I have grown up often hearing the phrase, “It’s just a phase.” It was usually in response to me sharing something I was worried about. I never really understood it. In that moment, whatever I was going through felt like it would endure forever. But time changes that. Unless you pass through more than one or two chapters, how can you know that life is a book?
Realising this, I feel encouraged to write about this phase. A lot of what I’ve written has come from a sense of discomfort. Today I am writing from a sense of calm.
This is about the invisible strands between us.
Whether this is the way I am, or the way I chose to be, I have always liked sharing my personal thoughts and feelings with other people. This is nothing unique in itself. The difference is, while others wait to establish a certain degree of trust and comfort, and then carefully choose their confidantes, I am a little more relaxed.
All my life I have been told to be more discreet when it comes to my personal life. I never got discouraged. People around me continue to be stunned.
It all begins with asking me how I’m doing. I don’t remember many times I’ve stuck with “I’m good”. Whether in my tone, body language, or words — I end up communicating how I’m actually doing; good/okay always seemed too simplistic for my overthinking mind. In my younger days, that question opened the door for a rant. Now it’s far more controlled, thankfully.
In my experience, this way of life has been incredibly rewarding. It’s not as if I start my day thinking I must conect with everyone I meet today. It’s more of an instinct to be at peace with my immediate environment; which includes my family, my help at home, to the cab drivers, to the guards who check my temperature at work, to the colleagues to sit around me, to everyone who calls me.
Life is a series of micro-interactions. We have the choice in each of them, whether to be transactional, or human. Our kinship and bonds with one another are not just the result of knowing someone for years or talking with someone for hours. I like to think of the world as full of these invisible strands emanating from each of us. Listening and empathising is nothing but seeing those strands, and connecting together for a moment. The strands are our feelings, our fears, our worries, our joys; they connect us far more than common hobbies Eve will.
I take a cab to work and back everyday. I rarely chat with the drivers; I’m just well mannered like many others. Once I asked a driver to stop for 2 minutes, so that I could buy flowers. I took ten minutes, and explained later, apologised to him for wasting his time, telling him how important the flowers were. He didn’t seem upset at all to me, and said he understood. I picture an invisible strand lighting up gently like a firefly, and draw warmth from it.
In the last couple of years, a few colleagues who I’ve never met in person have reached out to me before they left, and told me how much they appreciated my help. I probably won’t hear from them or meet them again, but it made me proud. These were support staffers, with whom interactions tend to be transactional, who ducked calls from others around me, but always answered mine. All I did was listen to them, empathise, be friendly. I was human.
The people around me have changed constantly over the past few years. I’ve had 8 different flatmates in the last 3 years alone, only one of whom I knew beforehand. Twenty different people must have sat around my desk during the same time. I may not have liked all of them, but that’s beside the point. Many of these people know about my garden-variety worries, some know my fears and insecurities too. The people themselves may not be permanent. But when a new person came into my vicinity, sooner or later the invisible strands bonded. It has been a blessing beyond comprehension.
Trusting people with my feelings has made life a lot easier for me. I may start my day with a problem the size of Mount Everest. When I share this with someone during the day and they say this is normal, or this is something they’ve dealt for the last ten years, the same problem reduces to the size of a tennis ball, and my day completely turns around. When we are afraid or in pain, there is no greater comfort than being told we’re not alone.
This all may sound naive. But the feeling is hard to describe. I wonder whether this is what it’s like to live with love, wherever I go, whatever I do. I wonder whether this is the true essence of networking. In a world where it is becoming easier to create the image of an impossibly perfect life, where work-from-home is isolating us and reducing human interaction, we all can collectively benefit greatly from being more honest and more human. Yes, sometimes we may get manipulated, but I am prepared to take that chance. Our invisible strands have no warmth of their own, but the magic comes to life when they are connected even for a second to the strands of those around us, like electricity that flows only when the circuit is complete. It can happen only when say more than “I’m good”. It can happen only when we uncloak our egos, bare our wounds naked, and realise we are not alone.
“It is being honest about my pain that makes me invincible” — Nayyirah Waheed.