Yesterday, I was biking home alone from the hardware store (hoses on sale!) when I gave myself empathy around watching Trinidad say with perfect honesty to a friend that he didn’t really like her, he just liked to go to her house because she had candy bars and a trampoline. It was true that he hadn’t “invited” her to play. She had merged with the group because she is one of the neighborhood. And then, he was noticing that he just wanted to play with his other friends because he liked them and they wanted to do what he wanted to do.

Ouch. For her, for me, for who knows who else. I wanted to open my heart to where he was, but I was hurting so much. Really worried about his needs being met in future/present (karma, even if impersonal, will play itself out before me no doubt). Other’s needs. When I came to the awareness of my sense of helplessness and deep sadness in watching someone do something what I fully expect will land as painful even if they can’t see it’s so, I hit the brakes and swung my leg off the bike to sit in an alley and cry.

What work is this! I would love to be able to “show” him how it could be for the both of them if he could open his heart to hold everyone’s needs. In conventional parenting, I could give him a time out and a morality lecture and call my work for the day done. Except for the steaming. Instead, I sat with a sense of helplessness.

I want this awareness to come from inside him. I want it to flow in by choice, not to appear in action out of fear of what people will think or his mother would do if he “didn’t.” I want to give him the spaciousness to explore these more complex social dilemmas, fall on concrete if he must, and draw his own conclusions. I want to support him by being there when he falls, guiding when he asks, and holding the sadness — his, mine, hers — throughout.

Oh! To take that many steps away and hold this challenge, the pull at my heart! I really felt the fear and longing in my powerlessness to “control” any of this exchange in a way that would meet my needs for integrity. Ach. I sat with that. And then, more pain. Another situation is near and dear to me with an adult who is making choices that I see will likely cause/are causing pain and confusion. Again, I have a sense that I can “see” what that person cannot, and I would love to share this view, but I cannot share anything someone is not ready to see for themselves. I am no more powerful here than I am with Trinidad. Why would I think that I have some responsibility to force Trin to see when I cannot even do this with an adult?

And the pain, again, in holding the sadness of everyone all round, now resonating through the situation with children and adults, all trying to navigate, meeting some needs and landing tragically short on others. Then, to the world scope, on an adult level again, people unaware of each other’s deepest needs unmet, so focused are they on their own (I am by no means removing myself from the lot here) — major scuffles, lives lost, wars…oh. The suffering. So much sadness.

I sobbed and sobbed. My handkerchief flooded. I so wanted everyone’s needs to be seen. To matter! And herein, my power grew a hundred fold. My presence stretched out before me like a hammock wide enough to hold the pain that I experienced, the pain of children, adults, all beings who, stumbling in their own blindness, crash into the hearts and lives of others.

A man emerged from his backyard and walked slowly toward me with a box of tissues. Yep. That’s the ammunition I need. He kneeled beside me and told me I would get through it. I did not curb my tears. He pulled several tissues from the box and handed them to me, assuring me that he’d been there before, many times.

I’m sure he has. We all have. And when I held the beauty of the need called mattering, I cried tears both bitter and sweet, all the love in my heart for my family, the world, the recognition of this need so deeply meaningful to me that it seems to pulse in my veins. The power is with me now to hold the pain around this need not met. To recognize the need in its exquisite beauty within and without our human attempts to do our very best.

I will look for my trust in its existence and in my own ability to stay present with it all.