There is this absolutely amazing series on the History channel (also available through iTunes) that has completely shattered any shame I might have had about my feelings about human connection. I no longer feel any shame – like zero – about loving, wanting, desiring, or longing for human connection. I feel no shame for missing the people that matter to me, despite decades long conditioning to believe that doing so was somehow unhealthy or overdramatic.
Loving people is the common thread that unites MOST of us, and this show proved that to me.
Let me explain.
Some of the people that I’ve come into contact with (read: love) seem to have very poor esteem/lack of understanding for those of us who need other people. They appear to view this need as pitiful, laughable, or as a weakness. And I have had first hand experience with certain people who I’ve witnessed responding to other people’s dependency on others with something that looked to my admittedly biased, untrained eye like derision. There appeared to be some pity, some disbelief, and some shaking of the head, bafflement & even confusion. If I’m being honest, there appeared to be a bit of a sneer for the pathetic human who was crying from feeling the ache of loneliness we all feel when we’ve been alone for a time.
I’m not naming any names, but this is a true story.
I was sitting on the couch in my apartment with someone I love very, very deeply, who has professed to love me deeply, but who doesn’t desire my lifestyle of connectedness, relationship, and commitment. Don’t ask me why I was hanging out with him. I just was, because stupid, and also hopelessly in love, and also competely oblivious to our irreconcilable differences *up until that point*.
We were hanging out, as humans do, watching the show. I’d suggested it as something said person would really love, and of course, I was right, but there was this thing – this earthshatteringly horrible thing, to which I’d been previously oblivious – that became evident over our shared enjoyment of the show.
During Season One, Episode Nine, a cast member expressed deep longing for his person.
My person-who-is-not-willing-to-be-my-person turned to me with a look of such disbelief on his face that I felt it as though I’d been slapped in the face.
This person, this beloved of mine, seemed to be unable to relate to the cast member’s longing for their person *at all*. They wore a look that bordered on scorn on their face as the cast member spoke openly, beautifully, vulnerably about the way he had to *force himself* not to think about his love because doing so was too painful for him to bear.
Being who I am, and feeling the tension rise between us, I turned to my beloved and said “Look, you attach differently from other people. I get it, but this is how the rest of us attach. We miss each other. We long for each other. When we love someone, we ache to be with them.”
He nodded, thoughtfully, and then said:
“It would be different if I knew for certain that I would never see that person again, but otherwise…” and he kind of shook his head and trailed off.
Meanwhile, I kind of scuttled off into the corner of the other end of the couch because I felt a little bit like I was in the presence of another species – one that could not possibly begin to understand the depth of my feelings about loss, love, longing, desire, and attachment.
I didn’t want this moment of clarity. It was completely unwelcome. But it came on, and it came on like most true things do. Like a sledge hammer. Without mercy. And with no way back from knowing.
Here’s the thing.
I don’t get people that don’t miss people. I don’t. I don’t get people that could go off into the wilderness for more than a few days without starting to feel longing like a motherfucking razor blade in the guts. Some of my children live in other cities from me, and some live in other provinces. Some live right here in the city I occupy. I miss them. I feel it daily. I cope with it, because one must cope if one is to live with the reality that one’s loved ones can’t always be present, but I *feel* it all the same.
I miss the people I love. I miss *my* people.
I *hope* I’ll see them again (if the fates are kind), but that isn’t promised, and I know that. Having lost people I loved (my sister, my first husband, my father, friends I loved, friends I didn’t know well at all, but grew to love from a distance) to suicide, illness, and the mysterious randomness of the universe, I have learned not take their presence in my life for granted.
I may never see you again. The last words I utter in your general direction may very well be the very last words you ever hear me utter. I may die with everything unspoken. You may die before I have my chance to speak what needs to be spoken.
I live with this every day of my life.
You know? If you’ve lost someone, you know.
This is the unbearable lightness of our being. It is brief. It is not guaranteed. It comes with no promises or contracts, and while I am taking a two hour bath with my phone off, something catastrophic could *absolutely* happen that would mean that I will spend the rest of my life missing someone who had *no idea* I would miss them except that I did my very level best to ensure that they knew that I would completely fucking miss them.
If you know who I’m talking about, you’ll know the absolute stunning, awful swiftness of that dear love’s departure from our lives. One day, she was administrating my groups beautifully, and the next, she was dead. Gone forever.
It is a teensy, tiny consolation to me that the last thing I ever said to her was “You matter to me.”
Because she did.
And I wanted her to know.
That kind of consciousness – the fully, deeply experienced awareness that we are here and then erased as though we never existed – has the power to make you really fucking crazy, or really fucking awake, and in my case, I think it’s made me awake. It’s made me awake, and it’s made me very particular about how I treat the people I love.
I want them to know they matter. I want to be certain of that. I want them to never question for a second that I thought about them all the time, that when they weren’t around, I missed them, and that they were wanted, loved, valued…
That guy on Alone, Day 9, missing his wife with an unbearable visceral longing that was only eased by the thought of bringing home a lifetime’s worth of abundance *to her*, *for her* is my fucking hero. I get him.
The guy that wanted his dad to be proud of him, who took the adventure on with a full-throated, unabashed devotion to making his dad proud; he’s my hero, too.
The guy that said, with tears in his eyes, “It makes you wonder if the people that you love really know how much you love them…” before he shut his camera off because the moment had become too big for him, too vulnerable to share – he’s my hero.
The woman in season 2 who went home because she felt her children tugging at her sleeve from across a continent. The man who asked “What good is all of this if there is no one to share it with?”. The one who said out loud that he had everything except his wife…and then went home because fuck it. He wanted, loved, missed HIS WIFE.
And the guy who quit second to last because he realized that nothing meant anything without his partner, and the one who hung in there long after his body screamed for relief because he wanted to become the YES MAN to his beloved children at whom he’d always had to chant the words “Sorry” and “NO”.
Purveyors of hope.
Shining beacons of light in my dark, dark night of the soul.
There is a lot of social shaming around needing and/or wanting to be coupled up/connected, but I think that’s fear talking. You hear me? I think the way we talk about being too awesome to be bothered about whether we are loved or not, accepted or not, alone or not, is unadulterated bullshit the majority of the time.
This show really proved that to me.
We are nothing without the ones we love. Nothing. Without our attachment to those we love, our lives go un-witnessed. There is no meaning in them. We exist merely to eat, sleep, shit, and die. We give nothing. We receive nothing. Maybe we do good work that pays our bills (if we’re lucky) but unless we’re curing cancer or discovering something completely, stratospherically, mindblowingly brand new, our names will be forgotten within months, if not days, of our inevitable death. The name on the product is completely, utterly forgettable. There is a huge difference between the time and energy you invested in accomplishing accolades for shit that will never really matter to anyone but you and maybe someone else’s bottom line vs. the gentle, soft gratitude of a loved one who saw what you did there, and loved you for it. Huge.
And that is my bottom line.
Love the ones you love in the verb sense of the word. Do it. Make sure they know, and if they aren’t certain, figure out how to make them certain.
Because there will be nothing you will regret more than their dying without knowing how much you loved them. There will be nothing that weighs as heavily on them as your lightweight, half-assed, lick and a promise. There will be nothing you will wish to take back as much as your unresponsiveness to those who loved you best.
But then, I guess you’d have to really care for any of that to matter.
Anyway, Alone. Seasons 1 & 2. Listen to what these people are really saying about what matters, and you might find yourself broken wide open.