Moments of Vulnerability

A moment of vulnerability created “Madeline” by Ludwig Bemelmans.

Moments of vulnerability

Madeline created from moments of vulnerability

Recently, I heard Brene Brown speak at Mom 2.0 Summit in Pasadena, California. Since then, while reading stories about the lives of others, I have been using her lens when it comes to the definition of vulnerability. I am also conscious of my own moments of being vulnerable both past and present.

“I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.

The perception that vulnerability is weakness is the most widely accepted myth about vulnerability and the most dangerous. When we spend our lives pushing away and protecting ourselves from feeling vulnerable or from being perceived as too emotional, we feel contempt when others are less capable or willing to mask feelings, suck it up, and soldier on. We’ve come to the point where, rather than respecting and appreciating the courage and daring behind vulnerability, we let our fear and discomfort become judgment and criticism.

Vulnerability isn’t good or bad: it’s not what we call a dark emotion, nor is it always a light, positive experience. Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living. ”

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Madeline, the children’s book series by Ludwig Bemelmans has always been a favorite of mine since my own childhood and it has taken its rightful place in my granddaughters library as well.

Ludwig Bemelmans, has quite the life story. It appeared in a recent New York Times article. Bemelmans’ 120th birthday would have been on May 11, 2018. Although many of us are fans of Madeline and all the trouble that seems to follow her around, I would wager that not too many of us are aware of Bemelmans own life story and its defining moments.

It was the author’s mom who introduced him to the art of storytelling when he was just a young boy. As Ludwig grew into adolescence he had a penchant for getting into trouble. It was about that time that his mom sent him off to work in one of his uncle Hans’ hotels. According to an old New York Times interview, Bemelmans told of a time, the headwaiter in the hotel wanted to beat him with a leather whip. It was then that Bemelmans, still a teenager, threatened to shoot the waiter if he in fact hit him. Well, the waiter called Bemelmans’ bluff and he was shot in the abdomen by the teenager.

What a clear moment of vulnerability for Ludwig Bemelmans. He had stood up for himself and it forever changed the rest of his life. The police “kicked his ass” and told his family that he must go to reform school or be sent to America.

It  was after his arrival in America that Bemelmans thrived as an artist and writer and he began to write children’s books along with stories for the Saturday Evening Post, The New Yorker and Vogue magazines along with novels for adults.

In 1938, Bemelmans and his family traveled to the south of France where he suffered a bike accident and was hospitalized. In the room next to him during his recovery was a little girl who was recovering from an appendicitis. It was shortly thereafter that the Madeline series was born. He said Madeline was a combination of his mother, wife and daughter and her story began in Paris with illustrations that charmed its readers.

A shooting and a bike accident, both moments of vulnerability changed the lives of Bemelmans and readers of his books forever.

Bemelmans’ mother also had her own moments of being vulnerable as a single mom and making the choice to send her only son off to America certainly was one of them.

For the past week, I have been reviewing my own moments of vulnerability as a child, young woman, wife, mother and now a grandmother. The choices I have made and roads I have chosen to walk have made all the difference in my life, as did my own mother’s choices. Staying in the arena at times when I wished I could opt out seemed never to be an option. My own grandmother used to say “nothing worth it is easy!” I cherish and carry her words with me always.

On this Mother’s Day weekend take a look at your moments of vulnerability and perhaps checkout the vulnerable moments in your own mom’s life that affected your own life. You may be surprised by what you see through the lens of Brene Brown.

Happy Mother’s Day!