My friend Lauren was rather exotic and her parents were very generous. One snowy, full moon weekend in January, we loaded up the car with snowshoes, two dogs and provisions, and headed out to their lake house on Lake Superior. It was a mile trek in to the house from the road, but the beauty of the moonlit night made it almost mystical. We were both in decent shape, but tired by the time we got to the house. The dogs were very thirsty, and bolted to the edge of the lake to drink from the small pools that had not yet frozen over. It was easy to feel isolated there at this time of year, because most of the lake houses were closed up for the winter. But, someone must have inhabited one of those homes because two very large and aggressive dogs bolted out of nowhere and appeared to be charging toward our Golden Retrievers. I got nervous, and Lauren got busy calling her dogs.
But, her dogs didn’t need our help; they took themselves down and exposed their bellies to the larger dogs. Within seconds, the aggressive dogs backed down and all four of them were wagging their tails. Lauren and I looked at each other and said,
“If only we could do that when we are afraid.”
Maybe you are saying, “Yes, but they are dogs and that is a natural thing for animals to do.”
But it works. That memory stayed with me, together with all the mystical imprints of that beautiful place, because it contained a powerful spiritual truth. Vulnerability enables connection; vulnerability allows the flow of power because we stop hiding and defending, and are seen.
A man sat with me as I cried. He also warned me to stay away from other men there, because many were on parole and I was, “a really pretty lady.” I was wearing a shirt inside out, had no makeup to hide my swollen eyes, and I was shaking like a leaf. He noticed that I didn’t have any luggage when I came in and asked me to wait on the couch in the hall until he came back. When he did, he brought a pair of jeans and two white cotton shirts from his closet for me. He gave me the shirt off of his back.
This beautiful gesture was made by a man with three missing fingers on his right hand, scars on his face and tatoos all over his arms. He had hurt himself, over and over again, because he thought he had to be tough and fight. When he told me his story of addiction, I could feel the pain of a wounded heart.
There was plenty to be afraid of in the social detox center. I hadn’t even read about most of what I was witnessing. Edgy people, drug deals, hustlers and predators.
But, something beautiful was moving too. Toward the center of my being and toward the mystery beyond it.