I wrote this post while sitting in a coffee shop, reflecting on the suicide of my friend’s psychotherapy client, and feeling the depth of our common humanity experience of suffering.
To those of us who cannot fathom or reconcile with our personal story, we are not alone.
To those of who feel, anew, terrible old wounds when new ones are inflicted, we are not alone
To those of us who love too much, maybe because we feel, deep in our heart, that we will not survive if we don’t, we are not alone.
To those of us who remain while our loved ones, our clients, our peers, our generation gradually leave, we are not alone.
To those of us who wonder if it’s all worth it, we are not alone.
We are the broken hearted. We are the story carriers. We are the ones who embrace all that is dark and all that is light, and try to work out how the hell to keep perspective. We are the ones who cry and die and then are rebuilt to die a little more, to find a new limb tomorrow.
We are the ones who can’t bear to bury ourselves in today’s news or lose ourselves in climbing a corporate ladder or project ourselves onto the screens that are our children. We are the ones who take responsibility for it all, who feel it all, who face it all without deflecting reality off of distractions we create. And then we understand the appeal of burying and climbing and projecting. Because being with it all is so fucking hard.
We are the ones who wrestle with weight issues, addiction, depression, anxiety, and who call these counterparts by name. We know them and respect them and fear them and accept that they are a part of who we are.
We are the ones with terrible secrets our worlds cannot bear to know. We are the protectors of families, tho’ that vocation at times all but kills us.
And we see ourselves in every other self.
Just a glance at another, and we feel connected. Eye contact can mean a life’s story. A few words and we long to hold the other in our arms. You, too….
How on earth do we survive? How do we get up to hold it all again for another day? And why do we knowingly wade further into the mire of emotion and connection and disconnection and reconnection?
Those of us who can stay are those of us who have enough beauty to support us. Those of us who can stay know that we can express ourselves, that we are connected in some way to the massive expanse of common humanity. Sometimes we see glimpses and sometimes we are immersed, and it’s enough for us. Those of us who can’t stay release ourselves from faith, unbind ourselves from expectation, take control of our unbearable vastness so that we don’t have to hold it anymore. And there is surely peace in resigning from that job. Surely. To sleep forever might be the greatest act of compassion.
Those of us who stay, but who understand the desire to leave, do not judge. We hold what we can and we hold as much of the departed as we need, and we hug ourselves to our own bodies and walk on.
And then it is only kindness that matters*. It is only kindness that gets us out of bed to kiss our spouse and make coffee. It is only kindness that drives us to the shop to buy frozen dinners and apples. It is only kindness that allows us to hold all that punctures us from the inside rather than hurling it at another. It is only kindness that gives us faith that it is worth carrying on. We know kindness because we know cruelty, and there is so much of that in the world already. It makes no sense to keep topping up that overflowing vessel.
Let us remember that we are connected. Let us remember that we are loved by some who don’t even know us, and surely by many of those who do. Let us recognize acts of violence as tragic expressions of the unmet needs** of other warm, feeling humans who, themselves, once possessed faith and sweet innocence.
Let us remember that our species is not designed to be happy, but to survive. And that our human capacity for such amazing depth of experience means nothing in a genetic fight for survival of the fittest, and yet we still have that capacity. Let us accommodate our new minds in our old bodies. Let us wonder that we’ve even gotten this far, and celebrate all that is worth celebrating. Let us continually seek connection and reach out to the unconnected.
All we have is each other. And together we are everything.
*”Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye
**Marshall Rosenberg (Non-Violent Communication): “Every act of violence is the tragic expression of an unmet need.”