How are You?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Do you ever feel like you just want to give everyone a hug? Maybe sit down with them as an individual and just listen to them?

This was not the blog post I was planning to write tonight. I sat down to write about change -- and that post is coming -- but as I went to begin, my attention was diverted to a show on PBS called "Journey to Recovery," described by the network as "An examination of the opioid epidemic." The show is set in Kentucky, but it talked about counties that are very close to mine. (It was KET (Kentucky) and not PBY (West Virginia); here in Huntington we get PBS out of both states.)

According to the CDC West Virginia has the highest rate of death due to drug overdose. And there has been story after story after story about Huntington basically being the "epicenter of opioid epidemic" in the United States.

I have never written about drug use or overdose or anything like that, and there are several reasons for that, namely:

  1. I don't know much about it; I'm not an expert
  2. I don't want people who do not live in Huntington or who have never been here to think we're a drug-ravaged hell-hole (excuse my language) because we are not
  3. There's been so much written on the topic already that I'm not sure what I could add
However, as I mentioned, my attention was caught by the documentary I am currently watching on PBS. Something hit me as I watched, so I decided that, instead of writing about what I sat down to write about tonight, I wanted to share my thoughts on what I'm watching.

Two of the first interviews in the documentary were with a young man and a young woman, unrelated, but both had lost a parent to an opioid overdose. (The young woman lost her mother, and the young man lost his father.) Although the two teens would go on to detail their lives watching parents struggle with, and ultimately die of addiction, they both started by saying basically the same thing -- 

My mom loved me. I know she loved me.
My dad was a great dad. I loved him. 

Two teens, two children, who had watched their parents become addicted, steal money from their families, be strung out  -- The girl details having to pick her mother up off the floor and try to get her into bed many times after she'd passed out from drugs on the floor. Her father was in Afghanistan at the time. She also details how she would never, ever spend the night away from home, for fear her mother would die. One day, she finally decided to spend the night with a cousin. Her mother died that night. --  wanted to begin their parts in this documentary by telling anyone who would watch that they thought their parents were good parents and that they know their parents loved them.

Not that I haven't thought about this before, but it just really hit me tonight that people who are addicted to drugs and/or die of drug overdoses belong to someone. They all do. They are someone's mother or brother or cousin or son. Once upon a time they were just little babies in someone's arms. Somewhere along the line, something -- an accident, a mistake -- happened to them and put them on the path to addiction. Something in their hearts hurt so badly that they felt that drugs were all they had. 

In the September Issue of Vogue I just read, there was an interview with Oprah Winfrey. I know people have a lot of opinions about Oprah, and I'm not even sure how I feel about her as well, but she said something in this interview that struck me and that I really agree with:

"There's not a human being alive who doesn't want -- in any conversation, encounter, experience with another human being -- to feel like they matter. And you can resolve any issue if you could just get to what it is that they want -- they want to be heard. And they want to know that what they said to you meant something. Most people go their entire lives and nobody ever really wants the answer to 'How are you? Tell me about yourself.'" 

Isn't that the truth? Don't we all just want someone to listen to us?

I recently told Joe, because I just recently realized it myself, that I am already far less tired this year than I was last because I have someone to listen to me. I have Joe. He listens to me every night. I don't have to carry burdens alone in my heart because someone hears me. (This is not meant to make any of my friends or family members feel bad; I know you also hear me!) 

How often do we go through life -- and I'm pointing the finger at myself here -- saying, "How are you?" to people but not really meaning it, just hoping they'll say, "Fine" so we can move on with our shopping or get to why we started a conversation with them to begin with. I know I do it all the time. 

I wonder if we could just sit down with each other individually -- everyone on earth -- and just LISTEN to each other, how much better off we might be. How many kids may no longer lose parents to addiction. I know hugs and listening won't solve the addiction problem, but I believe our hearts heal when we can unburden them to someone who REALLY hears us. 

So I'll tell you this: I am going to work on truly asking people how they are doing, and not expecting/hoping them to say fine. I need to figure out a new question to ask that's not "How are you?" because we are so programmed to answering, "Fine" whether we are or not. I am going to try to do a much better job of truly listening to people and not trying to rush on to the next thing. Because every time someone talks to us about anything, they are sharing a part of their heart or their brain with us, and -- wow. How humbling is that? I have friends and loved ones who have seriously struggled with something this past year or who are currently struggling -- one beloved friend got some heartbreaking news today -- and I bet if you asked her or any of these people, it helps when others listen. 

Below is a preview of the documentary that I watched. It's a quick 3 minutes, but the first 30 seconds will be enough to get you. 

I love you, friends. 

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