Who are you?
Are you a 25-year-old widow like I was or are you a 40-year-old single mother?
Are you a 62-year-old divorced man or are you a 15-year-old boy who feels like an outcast?
Are you a 27-year-old soul-seeker who can’t find their match or an 80-year-old grandmother whose children live on the other side of the country?
Not so long ago, I thought I was alone also. I wasn’t, but the thought that I was kept me from reaching out, from feeling supported, and from finding the enoughness in my solitude.
Enoughness. The feeling that you are enough exactly as you are right now.
I spent years eating dinners on Friday nights alone. I would ride my bike past the lovers at sunset and wonder when it would be my turn. I would dread coming home to an empty house and the silence no noise could mask.
What kept me company was loneliness, and not the kind that goes away when you sleep. The kind that settles in your bones and follows you like a shadow and on the best days waits for you to crawl into bed to remind you.
I really thought I was alone. I thought I was alone in my loneliness. I thought the rest of the world had a sleeping baby and a spouse who came home and a dog who warmed their heart.
I didn’t realize until very recently (this week, in fact) that people are as alone as I once was, with one difference: They are speaking up, they are speaking out, and they are finding the enoughness in their solitude.
That’s the most courageous thing ever. To tell the world where you really are. To tell the world you are hurting. To tell the world you are human.
I couldn’t do it. For decades I kept it bottled up inside and drank from it only when no one was looking, struggling through a hangover of sadness for years.
It blows me away that in our culture we greet each other with How are you and answer I’m fine, when too often that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Whether you’re a stranger, my neighbor, my mother or my friend, the next time I see you I don’t want to talk about the weather and I don’t want to hear how your weekend was. I want to hear your heart beat and when is the last time it broke and what are you afraid of and where do you go when you’re sad and what will be your last words on this earth.
Tell me those words. Tell me your dying words. I want to hear them now, on this street corner, waiting for the light to turn green with the sun shining on this perfect day where darkness and shadow don’t exist. I want to hear them now.
Because that’s what I’m really asking you when I say How are you.
I’m saying I’m human and you’re human. I want to know it’s okay to be us. To be human, to be imperfect, to not have all the answers, to not have a buffer to life. I want to know it’s okay to bleed in public, through tears or words or laughter. I want to know you won’t turn your head when I say I’m not okay, when I say I’m working through something, when I say I can’t fake it anymore.
Do me that favor. Tell me how you are, so that whether my life feels full or empty I will feel connected to my truth and to your truth and to the space in between us, so that the next time I find my true self picking up the remains of my small self that has shattered in a thousand little pieces on my kitchen floor, I will not be afraid to show my scarred face in public.
And the next time I’m three years into a deep depression I will not be afraid you will ask me how I am.
And the next time I get a phone call that someone I love tried to kill themselves, I won’t wonder how I missed the signs. I won’t wonder what I could have done.
I will have seen the signs because they weren’t afraid to show me. I will have done what I could have done because I wasn’t afraid to see their pain and their need.
In your darkness you can’t see me, but I am here. When the light rises you will see all of us. All of us lonely people who made it through by hanging on and refusing to let the darkness snuff out our light inside.
We see you, as clearly as we see our own face in the mirror. We see your enoughness, we see your struggle, we see your humanity.
We’re here and we hear you. What do you have to say?
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Ryan Vaarsi/Flickr