I Needed to Make Myself Vulnerable

Thu, 12/05/2013 - 11:41
Submitted by Carlin Ross

I knew Kansas wasn't going to be an easy trip. We were there to say goodbye to Betty's baby brother, Dickie, who's in the final stages of lung cancer. We'd been in Kansas back in August but Betty wasn't sleeping and I knew we had to make one more trip to Fall River.

Dickie is a wonderful man and when he calls me "baby girl" I melt, which takes me by surprise because I don't usually go for that kind of thing. But Dickie is so sincere and so loving that it makes me glow. He literally built their ranch with his own hands and the help of one friend. In Betty's own words, "it's a work of art" thanks to the design skills of his wife Barbara. Their place just feels like home.

Betty was on edge while we were in Wichita for several days before heading out to Dickie's. I think it's hard to be the last one standing...the last person living in your immediate family. I remember how hard it was for my grandmother to outlive her husband, cousins, and sister. My role was to distract Betty with laughter, listen to her angst, and smooth over any rough edges.

There are several moments that stand out in my mind. Like when we walked into the Wichita country club and a woman sitting at the bar exclaimed, "Betty Dodson". As teens, they'd been in the same high school sorority. She shared how they'd all followed Betty's career and "rooted" for her as she made her way in New York and established her name in the feminist movement. It takes so much courage to leave a small town and head off into the unknown that you can't help but feel alone. Knowing that her sorority sisters were there with her in spirit was so healing for Betty.

Another favorite moment was watching Betty massage Dickie. Betty connects through touch. She always says that her hands are the one part of her body that hasn't aged. She worked the muscles in his arms and legs and back as Dickie fell into her touch. It was so beautiful. As I write these words, my eyes are filled with tears. I was so moved by what wasn't said but rather what was shared between them. I witnessed Betty connect and make peace with the reality of her brother's death.

As this was all going on, I started to feel different waves of emotion course over my body. I was so focused on Betty that I'd forgotten this was the first holiday in 8 years that I was alone. I was alone - menstrual - watching someone die of cancer thinking about my former partner who'd decided to end our relationship before his second round of radiation. He woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me that we had to move out of our apartment in two weeks. What became clear was that he wanted to be alone - that he didn't want me around - and I packed my things in a few hours and moved out of the apartment we'd shared for 6 years.

I'm not sure I'd let myself feel anything. I went through the motions and buried myself in work. It's a level of rejection that you can't prepare for...it feels like someone died but there's no funeral. You still get their texts asking for passwords to your joint iTunes account...questions about where the covers to the patio furniture were packed...and each time a little bit of you dies inside because nothing real is ever said.

That's when I got an email from his family asking if we'd booked our tickets to Barbados. We'd spent every Christmas with his family but all that was over. I felt my chest tighten and took a couple of deep breaths. What would I say, how would I say it? Betty helped me draft my reply and I let go...I let go of every last bit of him. That's what I love most about my relationship with Betty. We're always there for each other when the chips are down. We argue and we bicker - and we laugh and we cry - and we move on together.

As we were packing up to head back to nyc, I felt something I'd never felt before: I missed home. And I've never missed home in my life - not my family home or my married home or my penthouse loft. I thought I was just that kind of person who didn't need roots but that's not true. Spending half my time with Betty and half my time with my family has been so healing. I needed to make myself vulnerable and work through my past to stand next to Betty and do the work.

I'm a 40 year old unmarried woman who owns nothing and lives with her business partner and parents.  It's far from the cultural ideal.  But it's my life and I feel fortunate for the experiences and the relationships I have...my mind is clear and my heart is open ready for what's next.  It's all good. 

Editor in Chief & Keeper of All Things Betty Dodson

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Yeah Carlin you own yourself

Thu, 12/05/2013 - 12:59
Jake E

There are lots of people of 40 who own lots of things but don't own themselves. Who have drifted away from who they are in the act of getting those things. 

Thank you, Jake, I love that

Thu, 12/05/2013 - 12:58
Carlin Ross

Thank you, Jake, I love that sentiment.  I do own myself. 

Your Vulnerability is Beautiful

Thu, 12/05/2013 - 13:33
Dawn D (not verified)

Thank you for sharing such a confusing and eye opening experience. You were given a wonderful opportunity to face death and be grateful for your life. The grace you and Betty display in your daily actions bring miracle to the mundane. As a Midwestern married woman for nearly 20 years by the age of 38, one would think my perspective would be different than yours; however, your openess resonates within me. I hope you don't mind if I pretend you are my courageous big sister, because you give me strength just like one. Sending you loving vibes from Missouri.


