There are Internet “plagues” that put Egypt’s seven afflictions to shame. The latest of these is Facebook’s “25 random facts about me.” The point is simple: you list 25 facts about yourself, post them, then ask several of your friends to do the same.
As I’ve read the lists, I’ve found if fascinating to consider the approach the participants in this new fad have taken in listing their facts. Some try to be edgy (“I carried a switchblade in my lunch box for three years”), some attempt to be funny (“I haven’t needed to wear a diaper since I was 2…but I haven’t turned 70 yet, so…”) and some veer boringly into strictly spiritual realms which I will not illustrate with a quote for fear of being zapped from Heaven by a stray lightning bolt—which, you’ve got to admit, would make a pretty great “random fact about me”! (My random facts are listed at the bottom of this post…)
I’ve long held the belief that we all, as human beings, have three basic needs: to be known, to be loved and to be touched. Oh, there are other facets of our neediness that I could include in a more comprehensive list of needs (like feeling safe or, you know, eating fries), but I really believe that soul satiety stems essentially from these three. You might think that the first two are redundant, but I can assure you (sadly) that being known does not necessarily equal being loved. In fact, I’m of the school of thought that a majority of us fear that once we’re truly known, getting a date to a Valentine’s banquet or merely finding someone willing to share public transportation with us might become a tricky proposition!
The “25 things” phenomenon further supports my theory about the first two of our basic needs, and the statements of other participants have enlightened my thinking regarding what I might include in my own list. My problem is that I’m a bit of a smart alec (I’ve been called worse!) and my response to fads like this tends to move beyond tongue-in-cheek territory and straight into the quagmire of “Uhm, should you have said that out loud?” But regardless of the aspects of ourselves that we choose to divulge in our lists, I’m fairly certain that there is a sense of satisfaction that comes from revealing unknown sides of ourselves to a throng of likeminded cyber-stalkers. Because, you see, we all crave being known—truly known—and there are few venues in the “real” world (in our professional, practical and even, sadly, our spiritual world) where such revelation is encouraged and valued.
Some of the lists of random facts I’ve read have involved risk—they’ve expressed a hidden dream or shame that might have held less potential for ridicule or misinterpretation had it remained safely inside the writer’s mind. Some of the lists have involved vulnerability, conveying intimate truths that at once define and expose the writer. And some of them have been so full of clichéd spiritual and emotional psychobabble that it’s been difficult to find the “real” person dissimulated in the facts!
I wonder what can be done, in our circles of friends and acquaintances, even in our families (nuclear and extended), that might allow for our basic needs to be met—without a perhaps unhealthy dependence on cyber-anonymity to ease revelations and buffer knee-jerk reactions from those on the receiving end of our personal disclosures. I wonder what trivial questions could be rephrased to encourage a more personal response. Think of how different your answer might be if someone asked “What’s your favorite food” or if that same person asked “What memories do you associate with your favorite food?” And then I wonder how different our willingness to make ourselves vulnerable would be if the response to our strange statements weren’t “That’s weird,” but were changed instead to “That’s fascinating.”
Don’t get me wrong. I know that the three basic needs I consider foundational (to be known, loved and touched) aren’t givens. I’ve spent probably 3/4 of my life neither known nor particularly loved—and without anybody beating down my door to ask me leading questions that might have allowed for self-revelation! There’s little we can do about others meeting our needs. But there is much—much—we can do to begin to meet the needs of others. It may take some quality time carved out of too-full schedules. It may take asking questions that make us a little uncomfortable. It may take curbing the desire to be funny when what the vulnerable person really needs is a gesture of understanding and inclusion. It might take reading those lists of “Twenty-five random things” and seeing in them not a self-aggrandizing exercise in navel-gazing, but a source of fodder for further interactions.
Take it from this formerly pathologically shy person who, for most of her life, found self-revelation as pleasant as, say, being impaled on serrated antlers then devoured by Abba-singing hyenas: to be known is an immeasurable gift, to be loved is inexpressibly foundational and to be touched (even if it’s merely a hand on the shoulder or a pat on the knee) is as restorative as a dozen cheesecakes smothered in red roses. It’s kinda nice, in other words, and it is, in my humble opini
on, essential to wholeness.
And now, to prove that peer pressure knows no bounds (even to this just-turned-41-year old), my list of 25 random facts:
- I had severely buck teeth with a large gap between the front two until my first year of college!
- I was so quiet (ie. scared) when I was little that my hairdresser called me “the little mouse” (la petite souris)
- Death by burger-overdose? Count me in.
- College was…not pleasant. (Refer to antlers and hyenas!)
- The carpet in my apartment is 25 years old. TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OLD! There are entire dynasties of icky-things living in it, but I haven’t coughed up the 250 euros a giant area rug would cost yet. I’m still waiting for a landlord-miracle…and imagine how many burgers I could buy with that 250!
- If you’ve got pneumonia, I’ll hug you and hang out. Same with a sinus infection and probably the bubonic plague. But if you have anything that might involve throwing up, I’m afraid you’re going to have to hug yourself and take up knitting. I’m outta here.
- I once did serious damage to my ankle when I was about 10 and my parents took me to a cow doctor—he put “whatever needed to be put back into place” back into place with strong pressure from his thumbs and the surgery the real docs had prescribed was no longer necessary. But I was probably emotionally damaged by dropping my trousers in front of an old man in a barn!
- Doctors discovered 7 giant ulcers in my duodenum in 2004. I named each of them for a former student. They’re not fun. Sugar seems to aggravate them. I still eat cheesecake. ‘nuff said.
- I was so homely when I was little that I always had to play the Indian (as in “Apache”) or the stable-boy in our make-believe games.
- Owning a cat makes me feel stable. I haven’t had one in 5 years. Explains a lot, doesn’t it? (But I nearly stole one last night…)
- I have a thing about germs. Tidiness, not so much.
- I wrote my first poem when I was 6. It was about a baby seal. He was bludgeoned to death. I was a tad morbid at the time…
- I have a “brown thumb.” If you’re green, photosynthesized, and want to die, come sit by me for a minute. (Continued below)
- I wanted to be a ballerina when I grew up. Then God gave me American hips.
- My life is BLESSED—and joyful and hopeful and incredibly fulfilling.
- Here’s a really funny post-breast-cancer random fact: **%#$*^#*$# (Oops, guess the censors didn’t like it…but it was really funny!)
- I’d been a missionary for four years before I finally “met” Jesus for the first time.
- Before I started college, I thought Wheaton was in the “state” of Chicago. MKs…
- I’ve never wanted a career.
- I LOVE cars.
- What I don’t love is beaches. They’re too sandy, too hot, and too…bathing-suity.
- About 10 years ago, I wrote a novel in which the protagonist (me) had breast cancer. Go figure. I might be a prophet. (And the world will end on December 3rd, 2480)
- I’ve never had a “real” boyfriend…but I’ve been kinda-engaged.
- I’m a big proponent of spending emotional energy on things that can actually be affected and not wasting it on what cannot be changed.
- I’m a major, major, MAJOR introvert—but I love people more.