Sticking With You

Some days I feel like giving up.  I don’t know what to do, and I’m really at my best when I’m doing.  Sitting still is a problem for me.  I don’t do it easily.   Yet, as things stand, sitting still is the most profound kind of doing available to me.

I get accused often of trying to save you.  No one believes me when I say that’s not what I’m trying to do.  We can’t save other people in any existential sense.  We each must save ourselves.  I promise, I don’t want to save you.  Not that I don’t want to see you saved, I just know that externally-sourced salvation never lasts.

You have a story.  I don’t know it in its entirety.  There’s a general shape and outline, so I know it’s big and I know it isn’t pretty.  The only thing I’m sure of is that you’ve got this story.

So what am I doing here?  I’m sticking with you.

From every external angle, this looks like stupidity.  It looks like wasting time.  It looks like throwing good love after bad.  Even you’ve questioned my sanity, perhaps joking, perhaps parroting insults that have been lobbed at you like little opinion grenades intended to maim.  It looks like I don’t know what I deserve.  It looks like I don’t love myself.

That’s kind of hard to take, by the way.  That so many people in my life have these pop-psychology labels for what’s going on here.  It’s amazing how many clinical terms you can find in a single conversation that doesn’t involve a licensed professional.  That’s not what I think I’m doing, however.

Maybe it’s a little arrogant, but I think this is what bravery looks like.  I think this is love.  Although I have a preferred outcome, I live with an acute awareness that this outcome is not promised to me.   It’s not brave because I am trying to be a hero.  Its brave because the hardest thing to do is to be with someone who is trying desperately to save themselves, particularly when neither of you knows whether or not it’s going to end well.

I don’t mean “with” in the romantic sense.  Not like “I’m with so-and-so.”  I mean with in the way that you’re empathetically present for friends or strangers with a story that’s too big for one person to have to manage alone.  Some things we let happen as a community, which means that it takes more than one person to manage the aftermath.

So what I mean is that I’ll stay up and keep the watch while you take a nap, if you’ll let me.  And if not, I’ll sit up with you for as long as I can.  And when I run out of wakefulness, I’ll trust you enough to put my head on your lap and nap next to you.  This withfulness doesn’t require your explanation or your asking or your confessions.  I’m here because it’s where I want to be.  It’s easy, it’s free, and it’s yours.

By the way, if you ever get grateful for all this withfulness, thank Ashana M. for helping me reconnect with my clarity.   Her story isn’t your story, but she articulates the value of having someone with you, from whatever distance, as you do what you have to do to come to terms with whatever your story is made of.

Sticking With You

2 thoughts on “Sticking With You

  1. I think you’re right–being with someone in the way I think we both understand–is the most difficult thing to do. Much easier to rescue, to try to fix, to avoid or minimize. I think it is hardest even to be with ourselves when we are suffering. I learned to be with myself by trying to with others first.


  2. Yes, rescue, fix, avoid, minimize… we do these things with ourselves too. It makes sense… doing is more instinctive than being (I think. It sounds right in this context, but I’m not sure it holds up as an absolute). The trouble, of course, is that all that doing just puts you further from yourself. Compassion and intimacy (not necessarily of the romantic variety, but sometimes that too) are byproducts of being with instead of doing to.

    I don’t know. It all sounds good in theory but is bloody difficult as a sustained practice.


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