I was going to write this note just for a single friend of mine. One individual. Someone that I care about. But, as I wrote this note, I came to understand that I can’t hid these words. That these words need to be shared. And so, I now share them with all those that I call my friends.
I’ve had yet another of my “holy crap” moments. My Doc calls them “epiphanies”. Steph likes my term for them better. (-: And, having had this “holy crap” moment, I can’t help but feel that this is something I was supposed to learn.
The world is asleep. The vast majority of it, anyway. Lemmesplain. And it’ll take some doing to ‘splain this one. Geeze…
I’ve noticed that I watch other people, and I end up so confused. “How can they not know? Are they blind? Why can’t they see what’s happening? Why can’t they see what they’re doing?” When I was barred from work, I was hurt. Badly. Wounded to the core. The actions of the workplace, and the people I worked with felt very much to me like I was being punished. For having been different from them. For having behaved in a different way. Then, over time, I started to talk about things. Like Get Well cards from the office. Like office lunches, and other celebrations. Like what happens when someone leaves the workplace. Or when someone gets cancer, or some other nasty disease. And it became apparent to me that things like the cards, and celebrations weren’t really that at all. They were just “appropriate behavior for the environment”. If someone you work with gets in a car wreck, and gets seriously injured, and can’t work, then the workplace is supposed to send a get well card. And maybe even flowers. And it’s supposed to say, “We wish you well. We miss you. If there’s anything we can do, let us know.” And everyone knows that no one will ever ask for assistance. And that if the individual never returns to work, “Oh, well. Such is life.”
The reality is that no one cares. The workplace doesn’t care about the individual that got injured in the car wreck. The people in the workplace may be curious. They may talk among themselves, “Too bad, what happened. Hope they’re OK.” But the truth is that so long as their own jobs are not at risk, it’s not their problem. And they’ll carry on, as if that person didn’t exist.
As a platelet donor, I have another story to share. The number of people I have encountered in the past year that refuse to donate either blood or platelets. “I don’t have time.” and “It’s not my problem” are the major excuses. Followed by, “I just can’t deal with being stabbed in the arm. And that finger stick! AIEEE! Blood! MY blood!” In short, “No way in hell am I gonna donate blood, or platelets, or any other component of my blood. For any reason. For anybody. Someone gets in a car wreck, and needs a blood transfusion to survive, well. Tough luck. Life’s like that.” And the same people expect the blood supply to be infinite, so that if they should ever need any, it’s available for them to use. It’s part of the mysterious math of life. Where rational thought, and logic, simply don’t work. One of those complete mystery things. Except that for me, it’s not a mystery anymore. I understand it. I know a big part of where it comes from.
I would say it’s from a self centered point of view, but that’s simplifying things too greatly. Far too greatly. No, it’s not just a self centered point of view. There’s something much deeper than that. Much more primal and primitive than that.
Pure and simple, it’s fear. I have been learning how very much afraid of life that people are. How very much afraid of being hurt that people are. How very much afraid of pain. How very much afraid of being uncomfortable. How very much afraid of change. Of the unknown. Of risk. Of anything that includes the possibility of being hurt.
To care about the person you work with means that when that person gets in a car wreck, and can’t work, you care. It bothers you. If they can’t work, you want to help. In any way you can. Because that person is your friend. And it HURTS you to know that your friend is in pain. That your friend has been wounded. And can’t work. And you can’t see your friend every day. And you MISS your friend. You become uncomfortable. Your heart aches. Your soul cries tears of pain. Hell, you even cry sometimes because of what’s happened. All because you CARE. But… If this is just someone you work with, and you don’t care. You don’t get hurt. There’s no pain. No risk. You’re OK if that person never returns. You miss their presence in the workplace. But only for a little while. And then, it’s like they never worked there anyway. And it’s OK to forget about them. Like you forgot about all those people you went to high school with. Or all those people you know from church.
You’re insulated. You’re protected. You’re safe. And so is your job. Your source of income. And so is your life. The things you have collected. The house, the car, the TV, the electronic toys, the riding lawnmower. All that crap. It’s safe. And you’re not lonely. You spend the weekend with your family. And you take vacations every year. And you have people you see at work every day. So, how can you be lonely?
And after a while, the ache in your chest, and the empty feeling you have inside become normal. You’re supposed to feel that way. Everyone feels that way. Go watch another show on TV. Go read another book. Go look up pictures of naked women on the ‘Net. Watch another streaming XXX movie on the ‘Net. Listen to your music on your iPod. Play “Call of Duty” or “Battelfield” on your Xbox, or PS3. Have text conversations with people on the cell phone. Call up your buddies, and talk with them.
Kill time. In any way you can. Go fishing. Go hunting. Go shopping. Go eat dinner out somewhere. Mow the damn lawn again. Keep the house perfect. Wash the cars. Weed the gardens. Anything to kill time. Anything at all.
And after a while, you stop noticing that something isn’t right. That something’s terribly wrong. After a while, it’s all OK. And you’re OK, ‘cause you know that everyone else is like you.
And here I am. Wide awake. In a world filled with people that will do anything to keep from waking up. To keep from having to deal with life. To remain blind, and heartless, and cold. So that they don’t have to risk being hurt. Ever. So that life is always good for them.
I’ve known this for decades. “If I had never cried, would I know the value of a smile? If there was never any rain, would I really, truly appreciate a beautiful spring day?” I’ve asked this type of question for decades. I knew all along what was happening.
And now, having been through the past 15 months. I’m beginning to understand things that I’ve always known. Pema Chodron, in her books, always writes about how as we become the compassionate, tender-hearted, caring warrior, we come to know great sorrow, and great sadness. Because we learn the truth of life. And I find there are times when I know great sorrow. When my heart aches so very much that I don’t know if I can take anymore. When my soul cries so hard that it is as if my soul cries tears of blood. Because I grow closer and closer to seeing the truths of life. To seeking the wounded, injured, hurt people all around me. To seeing the loneliness, and the awful fear that people live with, believing that this is how things are supposed to be.
All because they are afraid.
This is a big part of why I was removed from work. I was afraid. Yes. But, I truly cared for the Lenten Rose. I did. And for the Princess of Laughter. And seeing them hurting the way they were hurting. I had to do something. Anything I could. I couldn’t just carry on. I couldn’t stand by and pretend that everything was normal. Fuck the job. Fuck the appropriate behavior thing. I HAD to help my friends. And I didn’t care at all what that cost me.
It cost me my job. Because I woke up. I acted on what I was seeing. I named the workplace the land of gray. I told the people that I worked with that they were all just alike. They were all the same. They all reacted the same way. They all behaved the same way. And that the way they behaved was, to me, heartless. As if their hearts had frozen, colder than any ice, and harder than any stone.
I knew the truth. Even then. I just didn’t know the words. And this past year, I’ve been finding the words.
I have said, a thousand times, and I will say this until my last breath on this world. “God. Never give up on them. You never gave up on me. Never give up on them. Find a way, God. Please find a way to touch their hearts. And wake them up. Like you did for me.”
As time goes by, I will become a compassionate, tender-hearted, caring warrior. I know this. It is what my heart and soul want me to be. What I am meant to be. And in becoming the warrior I am meant to be, I will know more sorrow, and more pain, than I have ever known. For with each day that passes, I see more and more people that are wounded by life. That have closed their eyes to life. That, as the Bible says, “have hardened their hearts, and covered their ears”. So that they don’t have to see, and don’t have to feel. So that they can avoid the truths of this life we all live.
That’s a very sad thing. It is why my heart aches within me. And why my soul cries tears of pain.
And I mean that truthfully.
For I am not afraid to be your friend.