There's a scene in The Last Light of the Sun, in which a young woman who has managed by her wits to gain power in the women's stronghold, calls in an older kinswoman from the town. As the woman arrives, the young girl drapes herself in the serpent, the symbol of power that has elevated her to her position, and she shows no sign of weakness.
Until the two are in private. Then she puts down the snake, which she hates, and she stands before her kinswoman. She begs her to stay with her, and collapses into her arms, crying like a child for her mother.
I hold myself away from this scene when I read it. I recognize its psychological value--look at me putting as many syllables as possible between me and the emotion--but a part of me recoils at the weakness.
I hate vulnerability. I hate taking risks that expose my heart. I have tried to do it more often lately, because if we don't, if we stay walled up in ourselves, we come to the end of our lives alone, unknown, and people simply wait for our deaths to tidy up the fact of our existence.
Jenn tells me that the more my honesty disturbs people, the more honest I should be. The more unsettling the content of my posts, the more they expose who I am--the more I should unsettle and expose.
But Anrid only put down the snake because she was reasonably sure she did not have to use it to keep her power. She put down the snake and held out her arms because she had a reasonable hope she would be embraced, accepted. The balance of risk versus safety was in her favor--and here's the key--she was able to discern that.
For those of us who have had trust abused, routinely and for someone's amusement, that ability to discern is damaged. The risk is always, for us, so much higher than the benefit, that we withhold even the simplest and most ordinary exposures, just to be safe.
And all we do is increase the danger of further isolation.
Then, when we are presented with someone who goes out of his way to make us feel safe, we want to believe. We know we have to try. We know we have to step out of ourselves and be exactly who are are, broken edges and all.
But we have misjudged, and once again, the trust is abused. More broken edges result, more retreating, more unrealistic defenses built.... And more isolation.
And one other thing. Blame. We blame ourselves for being stupid, being broken. We go back over the event, trying to find where it broke down. We ask ourselves, "If I had done this differently, if I had been better, if I had been funnier, a better storyteller...."
It's pointless, but the uncertainty is there. We know this latest event would not happen to us if we were not broken. We resent being broken. We resent having the gift of good judgment taken from us.
I wanted a mentor. I wanted a friend. I thought I had one. I took a risk and asked for help, asked for friendship. With the exception of one, who I approached for advice, the people I most love in my life have to come to me, adopted me. They've come up to me boldly, in assumption, and decided we were friends. Some have sidled up shyly and put their hand in mine. But they chose me. They saw something from afar and they came to me and said, in their own way, "I like you. I want to be with you."
I wanted to give that gift to someone else. I wanted to tell someone, "You're interesting. You're funny. You have wisdom. You seem to have strong values. I like you. I want to be friends."
And it was accepted.
But I chose wrong. It was like approaching a dog that wags its tail and accepts love from everyone, approaching it the right way, cautiously and with interlaced respect and command, and the dog smelled weakness and bit down. Bit down, shook its head, let go and walked off, still wagging its tail.
I have to deal with the bite first, then the dog.
The bite comes with all the feelings: Vulnerability is pain. Weakness is destruction. Never trust. Stay behind the Wall. People hurt you, casually and without remorse.
This is what broken people get.
I think what I have to learn from this experience is, once again, my judgment is faulty. I feel a bit like a child that has to ask permission for everything. Hey, friend, I like this other person. What do you think? And that doesn't work, either, because friend doesn't live in your skin or the other person's, so the advice is only going to be as good as the information given, and whatever information you give is going to be colored by what you want.
I don't know how I could have done any of this differently, except the choice itself. The choice was bad. I proceeded with caution, with respect, with humor, and I let myself be vulnerable in the way I had seen him respond to vulnerability before. I thought, like Anrid, I had a reasonable hope of acceptance.
But I was wrong.
And to be completely honest, completely exposed?
I don't know what to learn from this experience, except all the old lessons that don't work.