they are tired, play when they are bored. I'd like to learn to listen to my own internal desires and meet them without shaming or blaming myself for having needs. They teach me far more than I am teaching them.
As we drove away from the party, J mentioned how many people had come over to talk to me. Once he said it, I realized he was right. I stayed in one spot most of the night, but still got caught up on more people than were seated at our table. J's take on this was that I have more influence than I realize. While I'm not so sure about that, I do feel like part of this painful, vulnerable unfurling has been God calling me to lead when I don't really feel up to the task. Some steps are easier for me to take than others, but I've been trying to walk in faith regardless.
J told me and several of my friends last night that it was so nice to see me smile the way I did at the reunion. I don't know for sure when the smile started, but I clearly remember talking with my high school sweetheart after he pulled up a chair behind my best friend and me. As the three of us talked, I realized how well these two people know me - and more importantly, that they like me anyway. I think we're all vulnerable to some degree in high school. We haven't learned how to put on armor to protect us from peers and life, yet the angst and drama of adolescence opens many doors for wounding. It touched me to realize these people from so long ago still hold a fondness for me, as I do for them. Sometimes it's worth vulnerability's potential costs to reap its rewards.