(as an aside…I know the recent slew of entries has been a bummer of sorts. I’m aware…and you should know that there will be a corresponding amount of entries about how each of these reasons has been flipped over. Just got one more reason I fear on Wednesday and those will commence)
I heard a memorable line in a forgettable movie that the greatest feeling in the world is to be “gotten.”
That means that somebody really understands you. What you dig. What you don’t. What sets you off. What shuts you up. What your Starbucks order is. They intuitively know when to dive in with insight and when to shut the hell up. The kind of person that makes you a playlist and it’s perfect. The kind of person that would bury the body with you. The kind of person that knows the you behind social-media you.
You can’t explain it. They just “get” you. Manalive.
The reality is the converse is true, too. The worst feelings are when you aren’t “gotten.”
I discovered this not long after my dad’s casket was wheeled out of the church then driven to Elmwood Cemetery where it would be lowered into the plot my grandparents had purchased back when they got a sweet deal on a block of four. It was understood that whichever of their kids went first got the other two. My mom’s maiden name—Childress—was already on one side of the headstone honoring my grandfather. My own surname showed up on the other side.
It was at the graveside that well-meaning pop-culture theologians felt the need to say something—anything—to me.
“Your dad’s in a better place.”
“God has a plan for your Dad.”
“You’ll see him again one day.”
Granted. A funeral isn’t the best place to expect folks–the kind of folks who knock off work to pack a church and sit Protestand Shiva and bring too much food to your house—to say the right thing. There isn’t a right thing.
But these strangers-to-me shook my hand as they spoke sunshine. They put their hands on my shoulder as if to emphasize the importance of their happy-talk. They made a world of promises about being there for my mom. They told us both that if we needed them for anything they would be there for us. My family was surrounded by nice people trying their best to show us they cared and backing it up with their presence and food…
…and I’d never felt so lonely–which, if you’re asking me, is wildly different than being alone. It’s the difference between sympathy and empathy.
See, these true and nice folks didn’t “get” what I was going through. They couldn’t “get” it because they hadn’t been through it. You know they’re trying but there you are:
The cheese. Standing alone. In the way you see the world. In the way you experience the world. In moments like…
…failing to realize how much damage an untrained impromptu theology lesson would do to a 13-year-old’s spiritual progress. They’d have just showed up, hugged me, said, “I’m so sorry and I care about you” and worked the room instead. You feel alone in your existential self.
…when my friends would back off the Friday plan to sneak in to see the “R” rated Halloween movie because their “stupid parents are making me go to my sister’s recital” you’d think that you wish you had stupid parents to make you do stuff instead of having all the time in the world to screw around. You feel alone in your family self.
…when your buddies use all sorts of expletives and make fun of your punk tribe when you try to introduce them to the music that means so much to you and you want them to listen. The all-in-good-fun crap they give you is a gut punch to your very identity…and you can’t understand what’s so great about Molly Hatchet or Lynyrd Skynyrd or Foreigner or Loverboy or Def Leppard. You feel alone in your social self.
…when you are out and about and the guys are trying their first beers and you get laughed at when you say you aren’t going to because your mom will cry if she smells beer on your breath…you can’t really explain how much your mom cries to them in that moment and don’t have words to tell them why not wanting to be the reason she cries matters so much. You feel alone in your emotional self.
…when there is a father-son tournament and you have to call your uncle to go with you. And even though you know he really is thrilled to stand in for your dad you still feel like you’re imposing. You introduce your uncle to the other guys’ dads and you are alone in your keen awareness of life-station.
…when it’s parent’s weekend at the fraternity house and your mom comes but gives you all the reasons why it’s scary for a single lady to drive that highway by herself but she’ll figure something out…and when all the other guys’ dads go golfing with them you just go to lunch with your mom. You are alone in your pragmatic self.
…when you opened your diploma from Auburn with your mom and you know how much your dad would’ve loved that moment. You are alone in your celebratory self.
…when you glance at your bride walking down the aisle and take a glance at your mom and Charlie Mae (remember our family’s housekeeper I mentioned earlier? Yep. That one) sitting where your dad should’ve been. Or when the kids are born. Or when they graduate university or as a valedictorian. You are alone in your life moment self.
…when you are with friends at a party and they’re all talking about how their grandparents are starting to get sick and they don’t know what they’re going to do “when they actually go.” Grandparents? I haven’t had grandparents in 20 years…and my own mom has been gone almost 10 years now. You are alone when surrounded by real friends with real problems self.
I get it.
But I’m not looking for a pity party here. And if you are pitying me, well, that only reinforces the point.
I’m just explaining that not only was I alone as a kid, I was also pretty lonely, too.
And that loneliness…that feeling far afield from my fellow man…still flares up all the time. You can be in a room full of people and be lonely.
But see, my current life station is that I have family and friends who do understand me. They know what I dig and what I don’t. They know what sets me off and what shuts me up. They know to order a caramel macchiato. They dive in with insight and shut the hell up when that’s the best course of action. I have friends who could make the perfect playlist for me and then refuse to listen to it with me. I have people that would bury the body with me.
It took a long time to find these folks. My life is more abundant with these folks, no matter how often I see them or how far we live from each other or even if they live in my house and/or have genetic links to me or if I see them every freaking day. I’m always on the lookout for more of them, man. I’ll take as many folks who get me (and I them) as I can get.
And that’s reason three that I fear being abandoned. I know loneliness.
And, that might be the worst feeling in the world.