|Photo by african_fi|
So anyway... why do I bring it up? Because in our society we often discourage talking about feeeelings past a certain age or beyond a certain scope that doesn't fit into predetermined stereotypes. You can "love" your friends, but you luuuurve your romantic partner (and by golly, you'd better only have one of those at a time, and you're always searching for The One who will show you that you obviously never really knew what love was!) and there's absolutely no in-between or crossover. Boys don't cry. Girls cry a lot. You're allowed to be angry, but not too angry! And so on and so forth, but most of all, nobody wants to really hear you talk about any of those feelings. And so when I experienced what I now identify as compersion at a younger age (and even still now) sometimes it led to feeling tremendously awkward and unsure. I never knew what to say or how to say it. I just knew that I would find myself in these moments of love and joy and happiness that centered around particular people. Friends, teachers, sometimes near strangers, family members. It might've been a simple smile, something small or large happening in their lives that brought them happiness, or even just their natural optimism on a particularly good day. It could be any or all of those things that triggered my own happiness in turn. And it can be potent, that happiness. But when you're a teen experiencing all sorts of complicated things, and no one ever stops and says "Hey, let's talk about happiness and touchy-feely emotional things," it's very easy to start wondering what the hell it is you're actually experiencing.
Growing up, I'd usually just keep my thoughts to myself, especially when they centered around feelings of compersion. Sometimes, though, it got to be too much, and words would just spill out of me. On paper, naturally, because that's how I've always chosen to express myself. (My shyness makes face to face expression of these things nearly unbearable.) So I'd write heartfelt thank you notes to teachers or friends. (Or I'd channel it into fiction if I couldn't bring myself to tell the actual person.) And I probably rambled a lot and tried to name specific things I appreciated about that person because it felt too weird to boil it all down to the simple truth: Your passion brings me joy. So I'd write the note, and I'd hand it over, and then I'd worry myself sick over how they might respond. I didn't want anyone to get the wrong idea about what I meant, because I was certain they would. It would be easy to interpret it as something other than what I'd intended. And I was so very afraid of looking stupid, or not being liked, and I would vow never to put myself out there that way again. And I wouldn't, for a while. But then the cycle would start over again.
My teen years went by like that. I'll be 32 this year, and somewhere along the line I really did stop taking the time to put myself out there and express to specific individuals how happy it made me to see their happiness. And if I did express it, it was in a much more careful and guarded way. I'm not sure why. I never did experience that Holy shit, you are such a creep, leave me alone response that I so feared. But I fear it still. Maybe even more now than when I was younger. I'd like to let my compersion be more readily visible again, though. Partially for purely selfish reasons. It just feels so damn nice to revel in that joy. But also because... well... maybe we all need more of it. Even if it's not a feeling you identify within yourself, imagine what it might be like if someone told you that the happiness you derive from the good things in life made them happy as well. Wouldn't that be pretty fucking fantastic? You didn't even have to bake them cookies or loan them money or cure a disease. Just being happy for something good within your own life was enough to make someone else smile. I think it would be pretty nice.
So to all my friends, family, acquaintances, and anyone I may come into contact with this year (and here's the real point of this post) I just want to say this: I'm not trying to be creepy, honest! Don't think me weird or strange or awkward (well, okay, I may very well be awkward) when I tell you how much I love the way you light up when you talk about something wonderful that you've experienced. I really do love seeing the passion you pour into your hobbies and the things you enjoy. That actor or artist you love. The new relationship that's making you walk without even touching the ground. The courage with which you face adversity. The rewards you reap from your hard work. Your book deal. That picture you drew. That kid you're raising. The animal you adopted. I love it. All of it. I'm not just happy for you in all those cases. You truly give me a joy and happiness of my own, the magnitude of which you may never truly understand, just by expressing the happiness those things bring you. Your passion brings me joy. I hope you don't mind if I say so.