LEAVE THE LIGHT ON

“What a world this will be when human possibilities are freed, when we discover each other, when the stranger is no longer the potential criminal and the certain inferior!”

W.E.B Du Boise

Please excuse my sexist expression, but are you tired of the pissing contests?  Everywhere I go, it feels like I get into a pissing match with someone. I am going to tell you something that I have never said out loud in my blog……I suffer from powerful social anxiety.

Many days it is hard for me to do the things that people do easily. Going to the grocery store, to work, the book store, out to dinner, a function at my son’s school, these things make me feel uncomfortable. There I said it, uncomfortable, like a dangerous situation. This seems like the simplest analogy to convey how I feel, especially in a way that anyone can understand. Do you know what it feels like to be uncomfortable, really uncomfortable?  To the point where your palms sweat, your heart rate rises, and the justifications for why you should avoid the interaction begin to fall like rain? Think about how your body feels, physically, when you are so unsettled by danger that you want to sprint to safety, not walk, sprint.  This is what it feels like for me to be in most social settings with my social anxiety.

Back to the point however, the pissing contest.  I could be wrong because I am coming from a place that is not always rational?  But, the impression I get everywhere I go is, people are engaged in a pissing contest.  Do you know what I mean? Ladies, do you know? From what I understand between women these superiority contests can get out of hand.  The worst part, sometimes it is an unsaid match between common acquaintances, and the match can go on for God knows how long? Often only one person even knows they are participating, until the Aha!  That is why that person is always less than sisterly or brotherly to me, they think we are in competition. While we, the open books are thinking, I wish someone had alerted me that the games had begun.  Good neighborhood, lousy neighborhood, five-star restaurant or homeless shelter, it’s all the same. “I can piss further than you!” That’s great, here’s a medal.

You are at the grocery store, shopping, at the park, and you catch eye contact with a stranger.  First I nod, or say hello to no response. Then staring contest ensues, who will look away first? Not always, but often it turns into a flat out superiority contest, who will break first? A game of mental chicken, and for what?

Why not a friendly hello?  Why not a good day, a nod? Why the third degree? I just want to show love, and receive it back. What I don’t want, is to have to prove my superiority to every person that I make eye contact with.  Is this just my own altered reality talking, or do other people feel this same way?

“Never judge a stranger by his clothes.”

Zachary Taylor

What are you wearing? Are you a threat?  Do you think you can take me? That sh** is not gonna happen bro! What are you looking at?  Is this cause I’m black? Do you think you are better than me? No one cares about your fancy watch. Yes, I live here. No, I’m not a threat.  Your welcome, yeah, your welcome, I held the door for you, that’s what people with manners say? Your welcome? Jesus people!

Honestly, it is exhausting.  Sometimes I can not tell if this entire dialogue is in my head or if what I am sensing up is real.  I want to believe that it is. I hope it is? When two people pass on the sidewalk, in the grocery aisle, on on the way to the cafeteria, it appears that their first inclination is not one of mutual respect and acknowledgment.  More often then not, it feels like judgment, comparison, and fear.

I recall watching old movies, people passing on the street, showing eager joy and respect to one another, being human towards each other.  Was that just fiction? Was that just something that I saw in a movie? Was it ever real, or was it just a dramatization like so many other things in our lives?

“Smile at at stranger. See what happens.”

Patti LuPone

Personally, I have nothing but love and respect for another man or woman, white, or black, or purple, until…..your body language says otherwise.  Then my panic mode goes into full alert because I realize I am in the presence of an enemy, not a friend. All shields rise, and I unsheathe my sword.  Now you are tasked with backing a man down from war.

I’m not writing this to make some earth shattering statement the way I usually attempt.  I am just tired of walking through this world, just trying to be myself. An openly, emotionally vulnerable man, who is an open book to those who open themselves to me.  Meanwhile what I get back is not what I put out.

Are you leaving the light on so that visitors are welcome?  Or, are you perpetuating the culture of guilty until proven innocent, a stranger until proven a brother?  How will we ever mend our differences, and form common alliances with such ambivalent interactions? There are people in this world who want to love you.  Are you ready to receive that love? I have an abundance of love to give, that love is inexhaustible. Once you have proven yourself as family, it is unconditional,  so please, don’t tire or test me with your pissing contests.

Aaron L. Carroll   

Photo by Nadine Shaabana


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