Sunday, June 22, 2014

I Want More

Dear Reader: I write to better understand my experiences of life; I share with the hope that my words will touch something inside you, and together we will remember that we all walk through life with love and loss, joy and sorrow, hope and despair, faith and uncertainty.

NOTE: I will never write about upsetting details without a warning.

Being deeply loved
Gives you
Loving deeply gives you

–  Lao Tzu

There is still so much to my RANGERING story to write, and I am eager to get back to it. Please be patient; the past few weeks have been very fruitful and I need to write about that while it is fresh in my mind. Don’t worry, the RANGERING story will unfold in time!

None of us succeed in life; none of us live, without the help of others. While I love the American story of rags to riches, of tenacity and belief in self bringing someone out of degradation into success, I am equally irritated by assertions that people are wholly “self-made.” No one is entirely self-made. No one believes in him or herself unless someone, somewhere, did not also believe in them. No one bridges that gap if someone does not give them a chance. And Donald Trump was never poorer than a homeless man.

“According to a well-known anecdote, one day when he was $1 billion in debt, Trump pointed out a homeless man to his daughter and said, ‘See that bum? He has a billion dollars more than me.’  (

I find his assertion offensive and ridiculous. I feel quite certain that Donald Trump has never found his dinner in a garbage dumpster, in fact probably continued to be wined and dined by good old boys who found him an affordable investment; never wore clothes worn through and infested with vermin, in fact probably never had to give up his custom made imported suits (or does he prefer American made?); never, ever had to be at the mercy of the elements, and most likely was carried through his time of debt in familiar luxury again by those who were either returning favors, or were banking on his future success. Donald Trump was wealthy even while in extraordinary debt because he was privileged and had incredible connections of people willing to invest in him: wealth that very few people ever have a chance at having.

This attitude of entitlement, this growing belief that “I deserve; I earned it; I got here on my own” increases with wealth. An interesting study came out of Berkeley and can be found here:

So you’re wondering by now where I’m going with this. Where I’m going is my recent journey, which led very unexpectedly to my discovery of what Life really is all about – at least for me. I have a friend whom I “met” through an online support group for people with PTSD. Shelli is always offering support to others, is compassionate and welcoming, even while going through a very brittle stage of her own PTSD. She and I email, text and talk on the phone. We live in somewhat nearby cities, close enough for a day trip, though we haven’t met yet.

I found out that she planned to move to a new apartment to get her son into a better school district. When it became obvious how few resources she had, no money, no truck to borrow, friends becoming scarce, I offered to help her with the move. I knew exactly what she was experiencing.

When my son was about a year old and I knew I needed to leave his dad, I too had no resources. I didn’t have any family nearby, and my self-esteem was so low that I could not imagine anyone would be willing to help me; I would not have had the courage to ask for help. (When I think back on it, I can only imagine that I would have had to take my son and the clothes on our backs and leave.)

A former coworker and friend called me out of the blue. When I told her what was going on, she offered to pick me up from work one day (I didn’t have a car). She and I drove to various apartments until I was able to find one close to work with a vacancy; I filled out an application and got preliminary approval. She drove me home and directed me to start packing boxes; meanwhile she started piling dirty laundry in the washing machine and washing dishes. A few days later a neighbor who had insisted on helping came over after work with her boyfriend. We took load after load to my new apartment in his pickup, until late into the night.

I really could not grasp why they were willing to help me. From the depths of my poor self-esteem, I was unable to understand their selfless compassion. And their help was so extraordinarily needed, such an enormous gift, I felt I’d never be able to repay it. At the same time, it seemed like no big deal to them.

I wanted Shelli to feel the way I had; I wanted someone to show up for her, the way someone(s) had for me, and make the move just happen. I ended up offering to take on the full task of organizing the move: renting a moving truck (it seemed the best option), finding people with good backs to help, and providing drinks and snacks for everyone. Above all, I wanted her to know that she was not alone.

In part I wanted to help Shelli as a way to pay back my gratitude to those who helped me in my time of need. We all need each other at some time. None of us can do this alone.

But I also wanted to help her because a few weeks earlier, Shelli had helped me to learn an important truth that I’d been blind to.

On that online PTSD support group, I had posted a link to one of my blog posts. And because this was a site for people with PTSD, I specifically mentioned along with the link that this post discussed suicide. Surprising someone with PTSD about a topic like that is not a kind thing to do. Several days after that I changed the URL for my blog – so the link I had posted no longer worked; and it didn’t even occur to me to change it.

A few days later Shelli tried to click on the link, and it gave a message that the website was no longer valid; she then went back to the PTSD website, where I had written that this blog post discussed suicide. She became frightened that in my post I had been reaching out for help, struggling with thoughts of suicide, and she had not read it and reached back to help me. She panicked that perhaps I had attempted (or committed) suicide, and that was why my blog was no longer there. On the PTSD website she posted several comments to me asking what was going on.

I was at work; I didn’t see them.

But another member of the PTSD support group did, and he also became concerned. He had been having lunch with his daughter. She saw distress on his face and he knew he had to say something to her. It became a necessary opportunity for him to discuss how people sometimes go through very hard times in life, sometimes too hard, and that he was worried about me.

A bit later Shelli texted me – I saw it immediately and replied that I was fine. Soon after we all had everything sorted out, and adrenaline levels returned to normal. Of course I felt horrible that my oversight had inadvertently caused so much distress. But something else happened, something important. It really hadn’t occurred to me that I was important to these people, people I had never met face to face. Important enough that they would worry that they had missed my call for help; panic that they had not been there when I needed. I hadn’t realized that I was important to them. (I would like to note that I have not been struggling with thoughts of suicide.)

I was like the Grinch when his heart grows three sizes, but it was more like layers of that crusty protective covering sloughing off my heart. I felt a genuine heart connection, palpable and intense, with two people I’ve never met, one a virtual stranger. How can I explain it, other than that this is what life is supposed to be about, having true connections with other humans? And it doesn’t really matter whether it only happens in that one moment, or over the course of a lifetime. Sometimes one moment is enough.

So Shelli helped me to realize that I am important, even to people I hardly know. I am not insignificant. None of us are. I am not alone, and neither is Selli .

Preparing for Shelli’s move, I requested help from family and friends – preparing meals, small donations of money, children’s clothing and books, toiletries, school supplies. And while there wasn’t a groundswell of support, every single person who did respond with help did so with that same heart connection – I felt that absolute acknowledgement pass between us of our shared humanity, vulnerability and heart connection.

It was heartfelt and genuine and beautiful and all I could think was, I want more of this!

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