Jorge (not his real name) came to see me yesterday, a friend that I have known since around 1990. He is Cuban, and from a well to do family, who have ventures in land, farming, and rental properties. Jorge is a very intelligent man, highly educated, and I presume that he is also good in handling the family business that he helps out in, though his father is still able to run it himself.
Jorge has a full plate when it comes to some of the issues that he is dealing with in his life. He has a serious addiction, and also suffers from a bi-polar disorder that seems prevalent in his family. At this time he is taking some time off to get some help in his quest to find balance, and healing, in his life. This process seems to bring with it a need to simply talk things over with his friends, so there are a group of us that he calls on a regular basis to do this. It is pretty much the same thing that he talks about, but over the years I have seen improvement in his life, so I guess it is working for him.
Jorge asked me out to lunch and I accepted, since I much prefer face to face communication, than long conversations over the phone. We went to a local Mexican Restaurant, which is a local favorite, and decided to sit out on the porch area. It is a pleasant place to be, shaded, with overhead fans, and the best of all, the tables are far enough apart that you can feel like talking without being overheard. The only time I like to drink a non-dry red wine is when I drink Sangria; wine mixed with fruit juice. Don’t know why I like it, since sweet wine does nothing for me, at least when I have it with a meal. Most like it simply goes well with the Mexican food. So we each order a glass, with a side order of lemon water, and after ordering he started talking to me.
The conversation that we had; or let’s say the information he shared with me, was very different from the usual fare that I was used to from him. Perhaps simply getting older; he is now 48, is one of the reasons that he was able to talk to me on this level. I don’t know, but for me it was very interesting interaction. From my own experience of myself and other men, it is very hard if not impossible for many to admit fears, or the simple experience of being vulnerable. He shared with me many of his fears, and how hard it is for him to work against them on a daily basis, and how his developing faith in God is helping him to deal with them. At first I did not know what was going on. I was used to his pattern of talking about his struggles, his failures and successes, and was probably listening, but with no expectation of anything new. Well it only took a few minutes to realize that something truly different was going on here. He really bared his soul, probably in ways that I have not yet done, or perhaps have yet learned to do. We did have a good conversation, and my respect for him deepened, and in the process I began to look upon him in a different light. His expressing to me the depth of his faith was truly humbling, and made me aware of my own arrogance in how I looked at him just a few moments ago. Every time a friend of long standing does this to me, it always flips my world upside down. For a time afterward, I can’t quite see anyone the same again.
I often talk about how easy it is to box people in, and I came to the conclusion that Jorge just climbed out of the box I had him imprisoned in. So when we left lunch I saw him in a different light, than before we started our meal. Of course he has not really changed, he just opened up to me more, and my perception has deepened and grown. Perhaps he has only moved into a bigger box that I now have him in, but hopefully I will be open in the future for him to reveal more of himself to me.
To think I could have missed this, if I had stayed in the mode of only half listening to my friend, since on some unconscious level I had him figured out, placed in a nice neat package that fits on the shelf, where I most likely keep all the other people in my life. I guess boxes are not so bad. We do need to define one another in order to be able to relate and communicate…… Some way in which the mystery of who we really are is handled in such a manner that we can simply get on with our lives. After all my friends, Jorge included, probably have me in a box also, each different depending on their experience of who I am. Boxes only become an issue when the lid is placed on the top, and latched. When that happens communications goes out the window and the relationship dies, even if it seems alive on the surface.
Some boxes are petty, others no so much, and from time to time, perhaps even ugly. A pretty box, with a nice bow on the top, can be just as tightly wrapped as one with electrical tape wrapped around its whole circumference. I suppose at times people can be reduced to a pattern; become ‘that’, a living archetype, or perhaps, a stereotype is a better term. Certain qualities do not define a person, what they show at any give moment, is simply how they are relating to any one individual during an exchange. The inner depth, with it richness is often missed by the observer, and at times by the one being observed. Sad to say, some people believe in the labels that others place on them, and live up them, or perhaps down.
We all want to be seen, and perhaps react when we feel boxed in, but the only way out I guess is to be open, and honest with ones friends; which is taking a chance. Some don’t want a newer, broader version of their friends; or for that matter their enemies. Small is better, safer, and more or less pleasant. When something new is stated, either pleasant or not, the one hearing has to move a lot of inner furniture around to accommodate the new data. Some can’t do it, so friendships die but were they worth it in the first place? I don’t think we are so different, but at the same time each is unique, and it can be life enhancing to simply listen, and allow ones world to expand just a tad.
Granted there are troubled people out in the world, many of them. Even then our perceptions, and judgments, often cause pain and frustration for the one giving, and the one receiving. Those who are lucky enough to not have personality disorders are the ones who need to adapt, if for nothing else for their own sakes.