Another month is hurtling to a close. It's hard to believe that February is upon us, but before it announces itself, here's a post about vulnerability and more specifically, mutual vulnerability. As many of you know, Mandy Lee Catron penned a widely-circulated Modern Love piece called To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This which referred to a study by psychologist Arthur Aron and others that examines whether intimacy between strangers can be expedited by having them answer a set of very personal questions.
The thesis, compelling if you ask me, is that mutual vulnerability fosters closeness. Oh do I believe this to be true. I think, I know, that my deepest bonds have come from a kind of mutual vulnerability, from being willing to see and be seen. I'm curious about these 36 questions too (enumerated here) and so my HERE Year compatriot Lindsey Mead and I have decided to pick some and answer them today. A thought I just had, probably not very original: Mutual vulnerability is not only necessary for falling in love, but staying in love. My guess is that those couples (and friends) who make it a priority to be mutually vulnerable (despite the demands of real life) probably have the best shot at surviving and thriving.
4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
I think about this question a lot and I'm not necessarily proud of this fact. Despite being fluent in the chaos that comes with having three young kids and a busy (hate this word) existence, I cling to the belief that if I structure myself and my life just so, everything will fall into place and run smoothly and I will be happy (another word that's tricky). The truth is that there is no such thing as perfect. This is the real core of my struggle, my simultaneous grasping for Platonic perfection (which has historically led me to achieve) and realizing that there is no perfection and that I should be training my focus elsewhere.
There are though things which fill me up in important ways and make my days better. Some (and this is not an exhaustive list): (1) being truly present with my girls. Having conversations with them and laughing with them and being silly with them; (2) writing. I've become the kind of creature who's a bit grumpy if she doesn't get to write a bit. I wish this weren't so, but even writing for fifteen minutes frees something in me. My mind untangles the slightest bit and lets me better tackle the day; (3) reading. I was by no means a bookworm growing up (Mom will attest to this) and I definitely fell in love with writing faster than with reading, but oh have I fallen. These days, I'm thrilled to curl up with a good book and a throw blanket. I read fiction and non-fiction, stories heavy and light and in-between. I read for research and for pleasure and all of it satisfies something important in me. It is my goal to impart my newish love of reading to my girls though I acknowledge that this is not a linear or easy goal. I'm heartened by the fact that even if they aren't smitten now, they might be later on; (4) exercise. This is a harder one. Even though I was an athlete and I know how much exercise does for me, I'm not religious about prioritizing this. I must change that because I know how much better off I am when I'm moving around; (5) everyday romance. Last but certainly not least, a "perfect" day would include some solo time with my guy. I'm a huge believer in checking in each and every day and indulging in the mutual exhale. Whether it's a simple takeout dinner side-by-side, cuddling up to watch a television show or just talking, I find that I need this.
9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
Okay, sorry the answer to the above question was so long! Will keep these next few on the shorter side. Hands down, I feel the most grateful for my three daughters. That I have three healthy and happy girls who are mine blows me away and to say I feel thankful for this reality is a wild understatement. It's interesting though because I find that the flip side of gratitude (or its concomitant joy) is fear. I'm an anxious creature by nature, but having kids has made me even more anxious. I worry a fair bit (okay a lot) about my health and not being here to take care of them and see them grow. (Please tell me I'm not alone in this!)
17. What is your most treasured memory?
I've been thinking about memories and how amazing they are and how seemingly random they can be. Why do we remember tiny things sometimes when the bigger things elude us? Yesterday was a snow day and my girls were doing a lot of pajama hanging on the couch and I had this vivid memory of lying on the couch with my younger sister Ceara. I remember Mom waking us up and leading us sleepy girls into our "TV Room" and we'd each lie with our heads on opposite sides of the couch, under a blanket. Our little bodies would skim each other and we'd watch cartoons as we were waking up. I remember Lassie. I also remember Apple Jacks. So much of this makes me so happy. Because sisterhood means the world to me - as part of my own identity and my girls'. Because my own babes delight in downtime, in cuddling up, in cartoons, in the sugary cereal I'm liberal about letting them have. A small memory maybe, but a powerful one.
21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
Love and affection are everything to me, or are becoming everything to me. I'm an ambitious creature and I have goals and I work really hard, but at the end of the day it's about my girls and my guy. I'm a huge believer in, and fan of, (appropriate) PDA. If Husband and I are walking down the street, we are usually holding hands or he has his arm around me. If we are on the couch watching television, we are holding hands or my legs are draped over his (this is all before I nod off eleven minutes later!) Also, I hug and kiss and cuddle my girls endlessly. I'm beginning to wonder if it's too much and I've recently asked them and they said it's okay. Just last night, I shared the following on social media (why must I share these moments with the ether? A good question for another time), but I think this highlights how (bizarrely?) committed I am to expressions and demonstrations of love and affection in my life:
5:41pm on Snow Day Tuesday. The girls are huddled together watching something ridiculous on an iPad. I'm tidying up/unloading the dishwasher/setting the table as we wait for our pizza delivery. Apropos of nothing, I just started the following exchange:
Me: I love you guys. An impossible amount.
Girls, in approximate unison: We love you too, Mommy.
Little Girl: I love you sosososososososo much.
Me: Do you guys realize how lucky you are? Because even when you don't have a play date, you have a play date because there are three of you and you always have each other.
Me: And even if you don't have a sleepover, you have a sleepover. Because you share a room.
And now I'm back to puttering around, making order from chaos, thinking about all of this that's so small and so big. My girls probably think I'm silly, but I think there's nothing silly at all about telling our loves we love them and reminding them how lucky they are.
That's all :)
Do you agree that mutual vulnerability fosters closeness? Is it easy or hard for you to be vulnerable with those you love (or might want to love)? Are you up for answering the above 4 questions?