Fear of Losing Connection

Several years ago, a friend shared the experience of attending a one-woman show in which the performer created various expressions of her “self.”  The performer was known for her comedic edge, and the show did not disappoint when it came to laughs.

The performer appeared as a housewife, a burlesque dancer, a mother, a mother-in-law, a professional executive type, a teacher, a child, and on and on.  While there were serious elements to each self, each one also generated many laughs; those laughs seemed to come from each member of the audience having some moment of recognition of the character on stage.  It was fun to understand — via art — that we all have diverse elements of our “selves” and yet we are each a whole person because of those elements.

It was fun until the last incarnation appeared.

The last version of the “self” the woman portrayed was homeless.  She was what we called growing up (shamefully, I now realize) a “bag lady.”  She sat on stage in dirty and ragged clothing, surrounded essentially by bags of garbage, muttering to herself and occasionally trying to catch the eye of the imaginary people on stage with her.

The other selves had been alone on stage as well, but there was always a sense with those that the character existed to others.  This character, though also alone, presented the powerful experience of living in an existential vortex into which no one else could — or more accurately wanted to — reach.

It was as if no one in the theater could even breathe.  The show closed in silence.

I remember this story, because it demonstrates a common and rarely spoken or even internally acknowledged fear.  I wrote about it at the end of last year when a homeless man died in my community and his body was not discovered for days (click here for that post).  I think this fear goes beyond being hungry, or homeless, or struggling to find clean clothes or employment.

This fear is about losing something many of us take for granted: A connection to other people that serves as a safety net upon which we all rely.

Some people can articulate that they don’t like “being alone” and that it is even a fear-inducing state for them.  Me?  I love being alone.  Being alone is really the only time I feel inner peace.  My world is quiet and calm.  My energy is high.  Life is free of conflict and it’s easier to hear the voice of God as I understand it.

But being alone is not the same thing as being disconnected.  Disconnection is one of the scariest experiences I’ve ever had, and I think I may have to mark it as a major fear in my heart.  I have never been fully disconnected from society or everyone I know, but I’ve had my toe in the water of what it’s like to start to disappear, and it’s terror-inducing.

The experience I’ll share was in a medical environment.  I’ve had others, but this is a good example.  It was also the first.

During a miscarriage many years ago, I was convinced my pregnancy could be saved with proper medical intervention.  It became clear to me very quickly that I was not a unique individual, nor was my fetus, in the OB-GYN practice where I was seen.  I was young enough that the docs weren’t worried that I could get pregnant again and have a successful outcome.  They had seen pregnancies like mine collapse before, and had a protocol for letting them go.  I felt like a Who from Horton Hears a Who……….. “We are here!  We are here!  We are here!”  But the faces around me said we don’t really care that you think you’re here; we don’t think you are.

Call us in a few weeks.  Here’s your paper work.  Next…..

With time I accepted what happened and why, but I will never forget that feeling.  It was the first time in my life that I remember not being able to convince someone I was special, that they should listen to me, that if we just worked together we could figure this thing out. It was an important lesson, humbling, and also a glimpse into something we all have to learn how to manage eventually.

It leads me back to the concept that a spiritual life and a relationship with God as we understand him/her to be is so important.  Sooner or later we look around and other people are not there for us as we’ve always thought they would be.  Doctors are not interested in pursuing treatment.  Spouses are not interested in continuing marriages.  Children grow up and move away.  The banker won’t give us a loan, the teacher won’t let us retake the test, there’s no room at the inn.

One of my biggest genuine fears is becoming someone no one is interested in being involved with or helping in any way.  It’ll just be me and God.

I have to run.  I’ve got some relationship building to do.

Images credits: Letting Go – Recovery in the Sunlight, Teik It Easy

Children of a Lesser god

Everyone knows the film Children of a Lesser god.  Maybe what we don’t know is how badly we need this movie to be remade, and soon.  When it is, I suggest the filmmaker branch out and replace the beautiful, intelligent, heterosexual and yes, deaf, white woman with a new character.  There are many lessers from which to choose.

I didn’t understand the title of this movie in 1986.  (Only just now as I write this post am I aware of the intentional little-g god in the title)  I had not even entered college, much less struck out into the world.  I still didn’t appreciate that, if not in acknowledged polite conversation, in real practice there are categories of human value.  I’ve since come to understand that these very real categories permeate organized society, and they are not just gentle whispers of harmless bias.  These categorizations are deeply rooted, and deep enough to nurture a mindset that separates some people from others as the flawed offspring of a higher power that is — well — not the higher power than made people who are made “the right way.”

In the broadest brush strokes, the Greater God says that men are better than women; whites are better than blacks; strong bodies are better than weak; young is better than old; and so on.  This week we were reminded that this “God” of categorization says that being heterosexual is better than being homosexual.

When one is in the “right” category, he or she enjoys a pre-paid subscription to a life of privilege.  In this life, a protective force field surrounds the person in a cocoon of social safety and opportunity.  The cocoon protects so naturally and so well, the person in it rarely even knows it’s there.  This oblivion partially explains why someone who fits the profile of a Child of a Greater God becomes confused and even angry when the lessers cry out in pain. 

What’s the issue, ask the greaters?  Why do you need special attention?  We’re all children of God………..

When you are a child of a lesser god, you know it.  No reassurances from the cocoon people can help you, because you know they don’t understand, not even a little bit.  Even the well-intentioned greaters are clueless about the realities of your life, about the death by a thousand cuts that threaten you every day.  The lessers are always on the edge, always.

A young man from Rutgers is dead.  He is dead because he had no place to be safe, no refuge, no shelter.  When you are not a child of a Greater God, no one rides in on a chariot of fire to save you.  Your god is tired, and discouraged, and sometimes even hopeless.  On the battlefield of life, you are lucky if your god even shows up.

It is imperative that as a society we do more to understand the subtle and powerful ways we isolate and devalue one another.  My movie remake will star a homosexual girl with autism living below the federal poverty level in Appalachia.

Who will yours star?

Photo credit:  Backyard Butterfly Garden