Wednesday, October 28, 2015


In these days we have an abundance of motivational speakers, life coaches, and personal trainers; a plethora of blogs dole out Six Easy Steps to whatever; websites overflow with life hacks, advice, recipes or mantras for healing, freedom and/or success; advertisements promise to solve problems you didn’t even know you had. In all of this noise, sometimes, don’t you just want one person who will spend five minutes listening? Here’s a story about how hard it is to find and/or be that person.

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The three of us lingered over the last bites of dinner. Barely more than acquaintances, we carefully opened up one or two leaves of our story to each other, testing the water before we infused the more tender emotions of our history. Perhaps it was the second drink that lulled me, seduced me into a perceived sense of safety. Oiled the hinges enough to unlock one particularly dark dungeon where I had hidden “The Most Hurtful Thing” ever spoken to me.

Did I dare speak it? Expose my core wound to these fledgling friends? I needed to make sense of it. I desperately needed to know Those. Words. weren’t true. To experience the protection of a caregiver, a warrior-friend, a confidant, who would shelter me from the memory, the continuous hammer blows of condemnation echoing sixteen years hence, bludgeoning every day, until I could no longer stand under the onslaught.

So I spoke.

And heard mid-sentence, that I had grossly misjudged, as one interrupted abruptly with, “Oh, that’s nothing. Let me tell you what happened to me!”

I sat in numb silence listening to descriptors of another’s battle and how they conquered, something like the Good Housekeeping™magazine column: “My Problem and How I Solved It.” My own pain discarded, minimized, trivialized, in light of her greater strength, her triumphant victory over evil.

I came out of my hole and saw my shadow. So will I hide for another six years? Or will I take the time to realize that others have no capacity to measure my story? To evaluate the depth of my wounds. I must self-triage. My pain had made my life unmanageable, therefore, I needed healing. There was no place to set my wound alongside another’s and allow them to measure which was greater. I was powerless over this and had simply mistaken a gentle face for a gentle heart. Yes, looks can be very deceiving. A sugar coated brick. Beauty masking the beast.

Grief still had several stages to process. One day, I might find a safe place to unfold the bloodied bandages and be anointed with the oil of kindness, but it is not here and today is not the day.

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"You own everything that happened to you. 
Tell your stories.
If people wanted you to write warmly about them,
they should have behaved better."
~Anne Lamott

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Uncompassionate people show us how not to be. This event happened over a year ago. I was unconsciously asking for something the other was unable to give. I was seeking one who could listen, empathize and say, “I’m here with you. I know this hurts. Let’s find a way out together.”

There are days when another has asked this of me. And I was unable to be this for them. This was also not the day for that. Two broken people cannot both save each other.

But since then, I have unbandaged and received ointment for this "wound" and it is healing. I have trusted confidants. I am learning to allow space and mindfulness for the grieving process of others and of myself. There is no timetable, no urgency. No expiry date by which we must expunge our lives of the anger, bargaining, denial, horror, guilt or excruciating tenderness surrounding the gaping wound of loss.

I am learning not to expect healing from others.

I am learning not to punish others for not being able to help me carry my grief.

I am learning how to give what I can when another needs a hand.

I am learning to blow a breath of kindness over my own pain and over the heat of another's trauma with my own attentive presence: “I’m here. I hear you. I’m so sorry for your pain.”

I'm learning to not give impatient advice, how not to voice platitudes, cheery gloss-overs or declarations regarding reasons, sovereignty or grace; anything which may diminish the importance and necessity of grieving.

I'm learning to simply say:

“I’m with you.”

If you ask, I will share, if I can, what I can, in that moment; one beggar showing another where to find bread.

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