I had a difficult conversation yesterday. A dear person to me decided it was wise to give me a stern warning. It went something like this.
'I am concerned about the choice of work you do. Working in people's emotional turmoil and high conflict could get you in trouble. People can turn on you in their darkest hour. When you stick your neck out, it tends to get chopped off. I only say this because I care and don't want to see you get hurt'.
I must be honest. Initially, I felt hurt by this. Sideswiped. I thought, 'Don't they understand me? They couldn't possibly know me if they are offering this advice to me!'
I felt a strong desire to defend myself, or hurt back. 'What do you suggest, I quit all my work and open a dress shop?!'.
The answer was 'You may suffer less'.
I understand the caring behind this cautionary plea. It comes from their own place of suffering. I know that suffering because I have been on the other side of hate. I have experienced social marginalization and wrongful accusations. Sometimes, like Quixote, I have regretfully fought these pointless battles against imagined enemies. Most of the time, I have been silent because they are battles not worth fighting. Most times it's better to walk away.
I also understand the pain behind the cautionary plea. It says, 'You may have good intentions, and try to do what's right, but the world is not a just place, and people are selfish and petty and will turn on you when your heart is wide open'. It's terrible to have those you trust and care for betray you. It's devastating when what you believe is your community turns their back on you. I am certain that my friend wants to shield me from this kind of pain.
I, like you Friend, need connection to my community to feel safe. I am genetically programmed to want to fit into the tribe. When this is threatened, my nervous system revolts and tells me that I must respond to this threat to my safety. Fight, flight, or in Terry Real's opinion, fix. Like you, caring Friend, I tend to want to eliminate the threat. 'Don't stand out'. 'Toe the line'. 'Keep your head down'. I generally want to stay out of trouble. I want to avoid repeating or deepening the pain of some of the bigger losses I have experienced in my life.
But when left alone, really alone with my deep pain, I have been forced to look at it, and befriend it. I have been forced to reckon with the part of me that is like everyone else who has experienced, and is experiencing this pain (Everyone to a greater or lesser extend!). This pain has spoken to me and said 'I suffer like every being who lives'. I have been compelled in this loneliness to seek friends and teachers who have walked through the dark valley and found hope in something bigger. The poets. The dreamers. Who are each deeply wise in their own right from their own suffering and wanting better. Their words of comfort and advice inform my decisions today, and fill me with intentionality.
'You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise'
Thich Nhat Hanh:
'There’s a revolution that needs to happen and it starts from inside each one of us.
We need to wake up and fall in love with Earth.
Our personal and collective happiness and survival depends on it'
'Whenever you are faced with an opponent, conquer him with love'.
'Live as if you were to die tomorrow and learn as if you were to live forever'.
'We don’t set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people’s hearts'
Don Miguel Ruiz:
'Don't take anything personally: nothing others do is because of you.'
'Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way'
These and many others who have suffered and endured are great and wise teachers to me. They have taught me to befriend my pain and loneliness and to honour my pain as a gift I can share.
This little writing is me speaking to myself and reminding myself why I have chosen the path I am on-even if potentially controversial. Because of my own suffering, I want to walk beside those who suffer and offer hope in their own suffering.
And this little writing is to my dear Friend who shared their concern for me because they have suffered.
I am writing this to say thank you!
I see that you understand the danger of caring because you care.
And you have suffered because you care.
I see you and I hear you.
I am sorry you have suffered.
I am here with you.
Take my hand.