The thing about humans is we have an innate ability to cry one minute, wipe away the tears the next minute, stand up straight and step out into the sunshine and carry on, with the rest of the world. We all do that. So it is not absolutely surprising to find yourself in the constant company of someone struggling and be totally clueless to what they are dealing with.
Sometimes a word here and there will slip through and you may have an inkling of what may be going on, but as long as you keep ‘minding your business’ and not asking if you are not told, chances are, you won’t be told. Society has taught us that toughing it up and carrying on is a show of dignity, and showing any sign of wear and tear is weakness.
Then there is that added expectation to not air your dirty laundry; to keep up appearances, or to not bother others with your woes because everyone has their own worries. I think this has been one of the harder things for me. I was brought up to be and appreciate the value of relationships and to put in my best in nurturing the ones I have, and that entails openness and honesty on my part as well, with people I call family or friends. And by honesty, I don’t mean rudeness or insensitivity. I mean being open and honest and forthcoming about feelings (mine and theirs) ALL THE TIME.
Anyone that knows me knows how terrible I am at pretending things are honky dory when they are not. I can’t abide people that keep the upper stiff lip with me if they consider me a friend or family. It creates for mistrust, because honestly, if you can’t trust me to be vulnerable with me, why should I feel safe to be so with you?
And then there is that added need to bury one’s head in the sand, rather than confront difficult situations. But isn’t it the truth though the relationships are built through the difficult and uncomfortable conversations? Great relationships don’t just fall into our laps; they require us to forge through our fears insecurities and vulnerabilities and do the hard work to move pain and heal wounds.
The truth is, I strongly believe that any hurdle in a relationship can be fixed as soon as it appears, and everyone involved has the mindfulness to let go of ego and face it. The trick though is that when you approach a slight with ego, you invite the ego of the other person, and thus ensure a battle of egos, and the primary cause of the conflict then gets relegated to the sidelines, until it becomes unrecognizable and you find yourself at a point wondering what the hell you are doing and how you got to that place of strife and alienation, while the original reason for the strife is shelved and still raw and brewing, waiting to be visited.
Heck! even the shelved and brewing strife can be revisited, albeit more painfully and harder, and worked through until you come to a place where healing begins. The process, however, is communal; all parties have to participate otherwise, we’ll only be putting band aid on a bullet wound. The question here is, how often (or ever) are we reaching out to find out about each other’s pains and struggles? How are we being accountable of our part in it? How are we availing ourselves to be part of the healing?
There is so much pain, hatred, bitterness, judgement and a need for vindication and reparation going about lately, on our streets and in our homes. It is exhausting. Everyone seems to feel a right to their pain, to justifying the need to let feelings flow freely. Yes, feelings should be felt, but we also get to chose which feeling are worth our energy.
I for one have had to make a daily conscious effort to chose what feelings I allow to surface. I have as much reason as the lot of us to be angry, and bitter, and hateful, and wanting retribution and vindication and all it takes is my eyes to open each morning for the floods of reasons overtake me.
Funny that my therapist called me zen the other day. Our conversation went something like this:
Therapist: When was the last time —— checked on you and the kid since all this happened?
Me: Never (wondering why ‘never’ seemed surprising…)
Therapist: (Deep breath, sigh) Wow! You must be pretty upset, no wonder you feel alone.
Me: I’ve always felt alone, but I am not upset, not really.
Therapist: It is upsetting, and you mustn’t hold it all in, let yourself feel.
Me: I am sad about it, that is a feeling, right? I am just not upset. I guess I have learned that some relationships happen when you get brought into people’s lives by association with someone else. Sometimes, you find out right away that there is no room for you. Other times, it’ll take the ‘introducer’ to be out of the equation for you to know the quality of the relationship that was had, because suddenly you’ll become that familiar stranger they don’t know how to relate to you, because they have never allowed themselves to know you on your own merit and you have to be OK with that…I guess I am OK with that…
Therapist: That is so zen of you.
And yes, I spent the last few days actually wondering if I was indeed zen. That was not zen; that was just being pragmatic. But on the flip side, this is just one side of that coin. Who is to say the silence is not a result of me waiting to be reached out to rather than reaching out and saying “I need you”?
We have been moving in abstract spaces regarding our pains and each other’s. Almost as though not acknowledging ours makes it go away, or denying other’s makes us innocent of inflicting it. It’ll be nice to be there for each other as we find ways to heal our pains. It’s time to move from the abstract to reality, to reach out and be available.
We can dare to be vulnerable around each other, knowing space will be held for us until we grow our wings and break out of the cocoon of pain we are brewing in. However, we also must remember that growth doesn’t wait for us to happen; it happens regardless of our cooperation or lack, thereof. We must therefore chose our nourishment wisely, by ways we engage daily, let us chose to be a balm and not a bruise to each other, so that we can grow strong and healthy, and not weak and deformed, because growth will happen, regardless.
I have availed myself to mending fences and remain open to creating (or being) a safe place for anyone that needs a listening ear, needs a shoulder or needs to heal, but I also am reading rooms and removing myself from venomous situations/people that chose to keep hurting when there is an available alternative. I am tired of hurting. I really am and this is my reality.
Peace begins with me.
©Naan Pocen 2020
P.S. Brene Brown has something useful to share about connection.