As we neared the door to enter into the evening light, he said in his low, soothing tenor, “the caller had unrequited great expectations.” His words filled the silence as we all made our way down the corridor toward the small elevator which carried us to the streets.
Unrequited great expectations…. seemingly large words describing a repeat crisis-line caller who longs to be noticed and heard.
This became my theme for the night. At every turn, in every encounter I observed the pent-up, held within and silenced desire to be heard. I could see it in their eyes and as the night crept towards dawn its evidence increased as their intoxication and overt substance use ensued. Last night each came to the night repeating a pattern while on display. It was another night of loneliness, shame — another night of unrequited great expectations….advancing their slow destruction.
Recently I was introduced to the underlying truth of addiction and other self-sabotaging behaviors. Frustration, confusion,dissatisfaction and anger turned ultimately against oneself. Driven by hidden, unmet desires that build-up inside, deepening our suffering and developing the notion that our problems that we are the only ones ever to feel our feelings and we are alone.
Our society does not allow us to freely cry. It does not allow us to speak from our feelings, naming them, identifying them – happy, glad, sad, afraid, mad. Instead we’re encouraged to bury and control them. At some point in our lives, each of us have heard… “Grow-up, be a __man”…. Or, “Don’t be a cry-baby.”
These are the words we hear ushering us toward adulthood…We each learn our capacity to withhold our feelings, distancing ourselves from them represents strength, well-adjustment and independence.
As we grow we learn to distance ourselves from our feelings and we become internally estranged from their truth. Last night I looked for them. I watched and listened to the words under the words and I saw their evidence in every conversation.
You see, people often tell us what they think instead of how they feel while thinking their thoughts are their feelings….I know, I often do this too. So last night…. I asked a woman sitting crippled-up against a building wall, “How does that make you feel” when she, in her distress, responds… “Well you know they only give you to 6:00 am before they come along and make you move and I really can’t move easy. My legs and back and shoulder. They don’t work anymore. I don’t know why but every day I sit here they get worse. There’s something inside. Inside my bones taking me down. Its crushing me. I feel so much pain, really, I do.”
And later when visiting with a disheveled guy holding a pipe in one hand while sharing with me his sister’s sudden death….”Wow. That is a huge loss. Tell me, how is your grief?“…
He pauses as he briefly looks down toward the pipe and then up again to say…”You guys makin’ your way down the street here? You know those guys over there (pointing across to the opposite corner). They would be good to see. Be sure to see them when you go by.”
….Often we build a reservoir of — unrequited great expectations — than we connect to our inner truth where our freedom resides. Where we could seize opportunities to release and share our feelings; forming interdependence and community, we withdraw and distance ourselves. We are quick to forget that even Jesus wept….
“Many of us spend our whole lives running from …. feeling with the mistaken belief that you can not bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel all you are beyond that pain.”- Khahil Gilbran
May God’s presence be realized by all those walking alone through the night. And support the work of those agencies working to ensure the lost and lonely suffer a little less through the night. Agencies like: www.sfnightministry.org