I See You.

I made a vow to myself and to you that my writing would be authentic and I would show up just as I am. I am like that speaker who doesn’t use notes. I never know what all is gonna come out of my head and fall out my fingers, ending up as a blog post. This morning, I’m feeling heavy for two of my friends. One lost her mother unexpectedly yesterday. The other lost a friend to suicide. Having lost both a parent and a (still) beloved ex to suicide, I was compelled to address the topic of loss and the ties that bind us. It is a basic, natural response soon after the shock of a death, that we immediately attempt to recall the last time we saw that friend or loved one alive…to remember the last words spoken. Knowing the last line of the last chapter of that relationship…knowing the book is closed and memories will replace dialogue and future alternate endings is something we etch into everlasting recollections. I think we’d be hard pressed to find among us, anyone who is 100% satisfied with how a sudden ending left us with no time to say the thing, whatever it is, vs the nondescript summary that is now your final memory of the departed. I have often said, never leave someone’s presence if you would not be at peace with the last moments of that conversation. Because, it just might be the last moments you get. It is quite unrealistic (and depressing) to live our lives as if we will never see each other again, and we’d get more than a few, “Are you OKs?” if we switched conversational gears, pouring out the contents of our heart as if it were the last time we’d see each other, to the healthy, very much alive person standing in front of us. I have shared my belief for years, that part of what is wrong with the world is we are invisible to one another. We walk past others, avoiding eye contact, conversation, simple smiles at strangers; without saying anything we are saying, “I don’t see you.” Anyone who has known me for five minutes knows I talk. A lot. I talk to pretty much everyone I come across, if the situation offers a choice of silence or dialogue. Elevators, grocery lines, doctor’s lobbies, you name it. (I typically draw the line on flights. However, I have friends today that I met in airports on long layovers or was seated in 18B and they were 18A.) I believe that many of us feel as if others don’t want to be bothered by our talking. I have found this absolutely untrue. As soon as I ask the person how their day is going, and that first few seconds of surprise passes, they smile. And, they respond. They willingly elaborate if I express further interest in any details. They are visible. To a total stranger. What a concept. The next time you are in a populated area, pay attention to the number of random interactions you witness. I have been both on the giving and the receiving end of “stranger interface.” And, there were times that my day turned around because I was visible. More often than not, these mini- conversations have ended with a hug. A HUG. From invisibility to a hug in 3 minutes. It’s a pretty beautiful thing to laugh with someone you just met, that you will likely never see again, but, you SAW them, then. You both walk away richer for the experience. It makes me feel “nicer.” It lifts my spirits, even if I wasn’t down. It affects, in a positive way, how I view humanity. I’m a calmer driver when I think not of the car next to me, but of the dad driving the car, the daughter, the best friend, the nurse, the human. But, for some reason, we can put a piece of metal and some glass between two humans and all respect dissipates over a turn signal. Imagine the same scenario at a supermarket. You are walking past the end of an isle when another shopper almost bumps into and you launch into a fit of name calling, yelling, maybe flipping them off for emphasis. No. We apologize. And, the other shopper says, “No problem,” “You’re ok,” and we smile after the fact. We just apologized and forgave another human in 3 seconds. Meanwhile, you’re still tailgating the guy who didn’t use his blinker. Don’t think I’m not prone to this pissing me off, too. It is an irritant. But, then, the dad/daughter/best friend/nurse/human thing comes to mind and I can throw them some grace. It’s not the end of the world and I don’t need retaliation lest my entire day is otherwise ruined. Sometimes, I’m the one out of blinker fluid. I realize I’m on autopilot and I have (gasp) gotten over into the next lane without signaling . I hear a horn. See the finger. And, if we end up at a stop light together, 100% of the time, I look over at the driver and if they look my way, I apologize. Guess what follows…usually a wave, shrug and smile or even an apology in return. “I’m just an asshole driver,” one guy told me at a red light after I didn’t signal. No matter how big of a peeve this is to so many of us, we are all prone to doing it, at some point. I couldn’t tell you if I used my blinker for the first two weeks after my dad died. This brings me back around to what prompted this post. Show up for your fellow humans. I have caught myself, even recently, posting a negative, unproductive, shameful comment on a page I follow, in response to a hopelessly ignorant woman making racist comments. I am quite sure my response has changed her demeanor and outlook and she is now in my camp. My shitty retort was just what was needed to convert her. I could have tried to connect with her through kindness and she might have been receptive, but I widened the gap between “us” and “them”. We are all capable of higher level thinking. If we zoom out, we can see the complexities of a total human life instead of a single view of an individual, reducing their entire identity to said view, making US the more narrow minded of the two. We are the ones inhibiting the planet together, not anyone from a hundred and fifty years ago, not anyone that will be born in another hundred years…but US, all of us alive today. We are here, experiencing life as it is, together. Think about that for just a minute. Every hundred years, the earth sheds its population and that group of people will live out their life never knowing the group that entered and “molted” this rock, together. So, when I talk about acknowledging a passerby’s presence, I am talking about connection. Not from behind the safety of a screen, or the insulation of metal and glass. Too often, people who commit suicide leave behind bewildered friends and family who could never have imagined their loved one was in such deep pain. I have been there. While I have never had the courage to think about how I would do it, I have wished that the sunrise I was watching through wet eyes would be my last. It is the most tragic emotion, that of utter isolation. I didn’t call people because I didn’t know how to convey how seriously sick and depressed I was. It would have, I thought, sounded overly dramatic, attention-seeking, and, God forbid my reputation be dinged at a time like that. The message I spread today is sincere and deeply personal…call me. Call anybody, but if you feel you have no one, you do. I was overcome with emotion when I got well, told my story and the connections POURED in. I could clearly see, then, that I could have picked up the phone and told any one of those friends, even acquaintances, the truth about my state and each of them would have been shoulder to shoulder with me, reassuring me, “We’ve got this.” That someone cared enough to interrupt their life to help save mine was an incredibly enlightening experience, and unintentionally, it’s how I began my new life of acknowledging strangers. The same obviously applies to our friends and family. But, if you’re like me, you can plan to call someone for months to reconnect before it actually happens, if at all. And, one day, YOU get the call. But, it’s not your friend on the line, it’s the news that your friend was found dead by their own hand at 11:00 Saturday morning. Who do you need to call? Today. Who do you have a weird suspicion is struggling? And, when you stop at the supermarket on the way home from work, can you deliberately make eye contact, smile, talk to the woman behind you. Ask  how her day is going. Chance are she won’t begin a dissertation about her seemingly unbearable challenges, or tell you that she just lost her sibling, or her job, or discovered her spouse was having an affair and her world is shattered, but for those moments, you are giving cause to someone to rethink humanity. Huge statement? Yep. It’s that big. It’s when there isn’t even the tiniest reason we can muster to go on living that the tiniest reason makes all the difference. If you need my number because you have no reasons left, I will gladly share it. I see you.

 

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