Thursday, January 23, 2014

More Lessons Along the Road: A Little Help From Your Friends

What would you think if I sang out of tune
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song
And I'll try not to sing out of key

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends

Another thing you need to know...

Your Relationships Will Change

The bad news is, when you finally get to a point where you can shake off the fog of disbelief and shock long enough to take stock, you'll find that some of the people who were a large part of your life aren't there anymore.  Some will have walked away from you.  Some you will have walked away from.  In other cases, it'll be more like a drift, but no matter how fast or slow, or how it happened exactly, there will be a shift in many of your relationships.

The good news is you will likely find that some others - maybe sometimes long lost friends returned - will have stepped in to fill the void, and you'll have new and beautiful friendships.

And the better news still is, you'll find some people stuck by you through it all.  And then you'll truly know you, despite your horrible loss, are blessed with some great gifts.  For those people are worth more than all the gold and diamonds on the planet.

But, the bottom line is, even for those people who remain by your side through thick and thin, your relationships will likely be different.  And the best thing to do, in my opinion, is to know that and accept that.  How can they not be, after all?  You're different (more on that later).  Your life is inalterably different.  You wake up and look out the window in the morning and perceive it differently.  But different does not necessarily mean bad.  In some cases, some of the friendships I have are so much better because of this experience.  The love and the bond we feel is deeper.  That doesn't, of course, mean I would trade that for my daughter, but when you're looking for rays of sunshine in a shit hole of a situation, there are some to be found.

The counsel I would give anyone who might ask is to forgive those who walked away.  And accept that you had to do the same in some cases and don't hate yourself for it.  I've been on both sides of the friendship coin.  I've had people drift away from me because I was too caught up in things that, given their particular pain at the time, seemed petty and stupid, and they just didn't need that in their life.  And, I look back on that now with some shame.  In one case in particular, I would love nothing more than to make amends, but I can't because that person died some years back of AIDS.  The last time I saw him, I was all full of rage over some wrong I thought someone had done me and griping about it.  He didn't need that.  What he must have thought!  But, it took me until I had my own horror show when Kelsey and then Marissa got sick to see that and realize it.  So, I had some similar experiences after Kelsey died.  I had friends who were so caught up in their own stuff that they wanted to talk to me about, and I just couldn't do it.  I couldn't care.  I couldn't help them.  I couldn't even find patience for it.  But, it's where they were in their life.  They couldn't understand and see fully what I was going through because they are so fully invested in their own issues.  That's not a damning statement.  It's just one of fact.  They're human.  But I now fully accept that my long gone friend couldn't be around me at the end.  I hope some of the people I don't talk to much any more know that it's much the same for me.  They were wrestling with their own demons; I couldn't support them or even understand them at the time.  I had to walk away.

Others would, with only the best of intentions, say or do the most horrific things.  Sometimes I separated myself from people I not only was friends with but actually truly loved because of that.  I hoped they did not take that personally, but I know some of them did.  I know they didn't mean things the way I took them in many cases.  But, I had to protect myself.  And I would say the same to all of you.  Losing anyone, but maybe in particular child, is like having your brain being hit by a semi at 80 miles an hour while it's out riding a bike.  You're psyche is badly injured.  On life support really.  To survive, you have to take care of yourself.  And sometimes that meant, for me, cutting some long and deeply held ties.  There are a few ties that I chopped away at until we were both bloody, and wish I had handled it a little differently and more graciously, but I had to do it.  I would expect that you will as well.  The trick is to do it better than I did.  Looking back on it, I think I would have tried harder to tell the individual honestly and openly that I have to take a sabbatical and make them understand it's not about them.  Tired as that line might be, it's true.  It's really about self-care.  And at that moment, self-care is critical.

As for the ones who walk away after your loss, they have their reasons and you need to, even if you can't understand it, know that is the case.  When that happens to you, let them go, try to understand them and then forgive them.  I've also been one of those people.  The ones who are just so freaked out by what's happening with you and to you that they don't know how to handle it and they shrink away.  It took a lot to stand by me.  I was so volatile.  I'm still no Sea of Tranquility.  You can say that's to be expected.  And you'd be right.  But knowing that and living through it are two completely different things.  I once had a friend who was in fragile health tell me she knows and accepts that not all her friends will be there for her in all situations, but it doesn't stop her from trying to be supportive of them when she can be.  She believes that the friends who can be there for her when she needs it will be.  And for those friends she helped at some other time who are not able to provide a quid pro quo right then and there, well they will take the altruism she showed them and pay it forward to someone else at another time in their life.  Naive?  Maybe.  But I think she's right in many cases.  And, more importantly, what I can say now is that level of acceptance kept her from losing herself deeper in her own pain.  Personally, at the time she said that to me, I didn't have the emotional bandwidth to help anybody through anything worse than a paper cut.  I hope one thing I've gained down through the years is the maturity and experience to help others through hard times.  I hope I'm one of those people that have paid it forward.  At least some times.

Now, this is just all about your friends, your co-workers, your extended family.  I haven't begun to look at the immediate family.  That's a whole other post.  And I can tell you, I'll tackle it as best I can, but even after all this time, I don't know that we've got it all figured out.  Read for yourself next week and you can be the judge...

In the meantime, thank you to all my friends who still loved me and love me when I'm not that lovable.  I love you back.

No comments:

Post a Comment