• Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 2,906 other followers

Adrift on a Sea of Storms


It’s no secret that times are hard, as hard as they’ve been in our lifetimes for most of us. For most of us, we’ve had to contend with prices of necessities rising faster than our salaries. Some of us have had to deal with our jobs disappearing in a plume of smoke while we watch fat cats at the banks and companies who precipitated the crisis get ginormous bonuses while we struggle to keep our mortgages paid.

Times like this can be likened to a storm-tossed ocean that we are swimming in, with no boats and no sign of land. The things we cling to are the things that we reach for even in good times – each other. Family and friends in other words become our life preservers as we watch the Titanic slip below the icy waves.

When we are troubled and sad, we instinctively reach out for the people we trust the most, people who we know are going to be there when we call. There’s nothing worse than sending out a distress call and getting a busy signal, after all. For most of us, we aim our bat-signal very carefully making sure the call for help reaches the right ears.

In a cold world we instinctively reach for warmth. Certain people are human comforters, able to make you feel better with a single word or gesture. We just want to wrap these individuals around us. Others can bring a smile to your face no matter how many tears have fallen or how broken our hearts are. Most of us can name at least one person in our lives we have turned to who provide these things for us.

Often the first person we think to call when the news is bad is our moms. The psychology for this is pretty simple. When we are hurting what we really crave is nurturing. Nobody can comfort you like your mother can. If I had been bullied or made fun of (not an uncommon occurrence in my neighborhood) sometimes just a hug from my mom would be enough to make me feel better. While I don’t recall her baking fresh cookies just because I was feeling down, I think the sentiment was there. My mom knew – and still knows – how to make me smile no matter how down I am.

It has nothing to do with sympathy. Sympathy is easy; buy a card or drop an e-mail, that’s all the commitment sympathy takes. Comfort requires something. It requires time and effort and yes, sometimes it requires cookies. It requires presence and a willingness to continue being present, even if it is inconvenient for you. It is a willingness to open yourself up to someone who is hurting and liable to lash out. It is emotionally draining and time-consuming and often dangerous but it can be rewarding when you know you can be there for someone who needs you. You may not realize it but when you do that you are accomplishing something far more important than anything else you might do.

You see, we’re all in the same stormy waters and the only reason we haven’t drowned yet is that we’re all linked up life preserver to life preserver. Every time someone sinks the water rises a little higher on all of us. That’s because all of us affect at least one other person, and usually more than we think we do. For example the friend we cheer up together goes on to be in a better mood when her son runs to her to be comforted. He in turn shares his cookie with a friend who goes home and gives his big sister a hug who spends the next five hours on the phone with a distraught friend who had he not had a friend at that moment had been contemplating taking his own life.

We’re all connected, tenuously in some cases but all of us live on the same planet, breathe the same air. We all of us have the same basic needs. We may not have the same dreams or the same goals but we all of us feel pain, all of us bleed, all of us can be hurt. When that happens, we all want to feel better, without exception. While some of us draw inward, most of us reach outwards. All of us need a human touch and not just a physical one. Sometimes that touch takes the form of a word or a smile, but we all need it, even the most anti-social of us. That part of us that requires it is the part of us that is most easily wounded.

Not all of us welcome the touch of a stranger and even though we may be well-intentioned, it is usually wiser not to insist. Offer, most certainly – sometimes the offer is the most important thing – but don’t press. If someone wants what you have to give they’ll usually just start talking to you on their own. Even if they desperately need an ear, a hug or a conversation sometimes people need to get their bearings before they’re ready for any of that. Respect the need to bear their own pain in silence, sometimes a person’s dignity is wrapped up in it. Let them come to you on their terms, not yours. After all, it isn’t about you.

If you’re the kind of person that prides yourself on not needing help from anybody, kindly rethink your position. Holding things in is almost always a bad idea. If you don’t know anybody you feel comfortable talking to, find somebody. Talk to a stranger – a therapist, hell a bartender if that’s more up your alley. The point is don’t keep your pain to yourself. Nobody deserves to suffer in silence or otherwise. Just talking about what’s bothering you can help you feel better.

As I said we’re all in this together. We are all brothers and sisters and like brothers and sisters, we don’t always get along. But like siblings, it is our responsibility to be there for one another. Without launching into a chorus of “We Are the World,” shared pain is always lessened but shared joy is always increased. It’s one of those immutable laws that puzzles psychiatrists but delights science fiction writers. When you are a life preserver for one, you are unwittingly keeping a whole part of the ocean floating. So for real, the love you share comes back to you, often from unexpected sources. As corny and hippy-esque as it sounds, what the world needs now is more love and when you are there for someone, you are showing your love in a tangible way. Love one another – if we all follow that simple guideline, we put an end to war and conflict. Without those things, there’s no limit to what we can do as a society. When we put an end to conflict in our own lives, similarly there are no limits to what we can do as individuals. You have to admit, it isn’t a bad trade-off.

Still, that means getting out of our ruts and we humanoids love our ruts. Leaving our comfort zone is admittedly one of the most difficult things we can do, but it is necessary. The longer we stay there, the more likely it is we’re all going to drown and that my friend is unacceptable.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: