“…Change your words into truth
And then change that truth into love
And maybe our children’s grandchildren
And their grandchildren will know…”
(From the song “As” by Stevie Wonder)
Simple words, hard to implement…turning our words into truth; we say we believe in this, trust in that, we offer that we really are there for those we say we care about, we try to live by these things, but sometimes we falter and the results can send us spinning down a pit of hurt and despair. We should remember tho, we are human, and we will err, for those who can’t or won’t understand this, let ‘em sue me.
Recently a friend and I were talking, Rhea, in expressing her concern about an issue she was dealing with, one not so uncommon among the widowed, friends and friendships, or more accurately the loss thereof, reflected the pain it is causing her. We all know it’s not so unusual for so-called friends to fade away after our loss, most times without explanation and we are often left bewildered and hurt. We learn to deal with the actuality and the effects, we try to understand the reasons involved, make excuses for a while, but none of this really dulls the pain it causes; we simply learn to get past it and live on without them, not always an easy thing to do. The particular problem for Rhea is that in this, there are valid reasons for the other party to feel hurt; her actions put the relationship in jeopardy. The exact nature of the indiscretion may not be as important as Rhea’s reaction to the later actions of her hurt friend. After having attempted to make amends for the error in judgment to the other party, whom Rhea has known for over fifty years, Rhea finds that the other party is making a concerted effort to not only shun her, but also influence others to un friend her also. Actually, it has gotten to the point where Rhea dreads attending the various functions which were such a part of her life previous to the loss of her husband. Because of the longevity of the association, my friend is finding it difficult to believe that her attempts to show remorse are being unnoticed and discarded, apparently out of hand.
Now I am sure this is not a unique situation, this unintentional rubbing of friends the wrong way, and the failed attempts at proper fence mending, but coupled with grief I can only imagine the hell which is being endured by Rhea. The situation contains many of the elemental stones we find along the journey; perceived betrayal, bruised egos and all the other things which are part of our human-ness. Those of us who travel this path are not unaware of them or the havoc they can wreak on our mental health. Later, as I thought about all of this and how it related to the journey, I sat down to write Rhea a letter, the materials to be used for this indicate how serious I am taking all of it; Yellow legal pad paper (both sides to be used, about six sheets), and my 1.6mm Bold point pen (Black ink) which is normally reserved for contracts I might sign for work or other official documents. The pen is a quirk of mine as I disdain the fine pointed instruments usually handed to us by the various clerks whom we come in contact with…and I don’t share pens. As I thought about what to say to her, the focus fell on just how important it really is that we take care of ourselves…first, in all areas of our lives. It’s not always an easy thing to do as many times the toes of others are involved and we are forced to weigh external factors against what is best for us, but, we have to do it. My intentions are to let her know I understand the importance she attaches to the relationship with her friend which has existed over those many years, but I also intend to point out that in all those years she, Rhea, may have been being a better friend and that things appear to be mostly one sided. Hoping to point out that the length of the association cannot determine the depth of it, I want to remind her that like many who suffer the loss of a partner, she may find that many of those things about which she was so certain, were and are, truly not all they appeared to be. Not an easy pill to swallow; we know this, but like many hard things the journey is revealing to us we come to understand better, how placing them in perspective as it relates to what’s best for us is something we must do. For Rhea I know this may be a difficult thing as her generally easy and outgoing nature probably tends to have her getting down on herself out of proportion to what the situation may call for. In trying to remind her that in this, she must come first, I hope to impart a portion of the selfishness of which I have such abundance. Wanting her to know that I can at best, only half understand how important this is to her, I also want her to know that I think her mental well being is worth more than a relationship which to me appears to be toxic and unredeemable. Now, for sure, I don’t have all the answers, and it is a fact that I am no expert in the field of human relations, but I think I understand better today, how to know what’s best for my mental framework and I believe Rhea knows what’s best for herself also.
To illustrate how this can tie in with our efforts on the journey to a different life, it strikes me that we do not want to let incidents and situations like this remain in the narrow context of any given occurrence, be it friend to friend relationship, thoughts on how we felt about our partners or our family, whatever; I’m thinking this can be expanded to encompass the notion that absolutely nothing is exempt from the rigors of grief; that grief exposes the chinks in both our social and mental armor; that in facing these types of things honestly, we give ourselves the best chance to make decisions which can yield positive results. This is not easy, nothing about grieving is easy, but they are the types of things we do in order that we can maintain any semblance of hope in finding any kind of peace about anything from here on out. I have been fortunate, I have some tools which can help me in this; while in treatment, it was suggested to me that whatever Higher Power in which I believed, had not put me here to be abused…by anyone. That my transgressions, especially if admitted to and attempts made to assuage the injured parties, could not be something which should be used against me for the duration; going forward and not repeating them would have to be enough for anyone. It was something I had agonized over throughout the course of treatment and had given me sleepless nights wondering about how it would be when I returned home; that for the rest of my life I would be subject to recurring recounts from DJ about my escapades when I was practicing.* It was explained to me that this could have me generating resentments, something which can be fatal to one with a personality like mine, and that I had to be willing to do anything to have and maintain that sober mind I said was so important to me, including not being part of my family if I honestly found that the situation to be a threat…like I said, nothing about taking control and responsibility for our own well being is easy. Fortunately it did not come to me having to leave, after saying to DJ, pretty much of what I have just written, we were able to come to a mutual understanding ; of course there would be times later on, when in the heat of our discussions when I would be reminded of how unappealing I had acted at times, but they were few and far in-between; this, and the fact that they were the truth helped me to accept it from DJ, altho I will admit, it always stung...and it should have, it’s not like I didn’t do those things and I think the fact that hearing them stung me, demonstrates my feelings of remorse about it all; if I didn’t care, it wouldn’t sting.
And so it is with Rhea, she is feeling stung, if she didn’t care, it wouldn’t hurt so much, but she does; an error was made, amends attempted, yet an atmosphere of rejection bordering on ostracism appears to be her lot. Well, I’m reminding Rhea that she doesn’t have to be the target of any intentional, vindictive behavior from anyone. She did not commit an axe murder or abuse small children, it was a perfectly human error, and we are all prone to them. The fact that this has gone on for some time almost proves the other party is disingenuous about her hurt feelings and I suspect there are other factors I cannot know which are involved. Struggling through the grief is chore enough, in doing that, we might want to keep in mind that we have to look to ourselves first…that the falling away of friends will happen, even long time so-called friends. It is a challenge to us to fashion and maintain an honest approach to things about which we have no control over but which we also don’t have to allow to keep us pain. We are finding that the hard realizations related to grief are not always directly about the facts regarding the absence of our partners. Other, more subtle and some not so subtle truths are revealed as we take each step on the path; if we are going to cheer the words of the quotes and sayings we love to see and nod in agreement with, if we are going to say we believe, if we claim we truly want to move forward, that we don’t necessarily like the challenges, but understand they must be met, then I think it is up to us to make the word our truths and just maybe we can turn that truth into love, not only for others, but more importantly, love for ourselves also and as charity begins at home, for ourselves, First.
After penning for over two hours, touching on everything from hell to high water, I reread the pages then shredded them; as I had read the words, I realized that maybe I was not writing all of it so much for Rhea, but more as a reminder to myself about how I need to stay constant with the words of the phrase from the song, about how I may need to focus more on those subtle and not so subtle things that are becoming a part in shaping my own different life. Now, I did send Rhea a message, trying to assure her I understood how she might feel, chiding her (and not so gently I might add), about taking care of herself, First. It is my hope that she will know that I want my words to her to be taken as my truths, that they are things we as friends can share with one another without fear of being meant as attacks or condescension, but as the words of one person to another, who proclaims to care, human to human, with all that implies. For me it’s a fairly simple situation, no one can be allowed to make us feel any less than we know we are, it is up to us to what we allow to determine how we feel, not only through grief, but in all of life in general. The journey is reminding me that for all the railing against those things I cannot control, for all the agonizing over events which can occur and attempt to keep me in that world of hurt and pain, in the final analysis it is up to me to take care of myself, First. And that may well mean letting go of those things and people which are intent on keeping me there in that pain. The bottom line for me is that I must recognize that some of the hurts offered by the journey can only impact me if I allow them to, that in this, for now, I have to come first and that if some others don’t like it, Let ‘em sue me.
*practicing - in this context, used to describe the act of drinking