Sharing Really Is Caring
Over the years I have written for several publications and for a while I even managed two personal blogs. Somewhere along the line, I thought I would stretch and transform my written expressions into a one-man play.
The focus was love. In a Ntozake Shange inspired way, I pieced together monologues, poetry, and prose that I had written on the subject and combined them into a complete one-act work. I explored love of self, love of God, and of course my own pursuit of romantic love.
Since my early college days, I had been accustomed to sharing at times deeply personal aspects of my life with strangers. I don’t think it phased me because there was a certain comfort in typing something up, sending it out into the universe, and never having to really come face-to-face with the readers. There was a perceived wall between me and them. They could only judge words on a page. They could not judge me.
Showing up at a theater to perform a one-man play, with the spotlight on me, unable to see the faces, but knowing there were people in that audience watching, listening, and perhaps judging me and my story in real time was quite different. The night before the show I sat in my bathtub wondering if I had made a huge mistake. What was I thinking? Why on earth did I choose this most vulnerable path of expression? Yet, it was the night before the performance and too late to call the whole thing off.
So, I leaned into that vulnerability and for an hour and 10 minutes I shared, in my own words, my own journey with love. I heard the audience laugh. I heard them gasp. I also heard silence. There were immediate reactions that night when the lights went up. Strangers clapped. Friends hugged me. My mom told me she was proud of how brave I was. There was also a friend in the audience that night that slipped out after the show quietly. I thought her non-reaction was a reaction.
Days later though, I received an email from her. She shared that she left so soon after the show because she felt so deeply connected to a particularly melancholy monologue that she needed some air and time with herself. She told me that my sharing of my experience—which mirrored her own—made her feel for the first time that she was not alone.
That moment cemented for me that I had made the right choice in sharing in the way that I did. It also was the first time as a young adult that the words of C.S. Lewis crystalized themselves for me: “Friendship...is born at the moment when one man says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…’” That moment and those words forever changed how I show up in the world and in my friendships, emphasizing the power of sharing stories and truths. We don’t have to all do it on a blog, in a column, or on stage, but essential to meaningful friendships is sharing right where you are with the people closest to you.
My family and I have experienced several challenges in the last three months after my mom had a stroke and other physical health trials. Thankfully, she has overcome them and is on the road to total healing. And thankfully, as I tried to navigate my role as her son and as a brother, while also trying to maintain my own mental and emotional health through the toughest of moments, I had friends who were not only just willing to listen to me, but to also share the experiences and knowledge that they’d gained from similar situations. Navigating a health system. Navigating family dynamics. Navigating the early stages of being a caregiver.
Their transparency was a gift that I hold close to me. They made me feel supported and not alone. They had gone through these things or were still in the process of going through them and we were in it together. Releasing judgement, embarrassment, and fear. Holding on, and being held up by vulnerability, empathy, and the bravery that grows from transparency and compassion. Sharing really is caring. ▼
Clarence J. Fluker is a public affairs and social impact strategist. Since 2008, he’s also been a contributing writer for Swerv, a lifestyle periodical celebrating African American LGBTQ+ culture and community. Follow him on Twitter: @CJFluker or Instagram: @Mr_CJFluker.