What Caring Looks Like

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Caring looks like interest.

Caring looks like interest that spans far beyond the surface. Not the kind of interest that stares only just long enough to cast a shadow of attention or half-hearted desire on the skin, but the kind that looks behind a set of eyes. The kind that looks deep enough into another being to find out what makes them tick. The kind that looks intensely enough to decode what they’re made of. Caring looks like an unceasing gaze that holds the power to pierce through layers, break down walls, and permeate all the way down to the core.

Caring looks like sharing.

Caring looks like sharing yourself and your entire realm of being with another. It looks like opening yourself up in all regards. It looks like not merely feigning interest, but genuinely expressing concern for the innate pieces and parts that comprise another’s existence, and allowing another to share the same concern for yours. Caring looks like sharing your favorite pastimes, one by one, and over time, the slivers of your heart. Sometimes caring looks as comfortable as sharing breakfast. Other times it looks as invigorating as sharing creative outlets, spontaneous journeys, and even grand plans, or uncharted adventures.

Caring looks like seeing.

Caring looks like seeing someone past the way they present themselves to the outside world. Caring looks like seeing them for who they truly are, not who they become when the spotlight is on them, when they feel forced to perform at their best. Caring is seeing someone when they aren’t sure they can stand to be seen by anyone. Caring is seeing them when they are alone, when they are scared, when they are broken. Once caring sees someone for their truest self, caring becomes the desire to physically see someone, and not look away. Caring becomes the willingness to put down whatever is in front of you and go to them, be with them, and see them in the flesh. Sometimes caring looks like driving through town. Other times it looks like driving halfway across the country.

Caring looks like asking.

Caring looks like asking someone if they are okay, and then listening long enough to hear them answer, and accepting whatever it is they have to say. Caring looks like asking and not turning away when they tell you what is hurting them, even if it hurts you too. And when you can tell by the shakiness in their voice that not only is there something wrong, but there exists a pain you can’t see no matter how hard you look, caring is embracing them with no more questions asked. Caring is lying down beside them, and holding them when they just simply can’t find the words, when you realize the answer lies somewhere within a pain that you can’t possibly be the one to fix, even though you will try with all of your might.

Caring looks like goodbye.

Caring looks like saying goodbye, rather than leaving someone hanging with a rope around their neck and their hands tied behind their back. Caring knows goodbyes aren’t easy, but doesn’t lead someone into the dust, only to leave them there blindfolded with little rhyme and even less reason. Caring has enough dignity to stand face to face, not back to back. Caring looks like standing together, even when everything around you is falling apart. Caring doesn’t let someone slip into the past without a proper send-off, nor does it let someone walk away, without a final embrace.

Caring looks like honesty.

Caring looks like the honesty you aren’t sure you can stomach, but the honesty you know you will always need, and the honesty you can always count on. Caring looks like an honest answer, even when you can no longer remember the question. Caring faces up to whatever unsettling twists of fate may come its way. Caring embraces uncertainty, and it exposes itself to the harshness of reality. Caring gives you an honest reason as to why you cared in the first place, even though it may be the one you don’t want. Caring doesn’t waste time on pretending. Caring is the honesty that makes anything and anyone worth caring about.

Caring looks like remembering.

Caring looks like remembering both the beauty that existed, and the pain that erupted as a result of caring about someone other than yourself. Caring looks like remembering the places, and the faces, and repositioning them in your mind to once again see the beauty they showed you, instead of focusing on the void they caused when you looked back and they were nowhere to be found. Caring looks like warm floods of memories and cold rushes of nostalgia. Caring looks like remembering that no matter where you go, you will take the ability to care this much again with you. It’s up to you to decide who and what you will choose to care about next. Caring helps you remember to choose carefully.

Caring looks like growing.

Caring looks like growing out of your current skin, not into a thicker or untouchable one, but into one that is far more pliable. One that is primed, and ready to bend again. One that doesn’t hide the scars of past caring, but instead uses these visible representations of what has been endured, as the canvas on which to paint new growth. Caring looks like growing to a place of harvesting the desire to care again. It looks like the startling realization that every action and inaction has rattled your cage so drastically because of one thing and one thing only: “You will always care too much.” It’s not in your bones to even try and pretend you will ever be someone who cares any less. You couldn’t do it, and you wouldn’t want to anyway. You’ve grown to a point of realizing that caring looks like both great joy, and great suffering, sometimes in the same day, or even the same breath.

Although caring may have broken you before and will surely break you again, ultimately, caring holds the power to make you. And one day it will.

Until then, you must continue to care, bend, and mend. TC Mark

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