I’m Going Back In…

I have a very dear loved one who, after a long day, utters the following phrase:

“Some days it just doesn’t pay to put your balls in the Salad Shooter.”

It always makes me laugh, and my response is always the same:

“Exactly when DOES it pay to put your balls in the Salad Shooter?”

Yet here I stand, putting my proverbial balls in the proverbial Salad Shooter.  Now mind you, I own neither one of these items, but this week I have owned the heck out of this phrase.

Poetic language aside, and by the way, you are welcome for the image now burned into your brain, sometimes life comes knocking, and we have to decide if we are going to answer the door.  Are we going to move beyond our comfortable places and take a risk, or are we going to stay inside, warm and cozy?  This was my week.

I got stung and a bit scared this week.  The particulars don’t really matter, it didn’t crush me nor did it stop me from functioning in any meaningful way, but it did remind me of the power of human connection.

Each and every one of us is here because of at least two other people.  Maybe those people stayed in your life, maybe they didn’t.  For some of us, the most important relationships in our lives are our biological families, for some of us the most important relationships in our lives are our chosen families.  But the fact remains that there isn’t a single person alive who is here completely on their own accord.  Somewhere, somehow, if only for a few moments, at least two other individuals were involved in your existence.

We are made for connection, and without it there is a missing piece.  Each person’s connection may look different, as might each person’s desired level and type of connection – recognizing that is important.  Also important: recognizing that sometimes when people need and want connection the most, that is when they are least able to ask for it… and most wary of it when it is offered.  Sometimes people are so scared or hurt that when another person reaches out to them, they do everything they can to protect themselves… and that means pushing that person away, by whatever means necessary.

I saw this, I knew this, I had done this before.  This time was different – I got burned.  It wasn’t horrible, but it could have been… and realizing that scared me.  It scared me on two levels: 1) what could have happened, and 2) what does this mean for me in the future?  I like that I am able to connect with people.  No, not just able to connect with people, that I truly enjoy connecting with people.  I don’t want that to go away or even to be dulled.  If we can’t sit with each other in both good times and bad, humor and horror, triumph and tragedy, then what are we even doing here?  If we can’t really, truly, authentically be present with each other, then what is the point?

I decided that authenticity and humanity is the point, and that an occasional burn is a risk worth taking.  But I still found myself struggling with the hurt, so I relied on an old standard – empathy.  I tried to imagine myself in this person’s shoes, and how I would have felt.  I tried to imagine myself without… just without… I live in a world of with.  And there I was.  I couldn’t feel exactly what this person felt – I don’t have those same experiences – but I could understand how they got there.  I wanted to protect myself too.  Empathy brought me back home, as it usually does.

Later on I saw the power of connection again.  The initial bite was healing – not a mortal wound, but maybe a little itch still there to let me know of its presence and to be mindful.  We went back in, this time with that renewed empathy, and connected in an open and authentic way.  People struggle – we all struggle.  Connection is powerful.  Sometimes it is so powerful that backing away and regrouping is what is necessary.  But in the end, I would rather struggle with connection than struggle without it.

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