The march of fall to winter ought to be enough to unsettle New Englanders. A full moon set to usher out the comfort of daylight savings time seems an especially unnecessary taunt. As a child, a full moon fascinated me, especially in the chill of fall when the clouds seemed more haunting. It better than any flashlight to escort you from house to house as soon as darkness fell on October 31. It felt like a protector when I was a child, like a big brother in the sky to keep me safe.
Perhaps the power of suggestion has made the mention of a full moon something to which I now respond by reaching for the valerian root in my cabinet. That relaxation aide is like oxygen to me when I suspect I might find myself pacing, rather than sleeping, woken with a start in the hours between 3 am and 4 am.
The full moon disturbs the sleep of my fifty-something body and when awakened in the night, my mind is tempted to race, not dream; to lament, not hope. The hours which speed too fast in daylight, meander painfully in the middle of the night, especially when you only have the company of yourself. I miss my now long gone companionable companion most in the middle of the night when the moon is full. I miss the soft sounds of a sleeping soul beside me.
To turn over in bed and beat a pillow to perfect shape, or reorganize a disheveled comforter is futile. Attempting to will an awakened body back to sleep is counterproductive. Instead, I pull on my sweat pants and a hooded sweatshirt, rummage around the kitchen and take what entices my weak appetite to the small back deck, and say hello to that galling moon. I let it know that while it may be beautiful, its stunning presence does not excuse its disruptive timing.
That deck with the moon directly overhead feels more peaceful than my bed. Taking that moon on face to face saps it of its power over me. I feel stronger when I take it on, and because I am alone, with no one of my own to disturb, I speak to it directly. That moon resembles too closely the people in my life who once felt safe and over time turned cold, distant and disappointing.
I do not give my vulnerability away easily. I prefer to be seen as strong, pulled together, in control. I am a leader and that leading requires a certain steeliness which can be misleading. Steely strength I gained from my mother. Vulnerability is my secret stash with which I have been stingy over my lifetime. It is my soft underbelly and, when I gift it and it is taken in with love, my soul finds peace.
My father had a lovely vulnerability. He did not warn me that when it is exposed to the light of a full moon you have to be careful with whom you share it. People are often unkind in the unmasking of vulnerability. In their own insecurity, it seems a tempting place to pick and pounce.
On nights of a full moon, I am haunted by the image of the first tears I shared with the man I loved. Tears I tried to shield, because I thought he loved me most for my strength. He touched my tears and locked me in his arms and cried a little himself, so grateful, he said, that he was the one who got to see what no one else does. My vulnerability was a gift to him once upon a time. He used it against me in the end.
I speak not only of love’s lost, but of acquaintances and even friends emboldened by a sudden and lingering susceptibility which surprises them. It is as though they are let down that I am not so quick to lead anymore; not willing to put myself at the fore. Vulnerability roots out those who were never rooting for me in the first place. While that helps with the pruning of people I should have let go a long time ago, it still nicks at my soul a bit.
In the early hours of the morning, exposed by the full moon, I am also reminded of those who have rushed to protect; the people in my life who know that I am one raw, pulsating nerve on many days. Some of them are a surprise to me, a reminder that I am not a perfect judge of others. I am grateful when I unearth good souls who have an endless supply of patience and stamina for me. The full moon is no match for the small army of those who accept me in my human skin. My vulnerable, imperfect self finds the courage to face down that moon in the deep of a cold October night because I know their patience and stamina will not, in unexpected suddenness, fly from me.