Tuesday, September 1

The Seminary Diaries: still human

I sit in a cold, group room with several patients--all different from the week before.  We open up the discussion to anything "treatment related", which translates into the issues, concerns, fights, difficulties, and situations which brought them here in the first place.  For many, it's a home situation--family, spouses, partners, or kids--which just don't seem to be working right.  For others, it's the job, the boss, or the authorities.  And there are some who have long patterns of behavior, complications, or strains in life which never get ironed out.  The conversation can be rich and real, or more avoiding and joking, like poking sticks at the elephant in the room.

And each time I have been in those rooms, I feel myself grow a little taller.  I nearly elevate off the chair I've been sitting in, and I start looking down at the people around me.  I put myself on a higher pedestal, maybe because of my current education, my "successes", the life that seems a little more put-together.  Until I realize what I've done, and then I take a few knocks to put myself back where I belong.

I think, when I begin to elevate myself, it's because I'm afraid.  I think I hear these other stories, observe these other behaviors, and view others in a certain way, and I get terrified, actually.  Because here is what we have in common: I am a human being, so are they.  I have family and friends and a partner, so do they.  I have a personality and moods, so do they.  I have a job and life responsibilities, and so do they. I have been afraid, very afraid.  I have gotten extremely upset at someone else.  I have been so sad I cannot bring myself to do life.  I have been delirious about the realities of life.

So, I look at these things happening and the behaviors which seem so out of control for them, and I become afraid.  I look at our similarities, and become afraid.  The fear in me reminds me I am not exempt from life and it's icky circumstances.  It reminds me I am human and therefore susceptible to imperfections.  The fear tells me I could just as easily be sitting in the chair across the room, in the corner, rather than the chair at the front of the room, with the fancy name badge.  It's the reality--if I elevate myself, give myself some separation from "them", I fool myself into thinking it won't happen to me, I am immune to sickness, difficulty, or a psychotic break.

When I look around the room, I start with compassion.  I see how heartbreaking life can be, how cruel, evil, and damn hard it can be.  Then, as I sit with that for a moment and remember my own life's heartache, I start to tremble and remember the times I have been low.  Then, I start to build my walls, walls as high as the Berlin Wall and as thick as the best armor you've seen.  I begin to protect myself from this thing called life and I work really hard to keep my composure, my security, my immunity.

Anyone who has been around for a portion of time knows there is no immunity to life.  It is hard and really good.  It gives you things you do not plan for and would never wish for on others.  Life is like the worst practical joke ever played on you.  So, as humans, we find lots of ways to keep it at bay, to prevent the madness, or to keep ourselves hidden and protected. The problem is, hidden and protected becomes the way we rid ourselves of others, the way we shut others out, and the way we stop the good from coming our way.  To be human is to accept the good and the bad, and to remember when we look around that every one around us is the same--we are all still human.

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