My childhood, like many others, was not filled with dreams of content and solace. Instead my dreams were largely comprised of nightmares of loss and separation, fears and doubts, and the wishes of a home that would never come to be.
As a young adult, I grew into a codependent personality, always motivated by fear of loss and rejection, seeing the world through eyes tainted by fears of hellfire and the abuses of a tyrannical father figure. I eventually found myself immersed in Gestalt therapy and Buddhist teachings, and clawing my way through the delusions I carried with me; most of these I have let go of, if not forgotten entirely and moved away from.
Now approaching 40, having lived through a near death experience, chronic health issues, and a list of failed relationships, I find myself once again facing realities of death and dying, loss and fear, and again, self doubt.
I’ve watched the young men and women I worked to care for die or be taken away once again in lives of abuse and addiction and now. I watch the elderly I work with and come to love be taken away, never to come back, as they spend a few painful moments in hospital beds, writhing in fear, as they take final gasping breaths.
In the midst all of this, I sit and wonder what I have to offer. What do I have to give that can be of help to those around me, to those I love, and even to those who refuse to love me or be a part of my life.
I sit in meditation, I sit in quiet reflection, and I walk between friends and families who have loved me and hated me and at times, I find myself lost. I question again and again the validity of my position as a dharma teacher, a priest, a whatever you would like to call me, and then it happens. Those whose lives have been enmeshed with mine seem to just pop up like whack a moles, right when I need something the most.
They reach out a helping hand, unbeknownst to them, and offer me love and encouragement. They offer me praise and admiration (much of which is undeserved) and they lighten my spirits when I am in a dark hour.
This week, a week that has been unusually busy for me and has pulled me away and out of all routine and comfort zones, three of my friends have come forward and reminded me of things that were much needed. We have shared laughs, tears and memories of moments I had forgotten or had not seen as they have seen them.
They came to me with open honesty, even when we have not met face to face, and shared their pains and their victories and gave me a moment of honest connection that seems so unique in a world with constant scenes of rushing and running. They remind me that it is the small, brief encounters shared, where a simple smile, a note of encouragement, an offer of support, a belief in each other, that can change the outcome of a day or an endeavor.
They have reminded me that it is not an issue of what I have to offer but instead how I try and live my life that matters—an open door policy of friendship and honesty that I have tried to nurture. One where my mistakes and shortcomings are not the yawning chasms as I see them, but instead bridges of connection as they see them.
They have reminded me that friendship that is honest, without expectation, and meeting each other where we are now instead of where we want each other to be, is life changing.