I spent most of my life hovering around the edges of community.
Like most Fours, I rejected others because I believed they either had rejected me first, or were bound to do so eventually.
The upside to considering yourself an outcast is that it creates the feeling that no one really has any claim on you. Independence and autonomy are the upside to isolation.
But the world doesn’t work that way. We are not islands, self-contained and self-reliant.
There is no such thing as the “self-made man” (or woman). We didn’t come into this world through our own action, and we don’t survive here solely by our own efforts.
We belong with others. We belong, in part, to others. We are not, entirely, our own.
Despite our best efforts at free agency, we get entangled. We connect. We notice. We interject ourselves in others’ lives in a myriad of ways. We get invested in others’ stories, despite our best intentions to remain aloof and detached. We require the efforts of others to survive and thrive, and we give precious little thought, much less thanks, to those efforts.
The upside to this inevitable messy entanglement is community. Connection. We gain witnesses that we were here, and we mattered.
The downside is, at a certain point, we can’t continue to pretend that our lives and our choices aren’t anyone else’s business. Unless we’re prepared to detach from reality and take pretending to a whole new level.
The world/universe/reality/God doesn’t owe us a thing. What, really, have we done for it, in the bigger scheme of things?
Don’t gloss over that statement. It’s not an expression of cynicism, or religion, or philosophy. It’s an objective, clear-eyed view of reality.
We look at a statement like “the world doesn’t owe you a thing” and we think it’s a condemnation, but it’s not. It’s a passport to a certain kind of freedom.
Because if the world doesn’t owe us a thing, we can stop fretting about the way life falls short of expectations. We can see the grace of what we have, instead of staring through the microscope of our attention at what we lack. We can stop being the miserly bookkeepers of others’ accounts in the First National Bank of What Have You Done For Me Lately? and find better uses for our time and attention.
Because ultimately, time and attention, in little bits and pieces, make up our lives.