I was certain yesterday that the weight of life’s stresses would crush me. Nothing serious is happening; just normal life stuff had seemed to gather momentum and formed into a giant ball of worry. I crawled into bed after work and pulled the covers up over my head.
Jared crawled into bed beside me and put his arm around me.
We lay there like that in silence for several minutes before he asked me what was wrong. I mumbled a bit about what was making me anxious, and we fell back into silence. I drifted off to sleep, and he got up and did the laundry that I’d been planning to do. It was only after I woke up that he put his face close to mine and promised everything would be OK.
This, I think, is the heart of connection.
My friend Amber recently taught me a pidgin phrase, “Yumi wan bel”, that means we have the same stomach. She says it reminds her of the Greek word splachnizomai, which is the origin of compassion and means to be moved to the bowels. “To me it means: I’m not afraid of your shit,” she says.
I’m not afraid of your shit.
I’ll crawl into the cave with you.
I’ll lie in your pity bed and put my arm around you while you wallow in worry.
And only after you’ve had a chance to sleep and stink and stew will I assure you that everything will be fine.
This type of compassion is a rare gift, and one that we can only receive when we have the courage to be vulnerable. Knowing it exists inspires me to be brave. Knowing it is rare reminds me to be grateful and to treasure those who have earned the right to hear my worries.
I used to think that having lots of friends to invite to a party would make me feel like I belonged. I’m learning now that having a handful of people in my life who aren’t afraid of my shit is what makes me feel like I’m not alone.
At any given moment, I know I can call Jared, Lisa, or my mom and share my shame with them, and they will get down into the muck with me. I have no fear of judgment from them, and they aren’t afraid to hear about the problems without solutions. When they say, “I get it”, I know they do.
I think we all need that.
To have it, we have to be less afraid of our own garbage. We have to be willing to get messy if we’re to ever have someone else step into it with us. And we have to, I think, be willing to get into the bowels for someone else, and resist the urge to say it will be OK.