Vulnerability, I am com-miiiiiiiing!



immigrtant song

Part One of series that’ll be as long as I need it to be:

“Being vulnerable in the face of sexual assault (when you’re pretty sure it was your vulnerability that got you assaulted.”

The worst aspect of dealing with the PTSD caused that smirking bastard sexually assaulting me is that I’ve been closing myself off from others. It’s not just that I’m scared to step foot in a gay bar. That I can understand. Unfortunately, I’m also avoiding friends, family, and anyone who can help.

My therapist says I should be more vulnerable, more open to these interactions. I’m not going to get thru this alone.

But isn’t vulnerability what got me into this mess? I certainly was vulnerable when he assaulted me. Now I’m supposed to be some sort of therapeutically vulnerable?

Etymologies will help. Etymologies always help. They’re not just for SAT prep anymore.

As I tried to wrestle with the contradiction of being vulnerable when vulnerability got me in the situation where my therapist says I need to be vulnerable, I went down the etymology hole. I go there whenever my therapist introduces me to a concept I don’t quite grasp.

New concepts from the therapist’s office often land with a bit of a clunk with me. It’s not that they don’t make sense —the words are never “big” words —it’s more that they come into my brain thru the wrong door, too fast. Researching the etymology helps me guide them thru the proper door at a proper speed.

Digging into the etymology satisfies what my therapist refers to as my fluid intelligence.

[from the Latin fluidus, meaning “moist”]

He has sometimes switched up “fluid” with “profoundly ADHD.”

[from the Latin pro “forth” (from Proto Indo-European root per- “forward”) + fundus “bottom”]

So, “moist bottom.”

My brain will spend the rest of the afternoon rolling that one around. Most of my thoughts about said moist bottom will have nothing to do with the task at hand. My brain just works that way. This dynamic is why I never was able to get a good start on my dissertation. Research is so much more fun than writing. Have you ever spent an evening just reading thru a drawer of a card catalog?

Researching an etymology allows the new word to circle the mind drain, all the while picking up links to other words and concepts. A moist tapestry stretching back to when the Proto Indo-Europeans were busily crafting all our root words. Those Proto Indo-Europeans really knew their shit. It’s like they had a word for everything.

“Vulnerable” comes from the Latin vulnus meaning “to wound.” Seems legit, not too interesting. Definitely nothing to occupy my brain before I get to being all sorts of therapeutically vulnerable.

But, vulnus is related to vellere, “to pluck.” Now we’re getting somewhere…

All I can think about when I encounter the word “pluck” is that French Canadian bird harassment song, Alloutte.

Alouette, gentille alouette,
Alouette, je te plumerai.

Lark, nice lark,
Lark, I will pluck you.



Then the singer goes on to tell the lark exactly from where they will tearing out feathers, and in what order. And notice how the lark is being charmed into complacency (vulnerability?) before the plucker violates its plumage. Trust me, I can relate to that. Will I ever be able to trust charm again?

The bright side of vellere is that it’s the root of “svelte.” Yes, the bird is now naked and defiled, but he’s a skinny, sexy bird, conforming more closely with people’s expectations of what a bird should look like. So now maybe the other birds will respect him and not think he should be grateful for any attention he does get. Stupid fat, damaged bird.

Everything gets back to body image eventually.

But, one positive —???— aspect of the PTSD I’m going thru right now is that I am losing weight in spades. Yes, I’m stress eating like a housecat watching its owner pack for a trip… but I’m stress pooping at a faster rate, which works in my favor. Moreover, I’m working out constantly; I’m easily reaching my 10,000 steps each day; and the yard looks AMAZING. My therapist calls it “sublimating.”

And let’s not forget that I’m scared to death to go to a gay bar because who knows when a smile will turn into rape. Therefore, I’m not consuming a lot of empty vodka calories.

Then, things get good when you get back to the Proto Indo-Europeans. Their word for “wound” was wele, which is the root of Valhalla.

Put me on flaming longship; I’m going to Valhalla!

We’ll drive our ships to new lands
To fight the horde, and sing and cry
Valhalla, I am coming!

(Yes, most of my knowledge of the Viking worldview comes from Led Zepplin’s Immigrant Song.)

Valhalla is, of course, Odin’s hall where those who die in battle go afterwards. Perhaps, when I’ve moved thru the hell caused my sexual assault, I get to go someplace fun. In Valhalla they drink, sing songs, and talk real loud. I assume it’s something like every episode of Star Trek when there’s drunk Klingons.

Maybe “fun” is too strong a word. Frankly, Valhalla sounds a little irritating, like a gay bar on one of those “masc” theme nights, the one’s promoted with a stock picture of a dude in a decorative leather harness. (He definitely WON’T be there.) Praise Odin, I am so tired and so over the toxic masc4masc bullshit that permeates the queer experience. The assumption that every dude wants sex all the time is sooooo damaging. He so couldn’t grasp that someone wouldn’t want sex that he decided my NO! couldn’t possibly be real. “Someone’s paying attention to you, stupid fat, damaged bird. Get ready for the plucking!”

Then there’s this tidbit: Valhalla’s more than just a basic, basic Tom of Finland nightmare, the dudes there are also prepping to aid Odin in final battle at Ragnarök.

Sounds like work. The last thing I want when I’m finally past this shit is more tasks.

A little crestfallen about this… How am I supposed to move on when I’m done fighting my own battle when I all I have to look forward to is dealing with someone else’s problems? 

OPP, amirite?

But, keep letting “vulnerable” gather more associations… Turns out that not all the battle-dead end up in Valhalla. Some get selected by Freya to join her in the fields of Fólkvangr. I like fields. When people get all into their decorative harnesses, I like to joke that my fetish is chill folks romping thru a field wearing flowing caftans (with big enough pockets). Picture the setting for that Blythe Danner osteoporosis commercial, but low-key sexy. Very low key.

And when it’s time to gather in a hall, you head to Freya’s hall, Sessrúmnir. The name of Odin’s hall may come from the Proto Indo-European word for “wound,” but Freya’s hall?

HALL OF THE ROOMY CHAIRS!

Fuck yeah! When I’m done with this shit, I want to sit down. And I want to be comfortably fat when I sit down. I’m not spending the afterlife in a pinchy-butt, spindly-ass café chair. I’m gonna loosen my belt and flop down, exhaling “I’m done” with a smile on my face.

Freya gets first pick of the dead. She takes those who are done fighting. And not “done” in the sense of finished. It’s “done” in the sense of “Honey, I’m duh-un!”

That’s where vulnerability comes back in.

Maybe vulnerability is letting enough people know you’re thru with this shit.

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