There's this favorite quote I understand just a little bit better today.
"Wisdom is knowing I am nothing and no one,
Love is knowing I am everything and everyone.
Between the two my life moves."
I have this daily practice of meditation and contemplation. I spend some amount of time each day thinking on some idea, some concept about being... well, actually just about being. I think about emotions, about people, about relationships, about what it means to be alive.
I've been doing it for about 15 years now. It's often really hard work, but just as often really rewarding.
Lately I've been focused on perspective taking, which is distinct from empathy or even sympathy. Perspective taking is the distinct action of trying to see things from someone else's perspective, to learn their feelings, their desires, their fears.
Take this cartoon. Both these people see in the other person something they need, and they are so very excited to get it from that other person. It's somewhat dark humor, because in reality neither has that-needed-thing to give.
Some things about perspective-taking really clicked home for me this morning. Over the past two years or so, I've been devoting a lot of my contemplation-and-meditation time to what I now recognize as the idea of emotional interdependence.
What the heck is that? It's the idea that while I, as a person, interact with others, am affected by them, and affect them too, that there's a certain, and very healthy emotional self-sufficiency I can fall back on, and in fact, must to avoid harming others or myself.
I consider myself to be a kind, compassionate person. Someone who usually has the best interest of others front and center in my attention. But sometimes that's not so. I have chased others to give me something I had been lacking for. Sometimes that's been comfort, reassurance, a quick hit of pleasure or eroticism, to help me do a technical thing I feared I couldn't do by myself, all sorts of things.
About two years ago, I went through an awkward situation with someone I was very close to where I was chasing them for something I wanted them to do in their life. But it wasn't up to me, it was up to them to make whatever changes in their life they might. After a very rough time, I stopped chasing them. I made this strong resolution, "I don't chase anyone, for anything."
Well, two years of contemplation later, I realized that there's a corollary to this. Because lately I've been getting chased some. We haven't been doing the podcast for several months, and I get emails from folks who like it, total strangers, asking what's going on with the show, and with us, and when it will be back. I've had some very nice friends who flirt with me sometimes, and when I'm in the mood for such, it feels really good. But when I'm not in the mood, or its uninvited, it feels sort of slimy.
And that's not a statement on how those people are jerks. They are most distinctly not jerks. They're people. And me, I'm a people, too. Because I've done just those same sorts of things to others. I've chased people for any number of reasons, blindly putting my own desires ahead of any thought of what they had going on.
This idea, this challenge of perspective-taking, it's not new. I've been thinking about it, and maybe not quite getting it for a looooong time. One of my favorite songs is about it. It's called "The Balance" by The Moody Blues.
I get that song in a way I never did before. Right along with that awesome quote. It's firmed my resolve about some things.
First, when I catch myself chasing, to do my best to stop. And to own it, apologize to others when and where I have the chance to do so.
Second, when I get chased, and it's in a place and time where it's not working out for me, to say so to the chaser, directly, but with loving kindness. Because I've been there, and I am them, and they are me.
Third, I'm not going to waste a single moment trying to get away from this pattern. Because I think it's part of the human condition.
The sociologist Brené Brown says that being vulnerable to people you trust is an antidote to shame. But that trust is earned. You have people you go to, to get that confirmation that you're worthy of love and belonging with them. That's a sort of emotional interdependence you grow over time. I wouldn't want to not do that. I don't think it's even possible. I'm so very grateful for those who I have built that trust with, that we can lean on and into one another.
That takes time, and work, and love.
I'm grateful for it.