I'm not sure where to start. There's been so much that's gone on in my life it's a wonder I'm even here. My parents thought I'd end up in jail, or dead. I guess in some metaphorical ways I did. I'm sure we could agree that never being allowed to express your emotions is like living in a prison – you're always tethered to your fears of rejection, incarcerated by the knowledge that who you are is not welcome beyond your appearance. When you live that way long enough, you start to wonder if you ever have any impact on anyone around you, if they even know you have value.
Is that like being dead? Feels that way. At least to me.
I don't wish that on anyone. I mean, in some ways it's helped me to be a more insightful person I can spot an underdog as if he's a celebrity; others' emotions appear as text in their eyes, or in the way they carry themselves. It's heightened my sense of empathy. From that perspective, a guy like me can avoid the cliché, “a cynic knows the price of everything but the value of nothing.” Instead, I can empathize. I can look about and understand that there's not much value in being cynical; the price is too high. You've got to be willing to be an intellectual sloth to maintain a cynical attitude, especially when you can do better than what you were handed in life.
Take me, for example: I admitted already that things were pretty dark growing up. And if they weren't dark then I was just invisible. Maybe that makes things easier to understand. I don't know. In any case, by whatever turn of fortune, I was able to see, able to grasp that I don't have to give people the treatment (or lack thereof) that was given me. I don't have to refuse them passage into how I'm feeling. I don't have to treat them in some disaffected way such that their best efforts to relate to me – on whatever level – are met with empty stares, or off-handed remarks. I can greet every person I meet with a confident smile, a sturdy handshake, and a heartfelt desire to ensure their value, affirm their worth. I guess you could say that it's possible, if you pay attention, to come out of the dark and into the light; to be visible if for no other reason than because you're valuable. Inherently.
But knowing that isn't a fool-proof combination, unfortunately. Knowing something doesn't elevate you beyond the common platform of humanity, or 'being human'. There are all sorts of things that can interrupt, even break your confidence, make you question your worth all over again. Falling in love and having your heart broken; that's a pretty common experience for people. And it's certainly something that rocks your world to its foundations when it happens.
I remember when it happened to me. There was so much health, so much security and joy when I found myself breathing affection, and pulsating her name. It's just not true that 'all that glitters is not gold' when you're in love. I mean, love is the gold and all it can do is glitter, right?
No. Like everything else, it can tarnish, too. That's what happened to me. Time, exposure, misunderstandings, shortcomings, words spoken in haste... It all adds up. It's a slow but desperate accretion of pain and helplessness. Your feelings tumble our of control, and all the energy you once had flowing out of you to that other special someone now stabs inward like an unstoppable spear of hate. That darkness, so familiar to your life, robs you of the light again, envelops you and turns you invisible once more.
But you know what? Enough of that. I don't need to re-hash how I – or anyone else, for that matter – can get out of that darkness. Let's just agree, for the sake of argument, that there is such a thing as hope. You know, a real, substantial, palpable, better way of being that can make a difference in the way you relate to the world; or sometimes even the way the world relates to you.
That's something to be grateful for, right? That despite all the dross that can grow out of the human condition, there's still enough dignity in each one of us that we can softly, gently, ever so quietly and humbly hope our way into a continuous love for others.
I think it's pretty basic, really. Think about it: if you relate to anything I've just said, you probably understand that, at your core, you just want to be loved and accepted. It's that same need for love and acceptance that I'm getting at here. We all need it. We all crave it on some level. So it would seem the best way to get it is to give it, right? I mean, when it stops being passed around, when it stops being given, that's when nobody's getting it.
So keeping hope alive, keeping the darkness back, keeping things light, visible, dignified and valuable sometimes means giving our love, and rejoicing in 'the other', even when it's easier to just be cynical. Isn't that what being alive should be about?