Care without knowing

This is where my thoughts led me yesterday, from While my cities burn: “I cannot hold my others when they need it most. My place is here, in my monogamous construct. I want to be able to pick up the phone and hear my partners’ voices while they struggle. I want to be able to reach out when they don’t have any ability to come to me.”

In the world of discrete relationships at any level of involvement, there is a a common understanding. I will not fuck up your shit. You will not fuck up my shit. With that seems to come a list of practices that seem to be counter to developing a bond based on vulnerability:

  • Likely, we will not share real names. If we share first names, it would be even more unlikely that we share last names.
  • We may know the fields of work, but specifics are often guarded
  • Family situations are often talked around. I am married and have two teenage kids. We refer to kids by gender or birth order maybe. “I spent two hours explaining to eldest progeny the reasons why her tone was unacceptable tonight before I lost my shit and hissed. Now I feel like shitty parent. Please chat with me to distract me from the seemingly futile practice of parenting.”
  • We may refer to other partners by monikers also, to the extent we even divulge those realities.
  • We know the general quadrant of geographic location of our home bases. We like close for convenience but not too close for fear of overlap in our “real lives.”
  • We wonder if mutual destruction involved in discretion mistakes is enough to protect ourselves, and fear keeps us from telling truths.

The partners with whom I share the best connections are the ones who know my whole. We have traveled through this nebulous zone of protecting identity into a trust to care for the whole of the other. It is fucking scary business, but in theory, the rewards of actually knowing someone and being known deeply are worth the risks.

In theory…

What happens though, when we are vulnerably involved with another, and they are suffering?

There are a lot of scenarios to explore this helplessness:

  • How do we feel when an interest (or later a trusted partner) disappears from communication without notice?
  • How do we feel when regular communication patterns are out of balance? What does even temporary lapse in regularity do to trust and ability to remain vulnerable?
  • How do we hold each other when we cannot be close?
  • How do we negotiate a difference how we process stress when our main form of communication is devoid of in-person time and contact? For example, every one of my partners tends to process stress internally while I process it externally. Simply put, they retreat while I reach out.
  • And what if something actually happens? We aren’t talking about ghosting here. We are talking about the shit that comes in from the side and we never saw it coming. How would we ever know what happened? How long would we be left with feeling abandoned and disregarded?

In this weird world of COVID-19 and civil unrest, everything feels insecure. I wish I could claim a right to know if something happened to my people. I wish that someone in their life would think to contact me and say that shit went sideways. As it is, I love deeply and I fear the day that people disappear.

Maybe at the heart of it is my own fragility. I know I have looked at death. I am super careful to manage others’ fear around this issue. It is part of my caring standard, and I want others to care for me in the same way. Please, gift me with your truths if you want mine, and take care of my fears as I would care for yours. Don’t leave me wondering what the fuck happened. Honor me by sparing me the humiliating task of checking obituaries with only a first name, approximate age, and a stab at a general geographic region.

And although the art of ghosting is a topic for another day, have the heart to be truthful about your interest or disinterest. Don’t just disappear.

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