This being human is tough stuff and one of the acute losses we all feel is that of meaningful friendship and community. That which our great, great ancestors took for certain: when a wounding befalls one of us, we are all implicated. And so we lean in to support those in pain with our humble gifts of empathy and presence. We shoulder our unbearable questions together and we honour with ritual the devastating requirements and initiations that this being alive asks of us.
But in the impoverished condition of modern culture, we are taught to feel ashamed of our weakness and to deny our own suffering – nevermind share its burden. We’ve made a hedging around the very places we should be depending upon each other. We’ve privatised pain.
And then it’s hard to reach out. It’s hard to be seen with your messy lostness, exhaustion and overwhelm as you stumble through the complexities of life. But how else can someone become trustworthy unless you allow them to share in your hardship? How can we form the village we ache for unless we allow ourselves to wrestle with these things together?
If you are well, consider being the medicine for someone else’s pain. Rumi says, ‘Where lowland is, that’s where water goes. All medicine wants is pain to cure.’ But if you are unwell, consider asking a friend you want to trust for help. Consider that to be invited behind your hedge is a privilege, and it calls upon the compassion in all of us that lives to flow into a lowland.
Now sometimes the person you call upon may not have the capacity to meet your vulnerability – and there is terrible grief in this. You might be tempted to grow your hedge even higher, and swear off this sharing stuff. But perhaps there is a greater attrition taking place. Perhaps you already knew you were calling upon the wrong person. And perhaps there’s someone unexpected in your midst, who keeps showing up and challenging you to receive their support.
You, who would normally bear it alone – yours is a necessary yielding. Your asking is the invitation that may keep us bound in place and memory together. Yours are the first threads of a village in the making.
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