What do you do when you see that sheen of sadness in the eyes of someone you encounter or know or love? What do you do when pain is palpable through a shifting glance or a strained smile? What do you do when faced with a cracked voice and cryptic words? What do you do when you know there is a slippery struggle under that immaculately polished surface? What do you do when between the lines of an email or a letter, you detect a quiet, unnerving desperation?
Something happens when we become adults. Something tragic. We become responsible and self-sufficient souls. We get real. We deal. We dream a bit less. We focus on practical things. We keep it together. Because this is expected of us. We evince strength even when we don't feel it. We flash smiles. We make lists. We make commitments. We learn to don that cozy cloak of happiness. In time, with practice, we peel off from the continental frenzy. In learning to rely upon ourselves, we forget how to need others. Prudently, we shrink inward. We become islands. Isolated. Free-floating. Lonely. Alone.
And we learn that others are islands too. And the waters of this wide world keep us safe and separate. A blessing and a curse, these waters buffer us and keep us from colliding. Much of the time, we feel bolstered and secure in our whimsical and wise solitude. But sometimes, we feel utterly, irrevocably alone, untouchable and unable to touch.
What do you do when you sense trouble and tumult on another island? Do you sit back and watch, safe on your own shore? Or do you reach out and speak up and bravely rough impossible and inscrutable seas? Do you ask questions, force that bittersweet collision, manifest concern, bring the truth to the surface? What do you do when you know someone is floating and sad and they don't say so? What do you do when there might be a call for help, but it is muddled, or faint, or inconsistent? What do you do when there is no call at all?