When I've spoken to people in the past (and even sometimes when I'm speaking to them now), I often wonder, "Who are you, really?"
This comes, I'm convinced, because I myself have always been a good pretender. This isn't really much to brag about or win a prize for (although, if there were, I'd totes win it), because most people I've ever met are really, really good at it too.
You know what I'm talking about: You're at a party, you're meeting people, either with excitement or dread in your stomach at the anticipation of what could happen from making a new connection. The very innermost part of you craves companionship, craves human connection, but the surface mind is screaming, "Holy hell, get me AWAY from these people, are you kidding me?! They're going to know who we ARE!"
This leads to a lot of surface conversation about how good the salad is or how Chelsea's husband's father's brother's health is doing. Or, if you're closer to my age, there's probably a lot of talk about the election and how the whole country is going to shit and what we millennials are going to do about it.
As I engage in these conversations, amidst the smiling and laughter (or subtle nodding and serious faces, depending on who we're trying to be), I look into the eyes of the person who's speaking to me, and feel a quiet desperation. A deep sadness wells up inside of me, desperately wishing to know who that person really is. "Who are you? What do you want from life? Are you anything like me? Am I anything like you? What if we could be best friends and never even knew it?" The possibilities are endless, but the connection we so badly crave is millions of miles away.
Sometimes I think I can read the other person's desperation to be heard, too. It's almost as if his or her eyes are begging me, "Please, ask me a question that I really want to answer. Dig into how I'm doing. Don't let me get away with the coffee-chat bullshit that I'm trying to use to fend you off because I'm terrified you might not accept me. Come on, dig deeper, I know you can do it! I need you to do it." Our souls are screaming at each other, reaching out to be known and accepted. But our brains and bodies know better. It's not polite to connect with people at frat parties or in dinner conversation. And, if anything, we are polite, dammit!
I don't know where this fear came from, this sheer terror at the thought that someone else could see us for who we really are, and that we have the power to keep them at bay. I don't know when society decided, "Hey, what if, just for kicks and giggles, we decided not to be honest with each other, and instead pretend that everything is fine and dandy and Christmas is always around the corner while we wallow in the murky depths of our soul and get more and more depressed? Wouldn't that be fun?"
Light is what brings us back together, and sharing our souls is part of that. No wonder loneliness is one of the biggest, scariest things of all time! We've always had it, and it's never really been a great friend. Exposing our fears, hearing our own deepest, darkest secrets out loud, sharing about the times we felt most happy and most afraid, are what bring us closer to the healing and restoration that each of us most desperately want. But instead, too many of us tightly smile and reply, "I'm good, how are you?"
This self-silencing and constriction cuts me to the core, and I can't stand to see it happen even though I do it myself, so I'm proud to say that I'm slowly getting better at overcoming this distance. It takes time and practice, but just like the tortoise, I'm becoming better. At refusing to take people for face value. At proudly presenting myself for the hot mess that I am, questions about life and all.
There is a deep longing and power within each person alive, and everyone is in need of a soulful connection. We need to return to each other. The elderly's epidemic of loneliness that people are so worried about? It's not just the elderly. It's all of us. All of us are like pieces of an iceberg, slowly chipping off and floating away, when what we really want to be is part of the bigger mass, supported, and in a place of belonging.
If we're gonna move the earth, if we're going to change the way it's always been, we'll need to step up. Our souls' abilities to grow are dependent on this. We have to open up. The time of viewing vulnerability as a luxury is long gone; it's no longer a matter of polite vs. impolite, it's a matter of life and death. Do you want to survive or do you want to thrive? The choice is up to you.
Pro tips: If you find yourself in a conversation where things are sticking at the surface level, try one of these strategies...
- Take some deep breaths, and center into who you are. Try and feel the sensation of your feet on the ground, and take a notice of how your core feels. Tight? Breathe and release. Nauseous? Stand up straight.
- If you're feeling relatively centered and a little bit bolder, ask an open question. "How are you really doing? Just fine? Tell me more about that!" People might open up or they might shut you down, but you're taking a stand for the connection you believe you can have. Believe in yourself and the power of your intention.
Let's take a stand. Let's make a difference. Not only for others, but mostly for ourselves. We are made of love, we are meant to love, and we all thrive better when our real selves aren't in the dark.
Share your thoughts in a comment below!