Sunday, October 30, 2011

the remarkable thing about being human

'safe' -
The remarkable thing about being human is that the admission of such a state brings the other humans out of the wood work. Get any one person alone and safe, and there you’ll find the truth: they are human too. But out in the bigger world, you’d never know it. We all have shiny hair and friends and are happy-and-you-know-it. In large groups and public forums, our connections are often surface level: humor, agreeable beliefs, similar hobbies and like interests. While these things aren’t bad – in fact they are very good and I would even say they are necessary forms of connection – they aren’t as sticky as the bonds that are formed with honest confessions of failure, of love and genuine friendship. I often find myself gazing quizzically at Happy Façade, wondering why it still has strength to stand when there are so many obvious cracks in the idea. One on one, we’re honest. Why then, can’t we be honest with the world?

The trick as I’ve learned it is that safe venues for truth are limited and scarce. I once belonged to a community that was both welcoming and humble, until I cracked. I realized upon my breaking that I no longer fit the picture – my façade was off in a breeze somewhere, and I was left in the middle of  The (overcrowded) Standard, bare bones and dirty soul a-showing, wondering where my friends went. In short? My safe place was not safe at all, it had only seemed that way. Oh, I could stay in the group if I wanted to, if I cleaned up my act, apologized for disrupting the peace, and practiced my glimmering speeches. To maintain the relationships, to continue receiving the elusive Good Opinion, to keep hearing “Welcome!” at the door, I’d have to dash madly after my façade, and put it sharply back in place. Poetic language aside: to stay there, I would have had to fake it.

And therein begs the question: what do we do with the daily pressure to do what The Group thinks we should? What would they do if they knew the truth; that we not only fell below the norm, but chose to live against it? I was speaking awhile ago with a friend of mine who lives in a beautiful Suburbia with her husband…and no children. The pressure upon the childless to have children is like the pressure on the single to wed, is like the pressure on the unholy to repent: silent, but pressing; subtle, but fully there. She knows and I understand her; that eventually, something’s gotta give. Next was raised a valid and haunting question: if I never fit here, will I have to leave?

Like it or not we are still, at large, afraid of things that are different. More specifically: of people that are not like us. That person does not believe what I do; this person does not have the same lifestyle; their choices are not choices that I would make. We like it when the people we like are like us. The fear of difference may not always exhibit itself as hatred, but rather: an odd mix of incapacitation and haphazardly naive instructions. I do not know what to do with this person’s decisions; therefore, I will keep myself apart from who they are and offer my salacious wisdom instead. One of my best friends, having been married for a good number of years, was given this sharp disapproval from a woman she hardly knew: “You’re waiting too long to have children.” Her response in the moment was a turn of the heel and a quick walk away, but later she confessed to me how much that comment had hurt her. “She doesn’t even know me. What if I can’t even have kids?” Incredible that the woman would blindly storm the gate with her opinion, rather than deal with her own discomfort that my friend had not borne children ‘yet’. It’s much easier, after all, to tell someone what we think of them without paying attention to who they are.

With all my quizzical glances at Happy Façade, there have been just as many if not more at the abuse of unpublic knowledge. The fly in the ointment of confession is that it is right to be afraid of where we’ll land when we come clean. The more honest I have been on afterthoughts, and in my day-to-day conversations, the more I have come to see that I’m not the only one practicing my dance steps. Most everyone I know balks at at least one of the standards: no kids, no husband, no career goals, no religion. Pick whichever one you’d like, and you’ll be doing some mighty fine footwork on the way to sorting yourself out. The goal is not to lie, but rather, to avoid getting burned. Or can we hope for as much? Will it always be important to be a checkmark on someone else’s list? Or will we, at some point, get to dance for the right reasons?

'safe' -
In regards to my friends and their children or lack of children, singleness or lack of singleness, faith or confusion, the only consolation I can offer you is that the journey is yours and you have to make it so. Part of figuring out what you want in life involves uncomfortable interactions with people who are self-appointed-sages on all-things-you. But take heart: the other part of the journey involves actually figuring out what you want, and becoming strong enough to be strong and honest about it, even in the tightest of corners. Eventually, something will give. Either you stay and grow, or leave and do the same; I’ve done both and seen benefit and strength come from each. My rule of thumb is that staying is for my human-self, and leaving is for when I’m not allowed to check my Happy Façade at the door. So far, it’s worked out well.

If I’ve learned anything from falling apart in view of the public, or quietly disclosing my humanity to one, or finding hearts that do not need to be the same as mine to welcome me in, it’s that Love is a better place to land than judgment. Let our familiarity as humans not be found in the likeness of our decisions, but in the likeness of our states, as messy, beautiful people. What a comfort it has been to meet and know those who do not require a makeshift shittogetherness for entry. It is my hope that I would be the same kind of place for others.


Sharelle said...

hey -

thanks for this.


Anonymous said...

thanks for coming back to share your thoughts with us. Though I've never met you, I constantly find myself coming back to be challenged, encouraged, and sometimes just entertained. If you didn't come back I was going to suggest you write a book of all your stuff you wanted to say so that I could buy it. And then I wouldn't need to feel weird always reading your stuff, haha. It's cool to follow Donald Miller even if you haven't met him, right?


Mama said...

I also am continuously dumbfounded by the judgement of others on others. Some of the dumbest things were said to me when you girls were little and I had the audacity to become pregnant yet again. Especially with my fourth. Lord have mercy.
As far as faith or the lack of it, the Bible says, "Be merciful to those who doubt." God is not afraid of our questions and fears. So why don't we come along side of those who are struggling instead of kicking them while they're down?
As far as not having children "yet" - why some think they can freely butt into anyone else's private life is a great mystery to me. For many years when my brother and his wife didn't have children we just assumed they didn't plan to have any. I often thought, "They are such a wonderful Uncle and Auntie, they would make great parents." However, I never thought, "Why the hell don't they have kids, what's wrong with them??"
And, as far as being single, I just can't believe there are those who think there's something seriously wrong with people who aren't married.
I have often thought, "I would never dream of saying that to you so why on earth did you say it to me?"
Self-righteousness rears its ugly head far too often, something we all need to watch for. Empathy appears to be on the decline at times. When God said, "Love one another" He wasn't just being warm and fuzzy.

afterthoughtcomposer said...

thanks all,