I have always felt like I’m special.
Maybe everyone does.
I mean, when we’re little, we’re all special little ones, aren’t we? It’s a beautiful thing.
I think I got my specialness from my Dad. He made me feel special in a particular way. He wrote me a long letter telling me how much he loved me and hid it in my trunk to find when I got to sleep away camp. Once, he cried telling me how much he loved me. I looked up to him so much.
Today I’m wondering: What was it that had my specialness stick around?
What occurs to me now is how parents – in their own well-meaning, unconscious longing to stay special – can, in a weird way (and in, to be sure, varying degrees) confer upon their child a sense of, I don’t know, maybe not being seen, that can have the child identify with their own specialness as a kind of security blanket well past the point of its usefulness. Like a secret club everybody is in where everybody is special because they know they’ll never be seen. You get it passed to you like a magic coat to wear to keep you sane, with the words “Look, no one around here gets seen. So everybody’s special. Hang on to this, you’ll need it.”
The thing is, nobody ever tells you when to take it off, or even if you should.
Then one day, maybe today, you wake up and realize you’re still wearing the coat. Only the thing is, now – and here I’ll just switch back into first person – I find myself organizing myself for service, for public offering. And I notice, quickly, my “special attitude” is being tested regularly, and the results are in: it has limited use in serving others.
It was designed for personal illusion and has very little connective utility because its job is to protect the child /from/ real connection, not serve connection for the adult. Staying special means staying alone and safe. That’s what it’s for. Keeping you in the illusion of some kind of reason for being when the world won’t meet you, while your real soul knows it desperately needs reality in order to grow.
Specialness seems to say “see me” which – very quickly – withers in the sun of actual community service because all it does is cancel out like anti-matter with everyone else’s “see me.”
I remember Francis Weller saying to a group of men “A man must give up his specialness and become ‘just a man’ before he can serve his community.” I remember knowing it was true and simultaneously refusing to accept it. I didn’t want to take off my magical coat of specialness, because then I couldn’t be protected from the (what felt like) crushing demands of community, family, and the men around me.
I now realize a man is a man once he can handle all those demands /while/ maintaining his integrity. He is a man once he doesn’t view service as entrapment, but rather freedom. Most of all he is a man once he can step into service in his community and into the fire of ridicule, jealousy, and others’ incessant “see me’s,” and with great self-love and non-aggression, studiously ask what can be done to move things forward.
Previously published on pietervw
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