The other morning I was lying in bed, the remnants of a migraine keeping me still. I waited while the faint light coming through the window shade slowly brightened the room.
I rose to a cool, gray, fall day. A light rain came and went, leaving wet dots among the yellow leaves on the back deck. The perfect day for a fire. When the flames were crackling in the fireplace, I ate a little breakfast and sat down to write.
Whenever I get a migraine, I’m reminded of how vulnerable I am—how vulnerable we all are. I’d been thinking about the difference between feeling vulnerable and being vulnerable since I woke.
The day before, I took my husband to the airport, so he could jam with his buddies in Austin. I was trying not to think about him hurtling through the air, in a metal tube with strangers at the controls. Somehow, he seemed more vulnerable without me being with him, as he stepped out of his everyday life.
When I looked over the back seat and watched him take his bass guitar and bag out of the car, I got a light, fluttery feeling in my stomach, like for a brief second, I was falling.
Kind of like the moment when a roller coaster crests the first hill, and you feel almost weightless, right before gravity snatches you.
After the feeling came and went, everything almost felt “normal” again: the floor of the car beneath my feet, my husband’s good-bye kiss, my hands on the steering wheel of my old Volvo. But as I slowly drove away, I felt disoriented, trying to focus.
Feeling vulnerable is just the awareness of our ultimate vulnerability. On some level, we carry this awareness all the time, but we push it down to live our daily lives. What would it be like to carry our awareness of our vulnerability all the time? Would it be terrifying? Exhausting? Distracting? Freeing?
While I was sitting in front of the fireplace and thinking about vulnerability, for a brief time, the space in front of my house became a stage. Predators and prey crossed the same path, missing each other by mere minutes, like some Shakespearean comedy of errors.
First, a fox trotted across the yard. It went swiftly down the street, hunting something. Then it came bounding back, and off to safer spaces.
It always feels a little magical when I see a fox, because I see them so rarely. They still retain a bit of their metaphorical meaning for me. They are beautiful, smart, elusive tricksters.
Next came a woman riding a bike, holding a big dog on a leash. Luckily for the fox—and the woman holding the dog’s leash—they missed crossing paths by a couple minutes.
Then, a tabby cat strolled by, very slowly, his head held high like he hadn’t a care in the world.
And finally, a neighborhood dog named Zeus came trotting by. Zeus, the god of sky and thunder, chief of the gods. Zeus the dog—like the fox—is also smart and a trickster, and a little wild. A thunderbolt, he darts through the neighborhood looking for mischief, and narrowly missing some.
If I look at that brief experience like a waking dream, what does it tell me about vulnerability?
The intersection of time and space determines which experiences and encounters we have, or do not have. We accumulate “ordinary” or routine moments. Then when something unexpected happens—like a fox crossing someone’s path—it can be dangerous (for the cat) or magical (for me).
The chance of things sometimes feels like a play, designed by an unseen playwright—tickling the tail of the fox, pushing the bike, touching the chin of the cat, and tossing in a thunderbolt. Through everything, there’s a wild, playful, dangerous life force that can change our lives in an instant.
When something unexpected breaks through our ordinary lives, it changes our perception of reality. We are reminded we are not in control. And yet, that’s where magic often happens.
It’s awareness of the temporal that communicates the meaning in our lives. It’s the sense of weightlessness, beneath the solidness, that makes us cherish the moments that crest, and then fall back into the well of existence.
We experience magic and meaning when we’re aware of our vulnerability. It transforms our consciousness from auto-pilot to awe.
The fox is always possible. And Zeus is on the loose. If we open ourselves—even just a little bit more—to the experience of being alive, how much magic and meaning will we see?
What magical, creative, unexpected part of you wants to dash through your life—and your art—at this moment?