FRAGILE: HANDLE with CARE
Life is fragile at times for all of us. As survivors of trauma of any type, we may tend to believe we are immensely strong. We are strong and we also have moments or times of fragility.
I especially like to clean my abode before holidays and birthdays. A clean house, laundry washed, and papers sorted put me in relaxed state of mind. Nothing needs to be done. I can experience the holidays or a birthday free of chores and free of a list of items to accomplish.
As I was cleaning my living space before Christmas, all moved along quite smoothly. A shower was next on my list followed by laundry. As I stepped into the bedroom, I heard a loud pop and glass breaking. A light bulb over the bathroom sink burst! A small segment of the bulb with very sharp edges remained in the socket. Small glass fragments were all over the sink, floor and bathroom rugs. Shoes, I thought. I must put on shoes!
The sudden breaking of the light bulb appeared to be a sign to me. A sign of what? I do not know. Immediately gratitude washed over me that the tiny explosion did not happen while I was in the shower. I swept and rewashed the floor. The floor and sink were carefully examined for little shards of glass. Each small piece was sharp and so very thin. You think of a light bulb as being enduring, strong in its purpose, and long-lasting. Then POP!!! What caused it to break I wonder. Fragile. Fragile is the only word that came to my mind.
Life is fragile. Individuals are fragile at times, even strong ones. In the late summer of 2002, I started meeting with a mentor (a sponsor-of-sorts) to talk about my overuse of alcohol. Oh, I met with him once a week and even tried a few 12-step meetings. (In late fall of 2002, I began pastoral counseling with Fr. Marcantonio. He said he would counsel me if I stopped drinking. Fr. Marc did not give me a must stop by date.)
One evening, December 15, 2002, to be exact, I sent an e-mail to my mentor. He suggested we meet on Monday. The next day (after a night of drinking too much wine), I met with him. He gave me a choice – 90 meetings in 90 days or to go to a rehab center in another country. (I was living in Germany at the time. I think the rehab place he mentioned was in Scotland.) Well, I chose 90 meetings in 90 days. That night I attended my first meeting of 90 meetings in 90 days.
Why was I ready to act that day? I know my mentor thought I was fragile the night I e-mailed him. It is the word he used. Fragility was not a bad thing. Maybe being fragile, broken in some way, made me open to finally committing to doing all I could to get and remain sober.
The new year, 2017, has begun. Do you start your year with a clean slate? Do you sort papers or clean house? Do you put things in order to bring clarity of mind?
Fragility is a word I do not use to describe myself much or often; but, I have used it. My mentor in 2002 noticed my fragility whereas I did not. I was caught up in my life of using alcohol to self-medicate and only beginning to deal with the abuse in my past as well as the abusive relationship I was dealing with at the time.
Fr. Marc, as a licensed family and marriage therapist, most likely recognized the moments when I was more fragile than other times. I definitely recall one of those moments. As I processed the past abuse and trauma as well as dealt with my present domestic violence situation, all my strength was needed to show up and move forward each day.
As I progressed on my healing journey, I began to be aware of my own strengths, weaknesses, and see the moments when I was fragile. Being “fragile” has an indescribable and intuitive meaning to me. When I do recognize that I am fragile, I need to act and think with delicate care. I’ve noticed that I tend to ask others to pray for me during this time. It is one way to not feel alone, but it is also part of a spiritual solution for me.
Fragile – breakable – ability to pop or to deflate or to sink –
As you take down your beautiful Christmas ornaments (if you decorated a tree), notice that many of them are fragile. Do you treat them with tender loving care, wrap them up nicely, and box them away? The padding and care keeps the ornaments whole and prevents them from breaking into big or tiny pieces.
Life is fragile. When the light bulb exploded, all my attention switched to picking up the broken pieces. All else I was doing or planned to do stopped. Fragile moments are simple moments in reality. The complexity and complications of life matter less.
Reach out to someone you trust as needed when you feel fragile. We all feel that way at times. Let someone guide you and comfort you until you once again feel strong. Most often it only takes a short time to feel “back to normal”.
Picture an old woman or man who is very thin and maybe hunched over from osteoporosis. You sense a bone could be broken quite easily in a fall. Physical fragility might be easier to notice.
People’s hearts can experience moments of fragility. The Catholic Mass consists of a segment when the priest says, “Lift up your hearts”. The people respond, “We lift them up to the Lord”. Many individuals hold up their hands with palms up. After my 13 year old daughter, Megan, and I were discovered and separated in Washington State in 2007 (as I had been a protective parent keeping my daughter safe from further abuse perpetrated by her father and others), I was devastated and determined to still do anything I could to help Megan.
I was residing at a convent (Sisters of Providence) in the guest quarters. When I attended Mass, I would respond with, “We lift them up to the Lord” with open hands and palms flat facing the sky. Many times I would envision or imagine how my heart was at the time. It was not an intact heart. It was a broken heart and then a shattered into thousands of tiny pieces heart. The tiny pieces fell through the cracks between my fingers like sand or ashes. Gradually over time my heart became a mended heart. It was whole once again though glued or sewn together in hundreds of places. The glue or thread did not hold in all locations so there are small gaps. I envision these crevices as places where love and compassion pour out to others.
Through this process of a broken and slowly healing heart, I knew my heart was strong even in its weakness. A heart can be fragile though in moments. This fragility is quite different than weakness. Words do not fully convey my thoughts and intuition.
There is a difference between vulnerability and fragility. When someone is fragile, there is a depth and intensity to it – an edge of sorts. Fragility may contain an element of urgency to it. The person, the self, is in need of extra care. When I have been aware of being fragile in the past, I sense something drastic could occur. A moment of being fragile may change one’s life – in good or not so good ways.
This topic and post is not a concrete one with a list of suggestions. It is enigmatic. Awareness and acknowledgement of one’s own self is important. To be aware of our strengths, weaknesses, and moments when we are fragile contributes to our continued healthy existence on this earth. Reaching out to others or reaching inside yourself or both can be quite helpful and healing.
Life surprises us. As the light bulb exploded unexpectedly in the bathroom, it took my attention. Our personal fragility may be a wake-up call that we need extra care or that action needs to be taken or both.