Babysitting for a prostitute, being knifed while punched in the face trying to save my sister from the same, sitting on the bed of a child molester are all very scary circumstances for a young girl, but at the end of the day, when I look back, nothing left a deeper hole in my heart than the loneliness.
My younger sister sat with me one time when I was about 26 and rattled off situation after situation of the ugliness of our childhood. I had forgotten so much. Shortly after that chat, I let it all go again. I asked her recently if she still remembered it all and she said yes. I told her I may or may not have her rekindle those memories for my writings. But, honestly, for the purposes of my blog, I am not sure they are necessary. What I have come to realize is that we can have many, very traumatic things happen to us throughout life, but the real hurt comes from the effect of the human need to have our hearts heard and cared for with love. The need for connection.
If you’ve read my previous blog you get the point that food was a close second to the loneliness factor. Since we had no car for a number of years, it was necessary to walk to the store. For some reason, that responsibility always landed on my shoulders. I guess because my older sister was always working or being dragged to the bars with my mom and my little sister was simply too little. I grudgingly agreed much of the time because, well, it meant getting food. There were countless days and nights that I walked miles round trip. I remember the walks very vividly.
Even though the streets were silent, my heart screamed as if a megaphone inside my chest, longing to be heard by anyone! Why was I so invisible? Why did I so easily go unnoticed? What is wrong with people that they don’t care enough to reach out and help me or love me?
As I developed through middle and high school, I watched the “happy people”. One commonality seemed to be money. If you had money you could be happy. Thus, as an adult, I sought money as a means of security, and as a way to gain friendships so I would never have to be lonely again. Flash forward thirty years and I now know how off I was in that assessment. Money had nothing to do with it. We are the richest country on the planet, by a long shot, and the most medicated. We outweigh any other country for use of anti-depressants, with 60% of users having taken the medications for more than two years. I bet I didn’t need to give you that statistic for you to know we are a country bleeding from the heart.
As dumbfounded as I was walking those Appleton city streets, I am equally dumbfounded now. I am certain our happiness lies in the connection we have with others, yet connection is a strain. Judgment is rampant. I have to wonder if the very thing I thought was the answer to connection, money, was really the answer to my loneliness. Perhaps as I child I was surrounded by people so busy seeking money to find happiness, that they didn’t have the time to see me. If they didn’t have the time to see me then perhaps they didn’t have the time to see others either. The focus on chasing the dollar was so high that they missed the very real, and perhaps only true access to happiness that exists – the love of each other. The fulfillment of reaching out and serving one another which ultimately is glorifying God and a direct link to his love, the greatest love of all.
I could be wrong. I could be way off. But, I know that I got misled into thinking that money would create a pathway to happiness, forsaking time for relationships along the way, and if I did that I am quite certain I am not alone in my mistake. It is so bizarre too because I thought that was the pathway to friendships. If I was successful people would like me. Really that all just circles back to judgment. Sometimes I look at the scope of this viscous cycle and wonder how we got here. Was it the post WWII boom? That first taste of real materialism? Or perhaps it was the 80’s. The baby boomers were hot to trot to finally master the idea that you can have it all! But then there was the early 2000’s when McMansions were all the rage! I guess it doesn’t matter what the cause. It’s the solution we need to be reminiscing upon.
Truly, there is no perfect time frame in our history. Fragmentation is ever present. But I’ve heard the stories. People communing for long hours of card playing, Sunday gatherings after church, neighbors helping neighbors through crop season and working together to replace a roof, no non-profit organization or church needed to set the task in motion. I’ve seen the front porches that were actually in use rather than being solely staged like a perfect Norman Rockwell scene. There was a time that we needed each other and that acknowledgment humbled us enough to watch our words and our judgment. We were never perfect. I’m not claiming that to be the case. But, I would argue the more we pursued money, the more we staked our claim of independence. We have fought to stand on our own two feet, and to prove that we can do all things ourselves. This fight sets the foundation for competition as to who is better than who, rather than cooperation which is the birthing grounds to strong friendships. Suddenly asking for help becomes a sign of weakness and defeat. Whispers of judgment, once considered a burning bridge to the resources needed in others, is now a powerful tool to further the gap between you and everyone else. Point out all their mistakes and recognize who is farther up the food chain to provide your heart with a feeling of fulfillment. But is that true? Are we finding the fulfillment?
Of course the answer is no or we wouldn’t have the rate of anti-depressant use, or obesity in my opinion. Even as a newcomer to a new town, I have found it ever frustrating to create new friendships. I have met a lot of amazingly wonderful people in two years time, but to really exchange deep friendship has yet to happen. I am rarely invited out to anyone’s home or to meet up. Maybe it’s my fault. I am no queen of “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, that’s for sure! Ha! But, I can’t help but wonder if it could all be easier. I can’t help but wonder if we have created our own prisons of fear that prevent us from reaching out to the unknown abyss of people. The chance that judgment lingers or a fear of being taken advantage. Has the barrier of protection for our humanity been lifted with the loss of humble behavior needed to respect one another, knowing that community was essential to survive? Is our loneliness a sad result of our pursuit to all things shiny in order to claim an isolated spot at the top? When are we going to understand that we will all traverse murky waters and we need each other to rise above stronger than ever before?
The signs that I am on the right track are innumerable. Now it’s time to open the discussion to all. We all need to step up and admit that perhaps this economy of capitalism we’ve fought so hard to prove superior to all others has a tipping point. Admitting wrong. Who’s going to go first? Who’s going to risk judgment? Maybe it doesn’t have to be such a big to-do! Rome wasn’t built in a day. It started with the laying of one stone. Be the first stone! Pave the way! Actually use that front porch furniture! Invite your neighbors! Find the new kid on the block at Sunday service! Open your homes and your hearts! Discover the true joys of life in one another.
And for goodness sakes, slow down! Say what? Yes, slow down! Come off the ladder to nowhere. For real. That ladder to the top never actually ends. We keep striving to get somewhere but then when we do, there is yet another rung to be climbed. It’s a dizzying cycle of exhaustion. Step away from the ladder and toward your community. We don’t actually need the latest and greatest car, an even bigger home, or yet another pair of jeans hanging in the closet. Simplify your life and your expenses. Less stress and more time. Imagine the possibilities!
Cheers to the Good Life!