Vulnerability and the Genuine

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How are you feeling right at this moment? I mean, be honest with yourself. How are you really feeling?

The other day, at the dinner table, my seven year old asked my father, “how are you feeling right this minute, Poppa?” My father was honoured. He was slightly surprised in the moment, but when that calmed down he sat in gratitude because of the way his grandson knew to connect with him.  

When he finally came to, he responded by saying, “I feel love, loved and glad to be around you.” And, my son grinned from ear to ear.

Today’s column is about vulnerability and the genuine.

My father was grateful for the question because he realized a family legacy that was living in his seven year old grandson; to be vulnerable and to be trustworthy enough to allow others to be vulnerable. My son, was genuine. He wanted to know the real feelings that my father was having because (at least from my perspective) he wanted to know how to care for him and love him properly in that moment.

Here is some background information. My father, a Jamaican man, has lived in Costa Rica for the last several years. He has been with his grandchildren intermittently throughout those years, but he certainly has not been with them for long periods of time since they were babies. Poppa is back for good now due to illness, so the family is taking care of him as best we can. Somehow, though, over those years, he has maintained a very strong relationship with each of us. He was able to do this because he was vulnerable and genuine over Skype calls and Facebook.

I rarely get this personal in my columns, but this particular situation had me in deep thought for days.

How did my son know to ask such a question? I mean, I pride myself on being a pretty “deep” mom, somewhere on the spiritual side, but this situation caught me off guard. Did he feel so connected to Poppa that he wanted to know his real feelings? Did he feel so disconnected from Poppa that he wanted to dig a little deeper? When did he become so “deep”?

I think I am beginning to uncover the idea that being wholly honest and vulnerable in a situation leaves space to create an unforgettable connection with another human being. My son and my father have been being completely honest with each other for the last seven years. No matter how far away, no matter how long the term, they maintained a relationship through telling the truth.

Ok, so here is where I became even more perplexed. In all of the conversations I have witnessed between the two of them, they lasted no more than two to three minutes and they all ended with a quick “k, love you, bye”. In my silly judgment of time and relationships, I falsely assessed the two of them as not having had enough time to establish a ‘decent’ relationship.

When I really think back to the times that I have overheard their conversations, though, I can remember candid questions of whereabouts, questions about friends and questions about feelings. The answers were all genuine, unabashed and honest. They had no need to sit on the phone for hours like I had thought would be necessary. They were formulating and maintaining a relationship that was beyond all of my notions of propriety.

“I’m feeling love, loved and glad to be around you,” was Poppa’s response. And, my son smiled. His smile was so big that in that moment, I thought I could tangibly feel love.

Are you vulnerable with your gifts, feelings and thoughts? Are you trustworthy enough to leave space for others to be vulnerable?

Talk to my seven year old; he’ll teach you how.


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