Willingness to reach. Capacity. Witnessing.
I’ve been thinking about friendship. Relationships. They take effort. Ideally not at the expense of oneself, but maybe sometimes outside of comfort. Imagine reaching one hand outside of one’s own awareness to receive or make a bid. A connection. A high five. Reaching out.
A stretch is more than a reach.
There are times a stretch happens, with our without our permission. When (*when*) I catch myself stretching, I have to pause and look into that space I’m extending into. What (or who) I’m extending toward.
What compelled me to go beyond a reach?
Does it feel good, or am I past my end range? Is it causing pain? Or anxiety? A little discomfort might be ok. Or it might be too much.
Is there a safety concern? An act of caring? Has it evolved into grasping? The desperation borne of our human insecurities and desires?
And there’s sitting. Arms gathered, unreaching; maybe a weary or rigid indifference. Protected. Sometimes this is where we find ourselves, too.
There are times we can’t reach or receive. Especially right now.
Stretching. Gathered. Reaching. Unreachable. Open. Closed. Rigid. Soft.
Reaching and receiving. Stretching and retracting. Paralleling. Humming in symbiosis. Connecting and disconnecting. Listening and responding. Setting and resetting boundaries, gates and windows. Drawing and reopening curtains. Clarifying.
What keeps us from reaching, connecting, embracing warmth? The lives we’ve lived. The people and experiences we’ve navigated. Judgment. Fear. Shame. Protection.
None of us want to linger in shame.
And nobody I know wants to feel like a burden. We’re obsessed with the idea that we are burdensome.
Accepting love is not burdening others.
If you feel this way, unworthy of love because of what you carry, then perhaps you cannot love yourself. If that was pulled away from you, it is very hard to trust and understand that someone else might be able to love you.
The idea that we are “a burden” is a miss, planted by the allure of rugged individualism.
It’s a trap, baited with the ideas of perfection, likability and “competence.”
It’s a lie. And every time we perpetuate it, telling someone (with words or actions) they are a burden or refusing to allow witness to our own vulnerabilities and struggles, we reaffirm that neither you, nor I deserve love.
It puts us competing for a shallow version of acceptance.
We craft archetypes: The easy going friend who isn’t too real. The friend who is real, but not so real we feel something akin to wildness when we’re with them.
And it’s a vicious cycle.
If you find yourself reaching. If you find yourself retracting. If you find yourself stretching. If you feel your whole heart grasping. Pay attention and clarify. We are not needy. We are stretching and grasping. For something. For what? Name it.
What do I need? What do I want? What am I avoiding? What am I missing? What am I trying to accomplish here? It’s sitting there waiting for you to pick it up.
And it’s ok. Sometimes we have to retract. Sometimes it’s too hot. Our own confusion and fears. Overwhelm. And sometimes it’s not safe. Violence. Manipulation.
And it’s scary. Not every bid is received. Rejection is so hard.
Sometimes, maybe, it’s about survival. We perceive from our biases. The old, the weakened or injured, the ill. The mentally ill. The people who’ve been hurt. Disabled people. The imperfect.
We nurture them or we leave them behind. We care or we do not. We can or we can not. (You’ve heard the saying, I can’t even!) Sometimes we care so much and we can not and that’s the whole entire story.
This hurts. Because I love people in every category I named. They are not “a burden.” They are my family, my friends and my loved ones. And me.
People retract. It’s about survival and bypassing a certain wholeheartedness that wears heavy. Sometimes we just walk away because it is all too confusing.
The anxiety that comes from the idea we are burdensome, and the way it makes us reactive with and toward one another, is one of our greatest societal errors.
If someone finds you burdensome, they are at capacity or the junction of intolerance. Stretched too far, too thin. Well conditioned to leave heaviness behind for fear of taking it onboard. We untangle at our own pace. It can be very painful to witness another’s suffering.
And we do not always recognize pain. We assign the words our judgement and conditioning pin onto people and sometimes we grasp that as the truth. We all have different levels of and practice with empathy and different levels of tolerance.
We can grow our understanding. We can hone our language. We can look more directly at what we want and ask for it clearly. It may not be comfortable. And we won’t always get it.
We can grow our capacity to accept.
As we glance off of one another in this life, no one is a burden. Please access support to unburden yourself of this idea if you are carrying it. It’s important.