“All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
We are all interconnected, and we all need each other. Our ability to see and be seen by each other creates a beautiful depth of connection that we are privileged to experience.
This has been a great lesson for me. I realized many years back that I had been hiding my struggles from those who wanted to help me.
One of my close friends died when I was twenty-three. I’d thrown an art event the night before and had just come home from brunch with some friends.
I was tired and processing something hurtful that had happened to me at the event. And then my phone made this little beep, and I found out that while I was mingling at a party my beloved friend was dying.
Her sister, in her grief, sent me a text, “Lauren passed away last night. For service information email me…” I fell to the floor and simply stared at the words. I was numb and disoriented. Those words, there weren’t enough of them. It was too simple, too short, too fast.
As I stared at the phone in shock, it began to ring. My friend and business partner called to talk about the event.
I answered and told her my friend just died. And here comes the part that I’ve been ashamed of: instead of revealing my pain, I told her I was okay and began to talk about the drama from the previous night.
In an instant, unconscious choice, I decided that it was easier for me to push aside my grief than to be vulnerable.
That moment makes me cringe for a couple of reasons.
First, I’ve held on to the guilt that I wasn’t honoring my friend in having a casual conversation after learning of her passing. Yes, I was in shock, but there was something deeper happening.
I’ve realized that I wasn’t allowing myself to be authentic in my grief because I was afraid to be seen.
To be seen by our community is to recognize that we are worthy of being here, of taking up space, of needing support. I was unwilling to allow others to see me in my time of grief because on some level I didn’t believe I was worthy of it.
In some way it felt too risky. To open up would mean that the friendship was being tested, and what if the other person couldn’t be there for me? I wasn’t willing to find out.
And now I can see that there were so many more times throughout my life where I didn’t allow people to be there for me. I’d force my friends to take money when they wanted to pay for our meal. If I was sick I’d order take out instead of letting my friend pick up some soup and bring it over.
The only people I felt comfortable allowing to be there for me were my family members, the people who have known me forever and who accept me as I am.
When I lost Lauren I took the train to my parents’ house and fell into my mother’s arms sobbing. I knew how my mom would react to me; I knew she would embrace me and show me the love I needed.
It’s risky to open up to people when we’re not sure the outcome, but it’s important to be willing to be surprised.
The beautiful thing is that most people want to do for each other without getting anything in return. It makes us feel good to help someone else. We want to be of service, and we’re actually getting something in exchange.
We feel good about ourselves, about being alive, about being able to help someone. It gives us value and worth. It reminds us of the beauty in being human; it reminds us that we’re interconnected.
I want to live in a more authentic world. A place where we can show each other the truth about ourselves. I want to give my friends the privilege of being there to support me, and I hope they give me that same honor in return.
I hope we learn to stop filtering the parts of ourselves that make us human; because that humanness, that part of you that is unique to you, that is the part of you that you ought to be and the part of me that I ought to be.
And only when we show that part of ourselves to each other are we really living authentically. We need each other, and we want to need each other. You are no exception.
So when you’re in pain, share it. When you need help, ask for it. Trust that people will be there for you when you need it. All you have to do is share your truth.
Hopeless man image via Shutterstock