Thu, 12/05/2013 - 14:03
Liandra Dahl (not verified)

Yes, I think Jake got it exactly right. That's a beautiful sentiment. A life worth living is not the accumulation of things but an accumulation of magical moments, memories and wisdom, all things that increase in value when shared. You and Betty are two of the richest people on earth in that paradigm.

I recently discovered I needed to step into my vulnerability and step out of my armour or I would end up entirely numb and dysfunctional in my heart. It's hard and way out of my comfort zone but then most things worth doing are.
Love to you both.

Thank you

Thu, 12/05/2013 - 14:32

Thank you for a very moving piece. My condolences to Betty and to you. Loss touches all of us. Saying good--bye is never easy, but it's an inescapable part of human life that we all have in common and that can bring us closer to those who matter most.

Much love to you and Betty as

Thu, 12/05/2013 - 17:10
TheresaL (not verified)

Much love to you and Betty as you each move through this time of change.
I am 49 and have given up nearly everything in order to own myself.  There is very little of my old life (lives, really) that I miss now.  But there is a sense of groundlessness in standing naked in such vulnerability.  It takes enormous courage and self-love to be sovereign. 
In my humble opinion, this is the best piece of writing you have ever done Carlin. We often think that we teach most effectively when we have the answers or have it together.  I find I learn most easily from and am most inspired by those who have no answers and have fallen apart. 

Carlin, I really felt the

Thu, 12/05/2013 - 19:00
Dayle (not verified)

Carlin, I really felt the need to reach out to you I'm so sorry to hear what you are going through. Also my thoughts are with Betty and her brother.

I always say that in this lifetime the only thing we can *truly* own is our own bodies. Everything else, be it other people or material, is external to us and therefore not in our control and so can be taken from us within an instance. That is why your work is so important, you empower women and even men to really own their bodies in their entirety. The world seems so distracted from our true intrinsic power by the possession of paper and coins, the possession of land, bricks and mortar and the possession of other human beings. And that's what love is according to society: possession! I love you = I own you. But real love is about freedom and that is what you and Betty fly the flag for and so I really want to thank you for that.

I think I heard this in a podcast that indeed you and Betty are both mothers as you have nurtured so many women. You may not fit society's wishes (but who ever does? Perfection is but a myth) for a lady of 40 but please never feel less-than because you are way above and beyond it. 

All my blessings :)

Sending you love

Fri, 12/06/2013 - 14:32
Tippy123 (not verified)

Hi Carlin,
Thank you so much for writing from a place of vulnerability and transparency. It's healing, inspiring and moving. I'm sending you light, love and sisterhood. You are loved. You are safe. Appreciated. 
You've delighted me with your discoveries, challenged me by challenging yourself, and led me to own myself. 
I'm so moved by your experience right now.

Oh my this is so beautiful... I'm writing through tears

Fri, 12/06/2013 - 15:22
The 'other' Marisa (not verified)

Carlin & Betty too :)
this post has so much emotion and with it the best kind because it also brings clarity too. Its seems so easier in today's ultra busy world or our 'made' to be busy lives to try and shy away from our human & raw emotions with our many distractions. You seem to have the art of writing a short post that touches me and I know so many readers on so many levels. I'm happy and humbled every time I come and read from dodsonandross.com. Both you and Betty and your great team of bloggers feed my soul and nuture my walk of life's journey! Keep up the great work! My heart and positive energy are flowing to you, Betty, Dickie and his family as you continue to love & heal each other! 
You proud sister in Body Sex May 2013
The 'other' Marisa


Sun, 12/15/2013 - 13:02
Allison (not verified)

Beautiful openness and beautiful image. Thankful for who you are.

Thank you

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 20:23
freedom goddess jess (not verified)

Thank you for your wonderful honesty!
Trust us misfits , if we are to be perfect according to society, there would be no point to society as we know it. The whole point of westren culture is to push to be better than the next wo(man). And if we where all perfect than that kinda defeats the purpose.
So my lovely goddess , keep up the great work and know that hearing your words of pure essence is grounding and liberating in the same breathe.
Also thank you to all those who commented too, reading the band of beautiful souls , understanding and embrace ourselves is truly enlighting, many blessings.
And much love and light to betty as well, may the courage that has served her so well in the past shine through.
So be it and so it is :)