Vulnerability time: I called a crisis line last week, overwhelmed by the level of pain flooding in from seemingly all angles. Some of the pain is stemming from my own emotions, but a lot of it right now is empathy and heartache for people I deeply care about.
The crisis counsellor suggested I just need to “put up boundaries.” That I shouldn’t take my friends’ suffering on to my own shoulders. That I should protect myself first.
We tell ourselves that our individualistic society is what is best for us. We think our focus on me-first is what enables us to reach our best potential. My time spent living in intentional communities says this is bullshit. Self-care is essential. But we forget that caring for one another is a form of self-care.
To be clear, I’m not walking around with a basket, collecting the misery of every person I meet, and wrapping myself in it like a patchwork quilt. What I am doing is trying to be a listener. Trying to say, I want to understand what you are experiencing. Trying to say, you aren’t alone – I feel that way too sometimes.
The reason the pain I was feeling from others reached an overwhelming level last week was because we lack the tools to do this well. What we need is better ways of experiencing pain together and learning how to release it. Protecting ourselves from the pain of others, ignoring the suffering all around us, does not change anything. Reaching into pain together and carrying each other through it is the only way I’ve found healing.
I want my heart to grow softer when confronted with the pain of others, not harder. Building walls to keep out the pain of others will only serve to trap me in my own.
We need each other. Desperately.
Keep reaching out friends. I’m listening.