I read somewhere that people disclose information both to increase trust/intimacy, and as proof that it already exists in some form in the relationship. It makes sense: you trust someone, so you tell them personal ish. They respond in a way that is not rife with flaccid douchenozzles, the connection gets stronger, there is more disclosure, and the intimacy grows and becomes more nuanced.
I’ve never worked that way. I tend to disclose whatever, whenever, wherever. I don’t see the information I give people as a primary indication that our relationship has grown, particularly in the early stages. There’s not much in my ‘inner circle’ that wouldn’t also be readily volunteered in any other conversation with peeps I’d just met. I tend to let trust grow based on the way information is handled, as opposed to via quantity and quality of said information.
So it was weird when a fairly close, much adored, friend of mine would repeatedly ask me to trust him; to tell him all my ish. And the more he — let’s call him Blark — asked, the more I realized he had a point; I wasn’t telling him my ‘inner circle’ stuff. Despite our uncanny chemistry, I kept our conversations to philosophical meanderings, daily career derps, and otherwise common ground. When I fought with a friend, or worried about a sick pet, or had a family blowout, I said nothing.
I finally took a chance and let him in on a family debacle. He blew me off. And wasn’t sorry when I told him it hurt my feelings. I kept trying, kind of, for another year, but that was when the growth in that friendship started to die.
It wasn’t until a conversation with a former best friend, Dertch, that I realized why I’d stalled in the disclosure arena with Blark. Dertch ran out of bff mojo years ago. It’s a long sad story, but it definitely wasn’t tragic. We currently have a cozy once-a-year chit chat festival and then we’re free to pretend like our long, entwined, history is still enough to call what we have a close friendship. This year, in response to a direct question, I dropped a quasi bomb about my eyesight and retinopathy. I was met with a blatant, unhesitating sidestep. I said the line, ‘I want to see things before I can’t anymore,’ and his response was, ‘well, that sounds like it will be fun.’ And then we talked about other things. The end.
I wasn’t really surprised; that sidestep wasn’t the first one to stale the now granite loaf of what used to be a delicious friendship. But, sitting on my couch later, hurt despite my lack of expectations, I realized that I tend to refrain from putting stuff on the table if I think I won’t be met with empathy. I don’t have to have a history with a person to take a chance and say my piece, but taking that risk is based on whether or not I feel I’m engaging with someone who will hear me. See me. And not chuck the handful that is my reach aside with a nonchalant toss that will leave me smaller.
This realization came mere hours after my existential meltdown over my daily post challenge here on Medium. I’d typed out twelve lines that basically screamed frustration into the ether with little in the way of coherency or qualifiers, and then let it sit, baleful, in the sun of reception. I was too far gone in my nihilist spiral to wax profoundly on how I would handle comments. I maybe casually thought I’d be told to get a grip, calm down, stop being too hard on myself, get over myself, or be explained to because what even is writing. But, I’d already put my ish out there; I wasn’t going to take it back, and I wasn’t sorry for my meltdown. And I was too morose to succumb to yet another meltdown because more of my people couldn’t see me, or my reach.
I was met with eight kinds of support. Literally eight drastically different ways of hearing me and responding to me, from close friends to colleagues to peers, and back again. I was encouraged and supported and teased and described. I was verbally embraced with shared feelings and insight. It was a near instant response from so many people, and it was all to clasp my hand.
And, that’s it. That is the exquisite point of it all. I had this meltdown yesterday, because why even do anything, why write my shitty dailies, why write my tedious meanderings, why bother with my sarcastic metaphors. Why, when it’s not what I wanted it to be, or what it should be, or needed to be. And the answer is in the reach and clasp, the prompt hug of hearing and understanding. The answer is in empathy and our ability to change the rivers and plains of experience with a single phrase.