My daddy is an introvert… sort of. He enjoys his own company and requires long stretches alone in nature and with books. He very nearly walks holes in the floor pacing when he knows he has to go somewhere new and interact with different folks. BUT he also loves to cut up, and pick, and instigate, and debate, and tell tall tales. He needs both things. He knows when he needs which thing too, and you’d have to really, really, REALLY need him to get him to do the opposite of whichever one he’s needing at the time.
He’s not particularly affectionate in the traditional sense. He prefers to trade a punch or a head rub or an insult as a form of endearment over a hug and an I love you. Grandkids (and a bit of age I suspect) have softened that aspect of him a whole big bunch, and I typically get a hug and an I love you out of him anytime I see him nowadays.
And how he does love me and my girls and my brother and his sons! He’s “eat up with it” actually. He’s told me a million times what a terrible idea it was to have kids. You see he has never really had a moment’s peace since Joey was born and presumes all parents are mostly the same because, naturally, parents just think about their kids ALL THE TIME and want them happy and safe and to be good people.
I really can’t disagree with that. We’re “rurnt”, us parents. (That’s ruined for you who may be unfamiliar with the dialect).
I always listen to daddy on all the levels. I hear what he’s saying, and then I hear what’s underneath what he’s saying, and lately, I’ve been particularly struck by an expression he uses when telling folks goodbye. Alongside a newer favorite, “Don’t go away mad, just go away” is a favorite of mine, “I’m glad you got to see me.”
At first hearing, it’s a head rub and punch on the arm. It’s absolutely consistent in that way of connecting without the vulnerability a more tender statement might bring. Even if all you do is flip it to, “I’m glad I got to see you,” it might mean you need that person, and that might mean you’re a little teeny bit dependent.
It calls to mind some of my favorite Ben Harper lyrics from Ground on Down. “I hate to say I love you/Because it means that I/ Will be with you forever/ Or will sadly say goodbye. I love to say I hate you/Because it means that I/ Will live my life happily without you/ Or will sadly live a lie.”
When Ben Harper sings that he hates to say he loves you, it’s because it mean’s he can’t be happy without you. When he sings that he loves to say he hates you, it means he has to live without you to be happy.
Well when my daddy says “I’m glad you got to see me.” What I hear is that he can happily live with OR without anybody else. And that’s a pretty empowered way to live.
“I’m glad you got to see me” implies that the speaker’s happiness is not tied to seeing the other person but to being seen. And that sentiment resonates for me on a level much deeper than I’m sure daddy or anyone else who uses the phrase as common parlance ever intended.
For the last 13 years, I’ve had the great honor of teaching yoga, and as a part of sharing yoga with others, I have said thousands of times to hundreds of people, “Namaste”. And while this word has many interpretations, I always tag my greeting with “The divine in me recognizes and honors the divine in you.” Said simpler, “I see you”.
I’ve blogged about intimacy and empathy before and how my capacity for it is so great that I have to actually take measures NOT to really see people sometimes so as not to fall into an intimacy neither of us wants. Remember when your momma taught you not to stare at people at the grocery store? Because people can feel that. They can feel when they are being seen more intimately than they’ve invited you to see them. And it’s violating. It’s rude to intentionally see people more than they want to be seen. A long-standing yoga practice and a deep inborn intuition, however, has lead me to feeling as though I’m walking around with sort of X-ray vision at times. If I’m going to not see people intimately, to see them in all their beauty AND brokenness, I’m going to need to keep my head down.
But just because I can see people doesn’t mean the people I’m around see me. Sometimes people don’t see me because they’re not looking. Sometimes people don’t see me because their vision ain’t too good, and SOMETIMES they don’t see me ‘cause I ain’t being ME.
That last one is the worst. It’s the worst sort of feeling in the world to be walking around in your inauthentic self and knowing darn well you’re doing it. There are a whole heap of reasons you might find yourself in that predicament.
You’re scared other people won’t like the real you. You’re trying to manipulate a situation and think your false self can git-R-done faster and better than the real you. Or last, but not least, you LOVE the real you, and you are bound and determined to protect her from the jackasses you’re surrounded by. So you decide to save her up for some place, some time, some people who might actually deserve to hang out with her.
All of this is to say that though I’ve had people say in return to me thousands of times “namasté” or “I see you”. They said it back to me when I said it to them. And a few times out of those thousands, I think they really did.
I let myself be vulnerable enough. I let go of my fear of being disliked. I let go of any desire to manipulate the situation. I let go of my protective nature and ideas about worthiness, and I let myself be seen. And people were looking. They were looking with their hearts and not just their eyes.
Now a part of me hopes none of this makes a lick of sense to you. I hope y’all just go about your business and don’t think and feel as intensely as all this. I hope you just love your neighbors and take care of your kids and have a beautiful life.
But if you do understand, and if you are reading this today, I’m glad you got to see me.