This post was originally published on Trauma Dad.
People who know me, know that I am constantly approached by people in need. People who know me on a deeper level are already aware that I used to shut those people down right away, keep walking, ignore situations, decide not to get involved, pretend I was busy, or send them on their way. The idea of opening myself to that just felt too stressful. But thanks to two very valuable people in my life, one a loving friend, the other a stranger, I opened myself up.
Now when people reach out, I’m there. I’m not ALWAYS there. I rest, change the pace, work on particularly difficult scenarios, do the work which makes the money, play with my children, engage in mild escapism, or just revel in the lives and company of my friends.
Lately, when people reach out, I’m noticing a common theme: Loneliness. Whether we’re in a strange place where everybody’s too on-their-guard to let others in, or surrounded by a crowd of well-meaning people who are trying their best, we all get lonely.
If there’s one thing I want to give to all those lovely lonely people walking up to me, calling me, or writing me, it’s the gift of my simple presence. I’m impoverished. I have nothing. But I’ve been through this enough now to know how valuable my simply being available can be for people in need, friends and strangers alike.
People need connection. Soul on soul. Heart to heart. Skin on skin. Connection.
I think one of the things which hinders connection is the idea that we’re not supposed to connect. We feel overburdened by the idea, under-qualified by a society which says “leave it to the professionals”. Men in particular often feel the need to keep it all inside, or they’ll suffer the criticism of being too weak to deal with it on their own. This ties into the incorrect social assumption that emotional sensitivity and openness are signs of weakness.
Connection is also hindered by the idea that all relationships should start with showing your best side. “But I don’t have a good side” say some, or “all I have is a good side” say douchebag others. Ultimately, we choose social mechanics like “small talk” as the happy, confused, boring medium. Before we let a person get close, it has somehow become imperative to first discuss weather, beer, celebrities, and sports.
I would argue that such shallowness is at the root of why, even in long-term marriages and similar partnerships, we remain distant. We’re too afraid to admit that we presented a non-truthful version of ourselves at the start of the relationship. We’re afraid to bring up insecurities and touchy subjects with our significant others. Hell, we can’t even fart in front of them.
And in more casual relationships, we generally feel that honesty will make a person uncomfortable. Too much reality for a Friday night. I’m tired of that. I can’t stand it. Don’t invite me to that party.
Like with everything else I do, I like to go for the throat. Stun me with your honesty! Keep me interested by showing interest in me. Spill your soul out. That’s what I’m here for. And maybe that’s why strangers walk up to me on the street and tell me about the darkness in their lives. This openness of mine somehow registers for people. They know they can say it to me, that it will be safe, and that I will listen, and even try to help them.
Back when I was 20 or so, and kept my story of abuse very secret, because of the stigma that comes with having been abused, I told somebody my story of growing up in a severely abusive home. I was stopped, and told “I’m not your shrink.” I shut down right away and apologized.
“How dare you bring up your personal pain during a conversation with another human? That’s what institutions are for!”
It was true. She wasn’t my shrink. I get it. She probably felt like if she gave me advice it could mess me up or send me on the wrong path. I truly understand that feeling. That’s scary. That can be dangerous, and is better avoided in many cases. Thing is, I wasn’t looking for advice. I just needed to talk, and be heard. I needed somebody to be there. No qualifications. Just availability.
That’s what people are looking for. Availability. Emotional availability. Physical availability. Open ears, open arms. Mindful, caring togetherness. What, only professionals are allowed to listen when somebody’s in pain? A person who is paid to care about what I say, or the pain I’m in?
Is that really my only option? Fork over some cash or die of loneliness, heartbreak, confusion? If so, that’s the biggest con job in the history of humanity! If I can’t care for somebody unless I have a PhD – if I can’t open my soul unless the person I’m talking to has a wall full of paperwork which says I’m allowed to – our society is broken, and needs fixing.
You can’t buy care. You can’t pay a professional for that. That comes from the connection between individuals who enter into an, often unspoken, consensual agreement to nurture one another.
“I absolutely care for you. That’ll be $199.99 You can stay, but the extra hour is going to cost double. I’ll care extra if you purchase the platinum subscription.”
Happiness is about many different things. For me, there is great value in what good I can be to others on both personal and collective levels.
I know it sounds like that’s impossible. There’s always an angle right? To clarify, I don’t ask for, desire (necessarily), nor expect a single thing from the people I choose to be there for. I’m there because it is inherently beneficial for me to be there. It’s not altruism. Believe me. I am rarely disinterested. I am far from selfless.
I’m in it for gains. It’s selfish. I get an awful lot out of it. Relief, happiness, satisfaction, friendship, personal healing, wisdom, grace, experience, stories (omitting names), a legacy, being part of social progress, a malicious and vindictive destruction of apathy and abuse… I could probably go on forever. The thing I get the most out of this is that I am surrounded, utterly overloaded, with people who adore and treasure me, accept me, laugh with me, hug me, value me, and love me. If love is wealth, my vault is overflowing. I’m Scrooge McDuck, swimming in it.
Nobody owes me anything. I have already been compensated.
I am almost never lonely. I can’t remember the last time I was bored, and I’ve found solace in the burning chaos of my own loving, raging, courageous heart. Sometimes I love so deep it hurts, but that pain beats, hands down, the alternative, which is emptiness.
I’ve found my tumultuous existence, my mental disorder, and even those haunting terrors, rippling ever outward, which I have brought upon the world, to be my force, my power, vital to the core of my love and ability to connect. But the love I receive from others is infinitely more powerful.
In the poker game that is the gamble of living well, I am the King of Hearts (which, if you say it fast, sounds like “king of farts”)!
Using people, abusing people, neglecting people, discarding people, charging people… that all ends with me. Here in my fortress, you’ll feel the warmth of how I value you. Value. Every individual person in the entire world has value. If you ever can’t find yours, look me up. I’ll find it for you. I’m good at that sort of thing.
Find me, magnetized and available, in the desolation of your deepest darkness. I’ll be there, waiting, fighting, and caring for you. Because fuck not caring.
This post was originally published on Trauma Dad.