I recently read one of the most deeply provoking Facebook comments I’ve ever come across. Someone posted a simple quote that said: ‘When women are talking to you about their problems, they’re likely not looking for an answer and just want someone to listen.’
I would say that also goes for men, just as much as it does for women. But it was the comment from a young woman that made me jump sideways out of my skin… ‘My dad cut that shit right out of me when I was young, haha. He always said, if you’re coming to me with a problem, you better already have a solution or are asking for me to come up with one. If not, then congrats, you’re sulking and I don’t deal with that.’
There was a huge response, and most replies gave applause for her Dad’s ‘no b-s’ approach. (‘Legend!’; ‘Your Dad is a smart man!’)But it just made me feel… sad. And this burning question came rushing over me… When and why did it become so taboo to feel weak, tired and answerless? To simply want someone to hold our hand – and say nothing – in moments of unspeakable vulnerability?
In my eyes, this Dad’s approach – and his daughter’s cheer for that approach – is a daily, fatal miss at connection that is the result of a world that has had patriarchy on sky-high priority for far too long. It’s masculine energy (competition, action, determination) gone out of control. It’s feminine energy (creativity, intuition, compassion) pushed and squashed out of sight. (The basic polarity of masculine and feminine being part of every person; whether man or woman, boy or girl.)
In essence, it’s balance well and truly off. It is vulnerability mistaken for weakness. And it is a disconnect that penetrates to the core of each and every one of us. Recently, I myself have been in and out of a deep place of lostness. That I cannot really put into words. And despite my friends, huge family, and being in a long-term relationship, I often find myself feeling very much alone in the face of uncertainty. It’s that fear and hesitation that if I reach out to someone close and say ‘I really don’t have it together right now… I feel like a mess of fragmented pieces, and can’t seem to take a single step forward’, that I will meet blank faces, dismissal, or – the worst – the affirmation that I really should feel horrific for not having it all figured out and should just be getting on with it. Like – ‘What is wrong with you?! Suck it up and get. shit. done.’
For me, that is the birth of a black hole of shame, right there…
It’s like I said in a piece I wrote recently (referring to a few years ago when I was in the midst of depression): ‘I have known that feeling of holding an aching, shaking heart in your chest, and yet looking around and perceiving closed eyes, hearts and hands everywhere you have the energy to turn. Speculation and distrust and disconnection; it is literally on every corner. And it can make you want to die.’ Sometimes, we do not have it all figured out. (I’d say we never do.) Sometimes, it is okay to just sit and be still with ourselves until it feels right to take another step; instead of being shamed and bullied (often by ourselves) into blindly charging on in our lives.
I think so.
And here’s the thing: I think we can all relate to what that girl had to say about her Dad. We’ve all had at least one person in our life who’s attempted to ‘cut that shit right out of us’; who – (I would say) out of their own discomfort in the face of uncertainty – attempts to shake every last cell of human vulnerability loose from us, until we don’t know what it even looks and feels like anymore. Even if the intention is to protect us, it has the opposite effect. Because both research and life experience will tell you that when you harden yourself against the pain and the uncertainty, you also harden yourself against the love and the happiness.
When we block out the vulnerability, we also block out the joy.
So, even if it’s one person who’s dismissed you this way, it takes effect. And – over time – it instills a sense of inexplicable sadness in us all. Because it creates an un-ending sense of disconnection in the very place we should – in fact – all feel incredibly, joyfully connected to one another. That communion is what’s real; and this pandemic disconnect is all illusion.
It’s true that our daily struggles almost always seem so fatefully personal and unique to us, when they are in fact almost always universal at their root. We all at one point or another end up sitting in our own little shame-filled bubbles, feeling awful about the same things yet thinking we’re the only ones. So forget fixing, saving and helping – just for a moment – and contemplate the unprecedented change that we would feel in this world – or even in our own households and communities – if we were to reach out on a consistent basis to remind one-another of those four healing words: you are not alone.
And this is no myth, no fairytale, no utopia.
Connection is the global antidote to war, hunger, hatred, destruction. The fact that we often do not even hold the space for ourselves to be at our most vulnerable – let alone doing the same for anyone else – is why we are seeing ‘anxiety’, ‘depression’ and any other labels you apply to what is all chronic disconnection – so commonly in this day and age. I think that living in this society – especially in these times, and especially for the younger generations – is truly hard and grinding; demoralising. Even though it presents itself to be the exact opposite.
Sure – over here in the developed world we’ve got all the products, amenities and conveniences we need! And all the many ‘freedoms’ this society offers up to us. But we’re missing something… At the core of every single human life is the foundational relationships with the people closest to us (family, friends, partners). And the quality of these relationships define us deeply. So, despite our relative everyday comforts, it is the quietly embedded fractures in these relationships – including, and arguably most importantly, the one with ourselves – that is making everyday life harder than ever before.
Yeah – we all have our iPhones, Netflix, IKEA, weekend nights ‘out out’ and summer beach holidays on-lock; but then what’s it all worth if we don’t get still enough to notice that we’re all starved of true connection? We of course must count the blessings of living in the ‘developed world’, but we must also recognise that some of the happiest human beings have very little in the way of ‘convenience’. As they say – less is more. And we are so damn lost in the excessive and the material. It’s the following statement that is not unpacked fully enough, often enough:
We have lost our sense of community.
And what I really have to say is this… As it stands, this society might not allow us the necessary breathing space to figure it all out in our own individual space and time (when it’s far too busy asking us all to fit into profitable systemic boxes and efficient statistical categories.) But I think it’s okay… It should be okay. And I am here to tell you: you are not alone. Never.
That person nearest you? In the next chair, the next room, or the neighbouring house or apartment? Yeah, them. That person has experienced some form of the exact same fears and doubts and numbness and self-loathing and shame that you have – believe me; it’s just shown up for them in different ways depending on their unique experience. But the root feeling is always the same.
It is 100% true… We all have so much more in common than what separates us.
I do not yet know where or how, but I am slowly realising a deep desire to help break the illusion of separation that render so many of us alone – as alone as I myself have felt on too many occasions, and as ‘illogical’ as many have screamed out my loneliness to be.
Because a wholehearted human experience – the one we all crave crave crave – is so far beyond logic and conveniently ‘cutting shit right out’.
Because – oh God – one cannot be logic-ed out of a deep dark hole. One can only listen (hard) and attempt to understand and affirm the truest connection possible, offering up enough strength – the real, vulnerable kind – so that we can (once again) recognise our own guiding light within. Connection… It really is everything.
Contributor, SERENE Social
About Georgia Takacs
Georgia Takacs is 24 and based in Cambridge, UK. She is the Co-Founder of wellbeing brand Noel Road, and blogs at georgiatakacs.com. Her greatest passions lie in the pursuit of wellbeing for all, and is working on a research and writing project that aims to examine what is happening at the intersection of our global monetary economy and the human experience.