As I write this, I’m sitting cross legged on my bed. The only light is the warm yellow from the fairy lights sprawled across my windowsill. My laptop battery is dying, the words forming too slow; unable to keep up with my addled post night shift brain. It goes so slowly that I don’t know what I’ve written until several seconds after my fingers have left the keyboard.
But I have something I need to write.
I recently moved to a new city. The people are generally warm and inclusive, although I’m a lone wolf for the most part anyway; unafraid of aloofness and life on the periphery. I enter their world on my terms, and retreat when I need to recharge.
As always I followed the wounded here. I had great expectations, in this town full of kind and accepting humans. I allowed myself to hope that I would be better supported to hold an unwavering light for others. Illuminate a different perspective. Cast the shadows from hope. Change just one life at a time. All this as part of an army of educated and generous people.
It turns out that’s a wish I need to put more work into.
I keep seeing people hurting and consequently being treated like naughty children. The result is suppressed vulnerability, unhealthy coping strategies, baggage carried through a lifetime. Additionally, the helpers are labeled as ‘soft,’ ‘feeding into it,’ ‘pandering.’ Like those they are trying to help, they are urged to ‘harden up.’ I strongly believe that this discord is responsible for the painfully high suicide rates on our planet.
There is a quote by J. Michael Straczynski that reads “the greatest cruelty is our casual blindness to the despair of others.”
When we invalidate a person’s experience of suffering we are invalidating their experience of being human. This stands true even if their despair is unfathomable; even if it strikes you as unusual or trivial. Even if it makes you uncomfortable. You can acknowledge someone’s hurt without reinforcing it. You can offer a different perspective without trying to rescue them. It’s enough to sit in the dark with them and hold the light.
Sweet Briar cottage was a source of light for me. As were music and words. For others it could be painting or exercise or a special place where they find a moment of peace. For someone else it could be you.
Before I fall asleep, this is a call to action: You may not be able to change someone’s entire life trajectory, but you could change things for them in a single moment. A moment they always look back on. A moment, in a string of many, that was the catalyst for change.
Humans have so much power. Be careful how you use it.