I realized recently that I've become the receptacle for people who need to vent, a recipient of confidences. I consider it an honor. However, during a sleepless few moments I tried to analyze why people seem to gravitate toward me for that reason. It's not because I pry - I've never been one of those people who are good at asking just the right question. I think it's because I listen, and it's hard to find people who are willing to just listen. I don't judge - sure, I might hold your mirror up to your face, but I don't judge. It's not my job to polish your mirror. I also keep confidences - what's said to the gypsy, stays with the gypsy. I try not to overly advise, but advice does slip out more often than not - mea maxima culpa. I listen because I'm intrigued by the stories of others. I'm fascinated by what makes a person who they are. I think maybe, because of all the harsh stuff in my own life, whether people know my story or not, they see something of a kindred in me. I must exude some kind of I've-Had-Profound-Experiences Aura. Ultimately, it all makes me feel much less alone in this world, and I place great value in that.
Why is it so hard to find an empathetic ear? Are we so overly stimulated by our environment(s) that we don't truly hear what's being said? Sometimes I'll overhear a conversation between people and it sounds just like a commercial. I hear them talking, but there aren't any words coming out. It's all surface with no substance.
What bothers me about it is that more often than not, when people do confide in me, it's immediately followed by an apology. They're sorry they "dumped it all" on me, sorry they vented on me, sorry if they over-stepped boundaries. Why do we feel the need to apologize when we lay ourselves bare? To me it's like hearing someone say, "I apologize that I am who I am." Well, unless you're a child molester or murderer, that doesn't wash with me. People don't apologize when they tell us they're happy do they? They don't apologize when they share a wonderful moment, do they? No. So why feel the need to apologize when sharing something difficult? Why do we feel like we're intruding on someone by saying, "I hurt. Here's why." It's bullshit. Where, along this path, did we learn that?! How did we forget that we're here to help share each other's loads? No one gets through this life without some kind of pain, without some tattered luggage, without feeling as though they've been raped by circumstance. So what is it that got put in us that says, "I must bear this all alone." Double bullshit. If I need to move a heavy object, do I struggle with it on my own? No, I ask someone to help me. Why should mental/emotional heavy objects be any different?
I'm becoming more indignant as I write this. It flat out pisses me off that people feel they need to tiptoe around, that we can't just come right out with our hurts without asking permission first. Utter bullshit. I'm tired of seeing so much pain in the world, and much of it comes from folks not having a place to expel. We learn it somewhere, because children don't filter themselves that way. Children laugh when it's time to laugh and they good and well cry when it's time to cry, and you can bet that everyone in immediate vicinity knows why they're crying... and they don't fucking apologize for it, let alone feel the need to!
So, here's the Revised Code to my No Bullshit Policy, as set forth this day 19 January 2010:
- If you stumble, I will pick you up. I will clean your wounds and bandage you to the best of my abilities.
- If something is bothering you, if you're hurting on the inside, I will listen. I doesn't matter if I'm busy, happy, having a tough moment of my own, or whatever... do not apologize for needing help! Henceforth, apologizing will earn you The Look (at the very least).
- I am not afraid of you, of your wounds, of anything you consider ugly about yourself or your life. I am undaunted by the magnitude of your problem(s) - your issues do not become my issues any more than your broken leg could become my own.
- Pity is only in my vocabulary when you stop trying for something better.
- I've been through a lot in my life and I've had to apply several paradigms to myself in order to make it this far. So, if I give you an "assignment" after you've told me your story, do the work. I'm not just blowing smoke up your ass, I'm trying to help. Granted, what works for me may not work for you, but trying something works for everyone.
- Do not compare yourself to me. I don't want to hear, "I'm not as brave/strong as you," or "I could never have the courage you do." Wear your own damned moccasins and quit trying to walk in mine. I've worked hard to have the strength that I have.