My late father comes to mind as I ponder fragility (from frangere ‘to break’). I imagine him looking at me and wanting me to live a life of complete love. He knows that I am fragile. I admitted this at his grave. I called out: “Dad, I have a problem and I need your help”. And this problem was a human one. The beauty of the moment was simply sharing this with my Dad. I felt exposed in a good way. I went home and my load became a little lighter. I haven’t been back to the grave because my sharing enabled me to carry him in my heart. He remains close and he knows the fragility of our family too: how apparent unity at one moment can turn into division at another.
The path of fragility
I saw the flight of a butterfly while walking with the dog last night. Its gentle and fragile path lifted the heaviness that I was feeling. It stirred me to reflect how others might feel when they look at my path – whether it is curvy, zigzag or straight. I look to the fragility of a ‘wounded healer’ who acknowledges their own pain in the midst of another, not taking advantage of any power dynamic. I see fragility in the face of a companion who responds with care and attentiveness, taking you into their heart, treasuring you and consoling you. Or an older couple in a long-lasting fruitful relationship, intimately aware of their shared journey, needing and loving each other. Or asylum seekers and locals in Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon who gather together for a football match, aware of cultural differences and vulnerabilities in their defences.
As my friend and I bounced ideas about fragility off one another this week, she said: “I think that often the gentlest of people have been through a lot of pain.” This hit me in the core as I have certainly become more gentle through my pain. Bipolar has seasoned me like the weather: eroding and smoothing my edges. When I was edgy, I was not very gentle. I reacted to the pain of the world with my own pain: I was sometimes challenging and aggressive. Now that I have gone through the upsides and downsides of bipolar, I am less afraid, more compassionate and loving. Through meditation, I practise self-emptying and offer myself as an instrument of good; far from despairing, it is truly liberating.
Fragility is a most wonderful human trait. We are all ‘broken’ – there is no use in denying it. Let us be cautious of our glorifying tendencies. This “Wow, look at me” culture needs to stop once and for all. No more celebrating the most talented man or woman in the room. When we were younger, we needed lots of positive feedback. Mother said: “You are a great boy at riding the bicycle,” and her son said: “Thanks mammy”.
As we grew older, we let go of the need for external compliments; we strived for healthy self-esteem by loving ourselves. We also became aware of the need for accepting our weaknesses. Let us now say to each other: “Wow, I am broken just like you”. And people can surprise us when they are brave enough to be raw and open. They can jump in and share their own powerful fragility.