It’s everywhere. Everywhere I look, someone or something is providing support to me. I never quite saw it before like I do now. Sometimes that support is truly for my betterment, sometimes it’s simply making my life easier, but in either case, support seems to be everywhere. The funny thing is, it’s kind of surprising me.
I was meeting with my men’s group the other night and we were exploring the topic of support and how it plays out in our lives. I found myself on a bit of a familiar rant, about how rarely I’m supported and how I spent my growing up years without getting key support or mentorship. The truth to me was that no matter how far I scanned my recollection I really couldn’t come up with anyone, not father, not brother, not teacher, not friend’s parents, not mentor. No one. Mom loved me well and cared for me, but I still never got help with school work, college applications, hitting a baseball, etc. In many ways, I feel like I had to be fully responsible for myself. I don’t say this for the sake of garnering pity. I’m really very happy with how my life turned out and all the love that I’ve had. In many ways, I’m sure that being left a little more to my own devices made me a stronger and more capable adult.
What it did though, unfortunately, was to create in me a perspective, a belief which has carried through into my adult life, that I’m kind of on my own. “If it is to be, it’s up to me” could easily be one of the tenets of my beliefs. Fast forward to the present day and I find I feel like I’m always the person doing the supporting and rarely am the one to receive support. Again, it’s OK, as I feel rather capable of meeting whatever appears in front of me in life.
And so I started looking at this with some curiosity. Is it true that I’m actually not supported, and if so why? I broke it down into different possibilities and at first found only two:
- I’m simply not supported – fact of life – get used to it.
- Maybe I don’t really know how to ask for support.
Over the next few days I found several members of my men’s group reaching out to me, checking in , seeing how I’m doing. They were actually supporting me. I was touched. I then started to realized another possibility. What if I actually am supported but have simply been failing to recognize it?
I started seeing support everywhere. Everywhere.
- My favorite grocery store where Stan, Rose, Steven, Patty and others work hard to make wonderful food accessible to me at a very fair price.
- The people wearing orange hard-hats fixing the roads that smoothly carry me away
- The auto dealership employee who helped me to diagnose a problem with the van. And the online forum where others provide advice
- The woman who cleans my home before renters arrive and after they leave, allowing me a little more freedom in my life.
- My friends who make me feel more secure about myself by loving me and spending time together. That is the simplest and perhaps most important form of support.
- Even the earth itself is supporting me, literally
- The people who showed up to a potluck I hosted, delicious food in hand.
- The people assisting me with a refinance of my home
- The farmers who grow my food
The list could go on and on, but the point I am making, to myself really, is that the more I look, the more I see that support is everywhere.
When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.John Muir
When I’ve heard spiritual teachers or others talk about “unity,” or “oneness,” or how “we’re all one,” it has often felt laughable to me, like someone regurgitating some common spiritual pablum. That sense of oneness simply hasn’t been my belief or my firsthand experience. This recognition I am having now is bringing my doubt into question.
Thich Nhat Hanh the Vietnamese Zen teacher writes about how our languages should include the verb “inter-be.” “If you are a poet,” he writes, “you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.” He goes further to elucidate that the sunshine is also in that piece of paper, as is the logger, as is the food that feeds that logger as is the farmer that grows his/her food, as is the soil that supports the growth of that food as are the microbes that keep the soil healthy, etc., etc. If we extend as far as our imaginations will allow, I believe we will find that there is nothing in the universe that is not connected to everything else.
For much of my life, I’ve held a basic worldview that I am separate from. Not necessarily isolated, but somehow imposed into full self-responsibility. In seeing support everywhere I look now, I realize how immensely interwoven my life is with others lives, both near and far, known and unknown. Not only am I actually supported, but I am supported beyond my wildest imaginings.
“Independence”… middle-class blasphemy. We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth.”George Bernard Shaw
A friend asked me if it matters if I’m often paying for support. The truth to me is that no, it doesn’t matter. Support is support. It helps me live my life in a more favorable way. I do realize that it is a privilege to feel supported by those with whom we transact. We aren’t likely to feel supported by our grocer if we can’t afford to shop, or the fuel tanker driver if we can’t afford to fill our gas tank, or our therapist if we can’t afford the cost of a session. But still, support is real. Without a farmer growing the food that we eat, the eating that we do just ain’t happening.
A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends on the labor of other people living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.Albert Einstein
It’s really quite amazing how much we carry forward from our childhood into the remainder of our lives. The degree to which we worry today, or fear, or trust, or feel loved, or believe in our capacities is monumentally and directly linked to our experiences when we were first formulating our understandings of our surroundings and the people in it. The extent to which we feel held, nourished, or cared for today is likely nearly identical to the way we felt when we were very young. If we remain curious and open, we can question our worldviews and one day wake up, at least in my case, into a world full of support which just the day before had largely seemed devoid of such.
I may not be fully ready to sit by the fire and embroider “we’re all one,” on a t-shirt but we certainly are vastly interconnected with one another in ways both visible and invisible. This realization is somehow relaxing to my soul, like it’s no longer my responsibility to hold everything together. “Need” and “dependency” have largely been swear words to me, but the truth as I’m coming to see it is that we actually do need each other. We are connected to each other. You need me. And I need you. End of story. Well, actually, maybe just the beginning…