We humans are such a mixture of things. Not only that, but we can shift from one state to another in the blink of an eye. Our capacity for emotion is truly spectacular, if you think about it. We like to think of ourselves in a particular way: I am this sort of person, I experience life this way, and through these thoughts we create a kind of veneer or mask of how we present ourselves to the world. But just underneath this veneer is another layer of the soul which is more honest, more vulnerable, more fragile. This underlayer can frighten us at times, and so we prefer to ignore it or pretend it doesn’t exist. To me, the veneer isn’t nearly as interesting as the real human underneath.
Case in point: coming back to Viroqua after being away in Denmark all these months, and catching up with friends and acquaintances. After the initial hellos and hugs, we begin to talk. Then the truths come out; I am unhappy, I have been ill, my body is falling apart, my husband cheated, I was wronged, I was hurt. People walk around their lives carrying an enormous amount of pain which is generally stuffed down in their consciousness as a coping mechanism. I have a friend who does counseling work with people here. She put it this way, ‘by the time people arrive to my office, their angst is already visible.’ Then we spoke a bit about various people we both know and their ‘disorders.’ I found this a very interesting phrase, and it speaks volumes about the world we are living in, when we mention people’s disorders as casually as their job or where they live. I wonder if at this point in history, we don’t nearly all have one sort of disorder or another, ready to be classified by ‘professionals’ and dealt with by experts. How many of us are on medicine for anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder, eating disorders, or just plain inability to cope? Or if we opt out of the medical model, we instead substitute endless arrays of herbs, vitamins, pills and powders to allay our suffering and ‘disorders,’ in an ongoing attempt at, what? Some kind of normalcy, an ideal of health, a solution to neurosis and pathological conditions? Why are we so eager to fix what is wrong with us? Indeed, why do so many of us believe there is something wrong with us, needing to be fixed?
An East Indian guru named Paramahansa Yogananda, who was very wise and kind, once said, “Everyone is crazy. It is just that we all want to be with people who have the same kind of craziness that we have.’ I think there is a lot of truth in these words. Whether we choose to try to fit into some kind of ‘normal’ mold in order to get along better in mainstream society, or to purposefully act different and be a weirdo of sorts, or else opt for something in the middle, neither too conformist yet also not too weird, we still, deep down, need some kind of confirmation, somebody else to see us, to be our witness, to love us, to say ‘yes’ to who we fundamentally are. It is a scary thing to let your guard down and tell the truth to another human. And yet, it is the only way to live an honest life.
There is a young man who lives around here whom I have known for the past few years. He is a friend of my teenage daughters. This young man simply pulls on my heart strings for some odd reason. He is strong and good looking, intelligent and creative, funny and thoughtful. He has so much potential as a human being, and a good heart. And yet. I saw him today for the first time in nearly a year, and he could hardly smile and just barely allowed me to hug him for a few seconds. There is something damaged about this young man (I think he is about 19 or 20), when quite young he must have been hurt in a fundamental way from which he is yet to recover. He has a lot of talent as a singer and actor, and I know he has written poetry. He was born and raised in this rural area of Wisconsin, and I think his spirit is too big for this small place. We have all encouraged him over the past few years to get out of here, travel, see new vistas, experience life in another way. And yet. He remains here, and cannot seem to muster the self-confidence and courage that it would take for him to go elsewhere. All that potential, and the chances are all too good that he will end up wasting his life in this dead-end place, living a life which does not fulfill him, does not foster his creativity or natural gifts. Sometimes a person just simply has to leave home. The trick is to make them realize it, and then help them to find a way to actually do it. It is so easy to see what another person needs or what would help them, usually much easier than to be so objective with oneself. We all need someone to be our mentor and guide sometimes, to take us by the hand and say, ‘I see you and what you are going through. I want to help you to figure this out, whatever it is.’ It is a cold, lonely world to try to go it alone because of pride and stubbornness. So much better to admit our failures and pain, to admit our brokenness and that we simply don’t know. Yet it can be the most difficult thing of all to do.
Well I have done it again, another blog with observations and questions, but no answers. I apologize if this pattern is frustrating you, my nice Readers. As you can see, I myself am quite frustrated at this point. Where do we go from here? How do we manage our broken, painful lives? How can we help each other get through it and remain sane, stop giving ourselves labels of disorder, telling ourselves lies or else going through the motions of living without any real joy or satisfaction? I know some can do it, some humans are so good at living, and living well, with relatively few real problems or angst. They have found the ‘key to the city,’ so to speak. They are the lucky ones. Then there are the rest of us, with our disorders and angst, our inability to cope, our various pain and sufferings. We are the ones who the others put on those happiness workshops for, who take advantage of our pain and try to make a living out of it (with only the best intentions, of course.) Oh, skeptic, must you rear your ugly head again?