Gently Bruised

`I can clearly recall thinking that if I had tried harder that she may have remembered my kindness `

Today’s blog is part cathartic and part an attempt to ease the gentle hearts that I encounter every day. In a world that can be tragically uncomfortable I wanted to take a moment to recognize those that try to soothe it. Bless your soft and tender souls for trying to light the many dark corners.

`I can clearly recall thinking that if I had tried harder that she may have remembered my kindness `  Tania

She’d always be the last one to get to her desk; the impatient students would shove past her, the condescending would glance at her as if she were an inconvenience; an obstacle in their path.  She wore thick glasses and carried an odor of stale urine as firmly attached to her body as the steel crutches that were attached like bracelets to her wrists. I think it may have been polio perhaps, but will never know for certain I suppose.  I found her one day, not so long ago now and upon reaching out in my excitement of seeing her grown and a seemingly happy adult; felt slightly wounded as she brushed me off like a piece of lint on her sweater.  I can clearly recall thinking that if I had tried harder that she may have remembered my kindness.

I would run ahead of her as she tried to reach the bathroom before her bladder released into the telltale darkened stain on the back of her jeans.  Her best efforts at speed were only slowed by the non compliance of two feet that would be dragged behind the frantic clicking of the crutches that hung from both forearms. She rarely to never would make it and the remaining hours of the school day would be spent sitting in the dampness that shared its pungency with a room full of student nostrils.  They would pick on her while I did my best to make her feel that she was not unusual.  And I remember wondering if I could have done better back then… that perhaps she may have recalled that I tried to be gentle.

Or perhaps the insults and the cruelty of others overshadowed the softness.  And if that is true, then my heart still wants to fix it despite the passage of decades.

It’s my natural way to be gentle. I struggle to understand anything less than a desire to be kind.  I cannot comprehend cruelty, or intentions that may be less than loving.  I will never find comfort in stepping on other humans to get to my destination. I would much rather join those on the ground to help ease the burden of the weight of those that do so.

Certainly I am no saint and have followed selfish paths in the moments that I feel unsupported. We are human of course, and not one of us balanced perfectly. I can dive into bursts of anger as quickly as I can dissolve into tears.  I can hide the bag of Oreo’s just as well as the next person simply because I believe I deserve the sweetness. We have all shared of the discomforts that can manifest into human nature.

However…when all is said and done…my defining nature is to be gentle. To not step on others to gain my rewards.

It is this characteristic that will find me continuing to want to soothe the way forward despite having felt the weight of such feet press into my spine time and time again.  I say this without complaint but a simple yet new understanding that in this gentleness is my greatest strength.  Empathy is an unforgiving journey and not for the faint of heart. Empathy requires an ability to unbend a spine that is bruised, sometimes broken and unfurl it to standing without sharing the pain.

I wondered for a moment if I was practicing true empathy in questioning why this woman did not remember my kindness.  It burned ever so slightly for a minute or two to feel that I hadn’t done something good enough to be remembered.  And I had to stop and wonder if I was battling the EGO or punishing my heart for not being enough when she needed it.

Or if, perhaps, I was understanding her from the value of being different than most. And in doing so I could feel how the discomforts might overshadow the kindness; and better understand my overwhelming desire to make it go away for her.

Which leads me to question something very obvious.

Are the gentle trying to heal the world because in doing so they heal themselves?

Life offers no easy answers. But it does offer us the opportunity to ask the questions.

And I love questions.

And softness.

Don’t stop that. Your gentleness. One day it will be remembered first.

Love love and more love.

Be soft to you first. And then share.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grieving Promise

Grief is hemorrhagic.

It shares no umbrella of the same color or shape. You can’t expect someone to stay dry using yours because it worked for you.

I promise you will grieve.  And there is nothing I can do to prepare you.

I can share literature and lead by my example but there is nothing I can do to help you understand.  Like birth and like death, the journey to your  certain discomfort will only be known by yourself.  There will be nothing to catch you, nothing that can console you and nothing to fill the shatters in your soul.  A deeply painful and personal unraveling of all the words you could have said and all the moments you had the opportunity to say them.  Of all the chances you missed and the chances you took.  You will find discomfort in every choice you created and every choice you allowed.

I promise you will grieve. And there is nothing I can do to prepare you.

What I can prepare you for  is that no one will understand the depth of your pain. They will try to understand, attempt to console, try to catch you when your knees burst and you fall to the depths. But I can promise you they will not know how deeply you will drop because you are falling through your own waters and bringing your own beliefs, thoughts and regrets as your swimming companions.

I promise no one will understand your pain.

Your pain is as individual as your fingertips, your DNA and your thoughts. While many will commiserate and understand the experience of loss, they can never truly seek to understand your ownership to the individuality of your story.

