Social interactions have always left me uncentred and contracted. The expansiveness I feel when I am alone is rarely how a conversation feels for me. In the past, I have rejected all conversation with Mikhail Naimy’s dismissive summation: speech is at best an honest lie, while silence is at worst a naked verity. These days, though, I am beginning to glimpse something else. Maybe the fault is not in the meetings, but in who we are being when we meet others.
We hold back our gifts for fear they may be rejected. We show up as approximations of what (we believe) others would like to see us. We dress how we are supposed to – maybe a touch of red, to show we are rebels. And we meet others as half-hearted ghosts of ourselves. With cheerful robotic sentences and fake polite enquiries, we try to become like them, and they like us. We don’t relax too deeply into ourselves when we are around them, because we may mistakenly say something authentic. We may touch upon something deep and real and shake them into thinking about their half-hearted ghost lives too. And they may hate us for it.
So, I find, I stay on the edge when I am with others. Calling anxiety as excitement, and the trembling within me as aliveness. And I hold back my gifts from them; and they from me. We both cover it up with chatter and information and complaints and plans. We try not to see in each other’s eyes the silent connection that is deeper than words. And we don’t answer the question those eyes ask of us.
These days, I am beginning to wonder: is it possible that the way we connect with another is a microcosm of how we connect with life itself?
We cling to fear as responsible and right. We hold ourselves tight lest we fly away. We turn away from seeing our own magnificence. For once we see it, we would have to leave this ‘real world’ – leave the comforting grey mundanity of it all. And then we would be the mad, bad ones. The wierdos whom we have condemned. We would be mocked, judged and outcasted, or so we believe. Therefore, we must always tighten our muscles and our nerves to hold onto this reality. Because the opposite is unthinkable. A life of vastness without a centre. A life which is a gift constantly giving unto itself.
So we hold onto our ‘reality’: a body holding its tightness as tiny, triumphant proof of its separate existence. A voice that speaks in our heads in a familiar accent, which we take as proof of the uniqueness of our ideas. And the tremulous story of our life, pieced together from half-forgotten anecdotes, which we make proof of our specialness.
We surround ourselves with ‘immediate, urgent and important’ problems to avoid facing any other reality than this. We embrace this reality even as we make-believe it holds us. And complain the gift has been denied to us.
What would it take for us to see the gift that we are? And to allow that gift to be available to everyone we meet from today? What would it take for us to express the wisdom that we are – instead of choking it back?
These days, it feels like it’s time for me to show up as me. And I can’t wait to meet you.