. . .have been humbling and wonderful and painful and full and empty and. . .and. . .and
Forced to take a medical leave of absence from work, I’ve been working on myself and my relationships. And as I look back over the past few months, as much as anything, it seems that I’ve experienced loss. Relationships that I believed to be important have somehow fallen away, mostly not because I sought that. Facing the loss of relationships we hold dear, particularly those we think we can count on, is a peculiar, particular kind of loss, one that cuts to the bone. It feels like a kind of betrayal. I am shocked an appalled anew, almost weekly, at the ways in which we can so easily betray and walk away from people we thought were so important to us. The friends we thought we could count on just aren’t there any more. It’s just as painful, maybe more so, that a breakup with a lover. But we pick up the pieces and go on.
It seems to me that many people simply do not have the capacity to compassionately witness and be present through the pain of another, even when they do genuinely care about the other person. Maybe it’s that being present during another’s suffering means facing suffering of our own. I’m not sure. But I feel pressure to somehow be “ok” very quickly or at least pretend like I’m ok, because if I’m not ok, that’s not fun for everyone else. People seem to so easily offer platitudes and band-aid, quickfixes because acknowledging the suffering of another human is more than most of us can bear. I’m not any less guilty of this than anyone else.
And to be honest, I’m tired of it all. I’m tired of the sorta-well-meaning but ultimately selfish platitudes. I’m tired of the unsolicited advice. Some days are great. But some days I just feel bad, both physically and emotionally. And I want the people I care about to be present and understanding and supportive, not to offer unwarranted advice simply because it would be easier and more convenient for them if I weren’t feeling so bad. But the fact is, I feel bad sometimes. We all do. Maybe it happens for me more often than most–I’m not sure. But being told some equivalent of, “Oh, buck up!” isn’t helpful.
I am left with the feeling that people I care about, people I trusted, people I thought cared about me, they like me when I’m fun. But when I’m not, they are impatient, have not use for me. Several months ago, I had my feelings hurt when I was sick and a friend didn’t check up on me. Her response was, “Well, just because you’re having a bad day doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t have fun.” And she right. I don’t expect others not to have “fun” just because I’m going through a hard time. However, I do think the right thing, the compassionate thing to do when you care about someone is to simply be quietly supportive and present to whatever degree your loved one will allow. When I am at my most desperate, feeling the most lost, it’s exacerbated by the sense that no one is present for me, not in that way.
I’m very much working through all this, as I try to reconcile my own wants with what I truly need and what I believe to be the right, kind, thoughtful, compassionate thing to do. And yet, what I believe with all my heart is that compassion–thoughtfulness, understanding, empathy–this is absolutely the best thing any of us can do in this world. And the world would be a better place if only each of us practiced this a little more in our day to day lives.