Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.
We live in a world of competitions—some healthy, some destructive. These days, especially, we catch ourselves thinking, “friend or foe?” when we meet someone and often when we interact with someone we know. Constantly in a cynical, defensive pose, we wonder why we feel tense and vaguely unhappy. The world seems hostile. “I don’t like you because…” as fact or potential smothers us in dense smog.
Recently, my husband and I traveled to visit family we hadn’t seen in well over a year—apart not because we didn’t want to be together but because COVID considerations and distance were against us. I had previously determined it was time for me to drop my defenses in all aspects of my life, simply be my whole self, and shine as brightly as possible. Not everyone I encountered was charmed, but I could breathe better. Those who used my vulnerability to attack me looked small and silly to me—like bad-tempered children who needed a nap. I learned long ago not to engage with drunks or people who arrive already angry, particularly those who live in a declarative world where they don’t entertain important questions. I gently closed the book on a couple of them, hoping one day to have cause to reopen the pages.
Physically being with loving family again—the members of our family who disregard differences while magnifying affection—was a trip through the waterfall into a magical realm where colors are bright, the birds sing trilling songs, and puppies lick your toes. We hugged and hugged and hugged. We didn’t ask anything of one another but presence and love. We laughed as none of us have laughed for many months. When my husband and I returned, our acupuncturist remarked that both of us were healthier than we had been before we embarked on our grueling drive. Of course we were. We had recharged from the inside. Only our shells were exhausted.
When I was in high school, my mother scolded me for allowing myself to be used—doing too many tasks for friends, teachers, and others. “They only like you for what you do for them.” I wanted to share myself since I sensed that one day people would no longer seek me out as they did then. People don’t often fret over the motives of young people who want to help. They don’t love children because of what they can do, but they enjoy what they can do because they love the children. Why does that change? We trust children more than we trust adults—maybe because children don’t have as much power to harm us. The current popularity of bullying reminds us that adults are merely big children. They can and do harm us. But how many times do we miss a possible friendship, or belittle or hide ourselves from our best lives because of a bully? The wounds I’ve sustained, for example, from being open to the unkind are inconsequential beside the tremendous benefits I’ve gained from daring to be real. Like everyone else, when I’m at my worst, I need friendship the most.
Perhaps we need to practice being open to one another without a “because.” Is it possible to love people purely as dimensional human beings? Is it possible to be open to people who aren’t family or lovers or BFFs? Can we give each other a chance or two or three before we close the book and resume our defensive pose?