I write a lot about the importance of hearing our kids, of putting ourselves in their shoes, about really stopping and taking out all judgment and meeting them where they’re at. I talk a lot about just SEEING them. Really seeing them.
And I think that while most of us can agree on its importance for parenting well, that as adults, when it comes to dealing with each other: We are, as a general rule, spectacularly bad at it. We just don’t see each other.
And it is for sure a two-pronged thing. When I’m depressed (and I know that a lot of you can relate to this) I feel completely alone. Isolated. Like nobody sees me. Like nobody hears me. And then, of course, the irony of that is that pesky little tendency to isolate yourself further, which makes you feel more alone, which makes you isolate yourself more…. ad nauseam. But that stuff is just a symptom of depression. It’s not real. I have lost some friends this year – or at least, I learned who my friends truly are – but I have a couple of friends who will not leave me alone when they know I’m depressed. And I love them so much for it!!
Yesterday, I was sitting in the waiting room for a therapy appointment that I was crazy freaking out about (last week’s went really really badly). I was having two conversations through text, with two different people, and they were both in essence, “You can do this. Of course you can do this.” Literally just a few minutes before he opened the door and called me in, these two friends, unbeknownst to each other, sent me the exact same text: “I wish I was there to hold your hand.” How unbelievably cool is that? These are people who saw me.
I wish we could all see each other that well.
And I don’t think this lack of genuine connection is intentional. I really don’t. I think that we get caught up in our own… stuff… and then we fail to listen – to really listen – to other people. I think that we see people through a veil of our own prejudices, and judgments, and ideas of what they should or should not be doing. I think we want to fix. (Oh my GOSH with the fixing.) We see people as we want them to be, and not as who they are. Right now, right in this very moment. We get uncomfortable with the yucky stuff. And I get that. I was suicidal four months ago. That’s uncomfortable for people. It’s pretty damn uncomfortable for me too. It makes people run. And I get that too. That’s why the people who see the yucky stuff, who sit with you right in the middle of the yuck, and say, “I’m not going anywhere” are so, so invaluable.
I think that the answer, besides occasionally having to get comfortable with discomfort, is presence. I actually think that presence is the answer for a lot of things, and it is one of many lessons that I’m having to learn over and over again. But it’s not just about presence for ourselves. It’s about presence for the other person as well. Really being there with them, right in the moment. Taking out all the ego, all the judgement, all your own crap about the way things are “supposed” to be, and meeting them exactly where they’re at. ACCEPTING them exactly where they’re at. Not trying to fix, not trying to change, just accepting. I think until we’ve done that, we can never truly see each other. Never truly hear each other.
Whenever I’ve gone through a hard time – any sort of hard time – the most helpful, comforting, and reassuring thing, hands down, has been the people who say, whether directly or indirectly: I see you. I hear you.
May we all see each other a little bit better.
(And offers of hand-holding never hurt, either.)