I am a privileged person, all you have to do is inspect the corners of my life to realise this is true. I have travelled to new and foreign lands to experiences that I am lucky to have encountered, I have spent thousands of dollars on the luxury of therapy—albeit much needed.
I have generous and thoughtful friends, the blood that fills my veins is from a family as loyal and as honest as they come and I have never known what it is to live without a purpose. All in all, I'd say I'm doing quite well for myself.
Mind you, I haven't been without my dark days, and they still come and go, bringing with them the dampness of feeling alone. And to be fair, I have known what it means to suffer, living slightly anesthetised under a blanket of grief that comes only when you live without the one you love. But such is the way of life, we live and we suffer.
Light and Dark
I realised this profound and beautiful contrast recently, through a joyful day that brought with it, an echo of a sadder time. We were staying in a mansion on the side of a beautiful Waikato lake, the night before my sister's wedding. The house was filled with all of my favourite people, and there was wine and cheese and lollies and lots of laughing as the excitement for the coming day was brewing.
My sister had just gifted us with a lovely clutch filled with treats and a poignant card when I realised that all of this happiness was taking place while perched on the side of the very lake that had stolen so much of mine. This was the lake that had demanded the life of a love of mine and the place where I had lost so much.
I took the moment, and turned it over, knowing with a certainty that life is fragile and that that is scary. I wallowed for that moment and then remembered that life is also now, and that it is scarier to miss it for floundering around in the fear of our past.
Presence is the present
If my privileged life has taught me nothing else, I have learnt that it is of the upmost importance to be present in the place that you are in. And furthermore, if you are in it well, it is your job to be a place of solace for those who are not.
There has been a lot of despair in the media lately, stories of people of fame and influence living amongst desperation, leading them to take their own lives and it has made me think that if these well networked and well-resourced people are suffocating under a sense of isolation … how are my neighbours doing?
My Dad is a great guy; he knows nothing about the biblical interpretation of the Ten Commandments, or the exegesis of 1 Corinthians chapter 13, but he is, hands down, my greatest example of how to love my neighbour.
He knows all about Jack, his 90 something neighbour from down the road and stops in regularly for chats and cups of teas, he buys bicycles for the children of the single Mum that lives nearby and this past Christmas, he dressed up as Santa much to the delight and surprise of the kids around the neighbourhood.
Wherever he is, there is connection. And where there is connection, there is belonging. And where there is belonging there is light. And light, well … light melts the ice in isolation.
Melting the ice in isolation
There have been seasons, in my privileged life, where I have become weary of being a good neighbour. I introvert it up and stay clearly within the boundaries of my own life, it is tidier this way and a lot less effort. I get to read good books, play Farm Hero Saga and organise my clothes to occasion appropriate sections in my wardrobe.
If I don't know my neighbours, I also get to blame them for being too noisy, too rude, too unforgiving, for parking in my spot, for having large trees, for leaving their bin out for an age destroying the ambiance of the street. In a nut shell, I get to moan and not feel bad about it because I know nothing of them and their story.
But I don't think New Zealander's can afford to do this anymore. I don't think we can continue to exist without each other for much longer before the pain of living gets to us or before we end up forgotten in our own extinction.
Where to from here?
I think we need to become active about chasing opportunities to connect with the people that live next door to us, to offer a spot for them to be known and a chance to be heard.
I think we need to realise that being rejected isn't a reflection of who we actually are because if we knew this, I predict we'd take way more risks. I think we need to do what is hard and uncomfortable because I believe we have what it takes to make the actuality of another's existence lighter, melting the ice of their isolation.
Bessie Anderson Stanley says, "To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded". I hear you Bessie, I'm picking up what you are putting down, and I'm challenging you to do that same.
Nobody said it would be easy
I am the first to raise my hand and admit that it is hard to be present with others, that there are days when I feel as though I have got very little left to offer and that to give it anyway is less than easy. But I also am the first to recommend that you do it anyway.
I am moved by the lives of those I have encountered, I am braver for the interactions I have had with those strangers and I am stronger for being present when I was inundated with sadness. And although it has cost me, I am richer and warmer than I have ever been when I love those around me that need it most.
Gemma Taylor despite constant scorn and painful jokes is proudly from the Waikato; although she is presently living in Auckland with her fingers in many pies. She is inspired by truth, creativity and connection. Gemma writes for buoyancy and hopes to one day live wholly by the ideas that she writes of.
Gemma Taylor's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/gemma-taylor.html