There are people who take genuine pleasure from making other people happy. They will work to coax a smile from a stranger. They will try to solve the problems of others as if they were their own. They will cry for the sorrows of loved ones; take on their suffering, if they could. Their joy comes from knowing they reside deep in the hearts of those whose lives they touch.
I was not that kind of person. But I knew many of them.
People like me seek out people like that for our survival. We crave and cling to any mode of escape from the torment that has barricaded itself within us.
Drowning in the inability to navigate our own emotions, we gratefully grab a hand offered in salvation. Now we are filled with hope! We splash around, happy to have found a savior! We wait to be pulled in. We do not swim. If we could swim, we wouldn’t have been drowning in the first place.
At first, the ostensible rescuer works hard to reel us closer, but we are of little help. We have no natural buoyancy; we are dead weight. We take on water. Our flailing threatens to drown our savior, too.
I saw that look in the eye many times: the one of pity, of sorrow, of relief as they cut me loose. And I went back to the business of drowning.
Each time it happened, I believed I would be saved; my sins washed away; my wounds healed. I wanted that with all my heart. And yet, ultimately, I could be only what I was: someone who didn’t know how to be saved.
In the end, we all have to save ourselves.