If people long for connection to one other, why do they often push it away? When you grow up in a place where you can get into a fight just for looking at someone, you learn pretty early to disconnect from those around you. Growing up in New Jersey, I can’t even count how many times I’ve had to answer to the question, “What are you looking at?”
It’s an odd thing to walk around not wanting to be looked at, or not wanting to make eye contact with another person. The older I get, the more I think, “That is the exact opposite from the way we should be going through our days.”
Being afraid to really connect with other human beings is nothing new in this world, but it’s not something I really thought I had a problem with. I mean, I’m a nice guy, right? I talk to strangers, say “please” and “thank you”. I even enjoy randomly buying coffee or lunch for police officers from time to time. So, clearly I’m not afraid to connect with people, right?
However, after going through some Meisner training recently, I’m beginning to recognize that I put a cap on my connections to other people. There’s only so much of myself I’m willing to share, and unfortunately, that goes for sharing with my family and the ones I care about most as well.
I’ve always known that where I grew up has conditioned me to hide things like fear, shame or weakness. However, a good friend has helped me realize that when you limit the amount of emotion and self, you are willing to share with others in one area, you end up stifling it in all areas as well. And that includes love and joy.
It seems weird right? Why would I limit love and joy? Those are good things. Well, I don’t pretend to know why it works this way, I only know that it does. Because, once I started opening myself up emotionally in as many areas as I could, I noticed all areas opening as well. It can be a little scary, but it’s actually kind of fun. I mean, what if someone sees me cry? Or I hug someone and they misinterpret my intentions? What then?
I know, I know. This sounds like a bunch of new age, fairy dust nonsense, and doesn’t sound like the type of thing some ex-punk rocker from Jersey should be exploring. I mean, I don’t want to come off weak, right?
But the thing is, being so concerned about the way other people perceive my strength or weakness is what got me to close off in the first place. And being closed off is actually the weakness. Showing who you truly are, that takes strength.
So look out Jersey, because next time I visit and some big dude stares me down and says, “What are you looking at?” I might just have to answer, “I’m looking at who I used to be.” And then, I might just give that big bastard the hug he really needs.
Or not. I mean, I may be opening up more these days, but hell, I’m not crazy.