What keeps us honest in life? Rules and laws, and the resultant consequences, do in some cases. The threat of a summons keeps me towing the 25 mph speed limit on that road into Highland Park where I've seen all too many outsiders get snagged. But what about in the less tangible areas of our lives? What keeps us honest in private? It could be religious beliefs. For some, it's the lure of heaven or threat of hell; that ever-present, omniscient God. Or maybe it is shame – embarrassment at what others might think or say. Ultimately, it is that other set of eyes (whose ever they might be) that keeps us honest with ourselves.
When Jacquelyn was away for the weekend recently – even though my primary focus was on taking care of Ana and Noah – I goofed off a bit. I stayed up late, I didn't clean up (as readily), etc. Along those same lines, I realized that it's the absence of a support structure that frees us of accountability. Sometimes folks deliberately keep others at a distance or choose not to let them in because they don't want to answer to another. Surprisingly, though, that is precisely one of the beautiful upsides that a family, friend or church community can offer us. We lose a little something when we choose not to count on another or allow others to count on us. Other people remind us of our greatest potential. To not be part of such community may seem more free – and may well be in one sense. But, ultimately, less genuine and so less full/rewarding.
I am blessed to be surrounded by a wonderful community of family and friends. I can personally attest to the profound impact that having people who care for you in your life can have. In terms of my illness, it is the people in my life – the little and grown-up ones – that buoy my spirits daily. Every time someone asks how I am doing and I can recognize by their facial expression or inflection that they mean it more than just politely – another brick is placed, strengthening my bond to them.
Think about those people you know that have hit "rock bottom". They typically keep anyone that might interfere w/what they want to do – their tendency for "badness", their freedom (basically, all that leads to their downward spiral) – at a safe distance. Unfortunately, I personally know of a couple of such instances unfolding around me right now. Saddest of all is that there is no way to help. It's tough to get in when the world of another is set up expressly to keep you out. It may feel better and safer for a while. But, ultimately, rock bottom is the place that you find yourself when you can no longer deny what those around you have been trying to warn you about all along.
It happens on a big and small scale. We all do it to ourselves at least a little bit. In the end, how deep a hole is proportional to how alone you insisted on being along the way.
Further, for those who deliberately avoid intimacy w/others, they forfeit not only the potential for support if situations get rough, but a mirror for the day-to-day reflections that help them stay honest and avoid that dark place. It is the presence of people who care for us in our lives that lifts us up. Not only that, that same support keeps us from falling too far.
I wholeheartedly believe that the fullness of life can only be experienced in the company of others. Other people and loving them as best as we can is all that life is about. From my humble perspective, the rest of it – the job, the house, the gadgets, the grudges - is just self-deception and distraction. So, let somebody love you every chance that you get.