A Friend in Struggle

To a friend in struggle:

I never had friends before Em died. I probably never really had friends all my life. I have been a loner a long time. I have developed some friendships since Em died. Through grief support, through music, through writing, through facebook, through blogging, through pancreatic and other cancers. I have been through some changes.

I have one friend that is at a rough period. Grief is something that never ends. It changes as I change but it is never done. Like a meal is done. Like a movie is done, over, but it lingers with me. Grief hangs around. It is always present in some way because the loss of the loved one is a part of me and part of life.

So, I hurt when I see a friend going through some painful patch. Whatever it is, but especially when it involves grief and coming to grips with changes after a loved one is gone. I have been through them and will be through them again, I know. A period of time where I know I need to stretch out of my comfort zone into what is uncomfortable. It evokes feelings of betrayal, guilt, and a deep ache inside.

I don’t like discomfort. I don’t like the thing that I try to deny but is often in my face. And that is, I don’t like change. I like the comfort when I know my routine, without disturbing things. But, change is the only thing that pushes me to grow and stretch my boundaries, my limits.

Every significant step forward calls it up with the trumpets.

“Hey Change, it is time.” And then I say, “I am here. I am submitting to the notion that I must, I must, I must embrace you. I am uncomfortable to do so, but I will do it anyway. I must sit with you, and be with you, and some miracle will occur.”

It happens every time. I am no less reluctant each and every time. If I say, “Okay, I will stop resisting and let you in and see what happens, sit with my discomfort and my fear, my heart pounding with the fear of the unknown and all the possibilities of what Could go Right; in addition to what my brain is so good at which is Everything that can go Wrong, every possible contingency of what Could go Wrong. If I can embrace you, I will be transformed once again.”

I have seen it, felt it, lived it, and continue to do so. I continue to be amazed. If I have the desire to grow and learn, I will continue to be amazed, even though each time, it is like a part of my brain has amnesia and forgets I have survived the last thing. I must welcome the fear and discomfort all over again as if for the first time. And then I will move. I will shift.

I will also feel loss. Loss for the skin I am shedding. Loss for what was me a moment ago. Because I have courage and have faced another hurtle of fear, I have taken another step. I am not even sure toward what.

I am not even sure I know where I am going. I do know it is what I must do to grow. And that inner knowing, is empowering. I know that although next time I will be just as scared, I know I will survive. I know I will smile inside that I have taken yet another step on this delicious journey.

All this hot air from my mouth to the page to say, I feel the pain of my friend. Maybe I never had friends because I thought it was too complicated. Too complicated to deal with another’s sensitivities and to have them deal with mine. It was also easier to not have to feel anyone else’s pain. My own is enough. Truth is, my own is not enough. My own is just too lonely. Too separate.

Feeling what my friend is going through is the joy of being connected to another in some soulful way. I know I can’t fix my friend’s pain, growth pain, pain of some transition, some realization, some personal truth, a conflict, an inner battle. I want to reach out and say, “Here, grab my hand and let me pull you through.”

But, I can’t. That person has to do it. I so desperately want to help. I hurt knowing I can’t. My insides resonate with my friend and I feel the struggle. My gut gets a knot and my eyes well up.

My whole life, I managed to avoid friends except for a couple. I preferred loneliness to sharing of this pain. But, the pain of being alone is too great.

I now choose to be nearby them as they struggle. I can share the heartache with the triumphs. I can help hand over tissues. I can listen if you need me to. I can just be present whether I am there in person, or on this side of the computer, email, phone, whatever.

I have been touched and have touched some people along the way lately. I guess it is part of my choosing to risk being vulnerable. I feel more alive than I ever have in my life. Interesting things happen when I allow myself to show vulnerability. It is all part of the full catastrophe of daring to truly be alive.

I realize it also means that there will be times I will lose a treasured friend. I will suffer loss. Whether to death, or some other twist of life. Impermanence. I accept that burden along with the gift of connection, for as long as it lasts. I will share the joy and the suffering. I will accept the complications. For the rewards. The rewards may be fleeting, or not. But, they are rich and deep. I am born alone. I will die alone. I no longer want to be alone in the in-between.

My friend. I am with you in spirit in your moment of struggle. And, I am here.

Neal Harvey…good day. And, P.S. This really is one hell of a F’g Hallmark card. I would buy it in a heartbeat.