If we are to help one another through grief, we must be aware that not one process is like another.  We cannot seek to know the physical and emotional results of a heart that is punctured; whether once or a thousand times over.  The choice of injurious results lies with each individual story.  Over time hearts will heal, some more quickly; while others will leave nothing more than sinew to toughen the holes and to make them impenetrable to the possibility of further bleeding.  In both there is strength. And in both we have no right in our opinion of the process.

I’ve heard it enough now in my lifetime and my career. The judgements on how the grieving can grieve.

“He’s already moved onward to a new spouse. Her body is barely cold”

We have no right.

“She’s pregnant again, so soon. She hasn’t grieved the child she lost”

We have no right.

“You are angry and not what I knew. I cannot work with what I don’t recognize”

We have no right.

“Get up from the couch. Uncurl your hands from the teddy bear. You have to keep going”

We have no right.

Until the moment that the sharp pins explode  into our own hearts, our own souls and our own understanding of what that looks like…

We have no right.

And even after that moment…

The only right we are afforded…

Is the right to finally understand that we can offer nothing to change the experience.

Nothing that is…

Except to love them through it.  Whether we disagree, we wouldn’t have done it the same way, or we think our way is better.

Their way is the only way.

Love them through it.

Love them through what they need to do in order to survive.

Surviving might be angry, risk taking or silence. Surviving might be running forward to something new. Surviving may be terror in allowing anything or anyone to come close again. Surviving might be bottled or prescribed. Surviving may be tolerable only in introversion or in dancing through the streets.  Surviving may be in dying and breathing concurrently.

Love them through it anyway.

Grief is hemorrhagic.

It shares no umbrella of the same color or shape. You can’t expect someone to stay dry using yours because it worked for you.

Love them through it.

Let them bleed.

Only they can stop the flow because only they know where the punctures exist.

Love them through it.

Love you through it.

 

Be kinder. Be more compassionate. Don’t push. Don’t force.  Be gentle. Be tolerable because understanding will be obscure.

Just love them through it.

 

Loving you through it

Tania

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Strong Soul: If Anyone Can Handle This It’s You

“I couldn’t find my words this past several months because I was out of words you expected me to say. I was out of what might feel comfortable. Comfortable for you to hear and more importantly comfortable for me to say…”

I have been struggling for months now to find my words because I thought I’d shared all that I could share to help with the process of loss. Last night I found them again. Life is all about timing. Painful yes. But a much needed lesson in allowing others to hurt authentically.

We made my best friend cry last night. Her dead sister and I. Unashamedly. Unabashedly. Uncontrollably.

It was the most painful thing I have ever experienced, and that’s saying a lot from someone whose job it is to bring you to tears.  As I watched her little face crumble into her chest I shoved my tongue hard into the roof of my mouth to distract from the heat of my own tears that were threatening to pour over my cheeks. I found myself looking upward and to the left to avoid being pulled into her discomfort. I was working and as such that demands a different part of me that cannot be taken off balance.

In one fell swoop her deceased sister had moved the conversation from laughter to profound discomfort. I was completely unprepared although I should know this energy well enough by now to have been ready for just about anything.  Over this past year since her death she has provoked me to issue ridiculous and often off color comments via text to her older sibling.

“Tell her she forgot to shave her belly button” among other things that should likely never be shared publicly.  My friend wouldn’t care what I shared here but that’s really not the purpose of my thoughts today.

I had no idea that she was in such profound pain.  She is so forthcoming about her journey through loss in her own blogs that I missed it somehow?  Maybe because we are too close to recognize it? Maybe because she is a lot like myself, she counsels the grief of others? Maybe because I hold her up as my example of how to be strong.

That’s it.

I hold all five feet of her as my idea of strength.  In fact, if I am honest about this, I can well recall the moment that her text arrived to me on the morning of her sisters tragic death. “She’s gone. My sister is gone” and the first thought that swept over me was….

“You got this girl. You got this. If anyone can handle this, its you”

I never told her that but I think she knew that’s what I was expecting.

So she did. She handled it. She swept through what had to happen in the days to follow. She got up, she brushed her teeth, she put on her eyeliner and she took charge. Exactly what I expected is exactly what she did.  I never saw her break. Not even as she stood in front of the colorful flowers and the urn at the funeral home and recited her own version of her sisters life and how she might expect others to handle her death.  And my friend handled it the way she thought her sister might expect.

She handled it the way I might expect. The way her mom might expect. The way her friends might expect. Her clients might expect.

She simply handled it.

And then last night as her sisters words about sex on the dining room table faded off into the inevitable giggles, she turned that table and took me to the truth. The room suddenly emptied of those that were physically present as I watched this little sister pull her broken older sister into her arms and rock her like a child.

And that’s not what I was expecting.  And I don’t think that’s what my five foot Wonder Woman was expecting either as her eyes darted quickly and then somehow slid down her face like wet paint and splashed into her broken heart.

In fact just this morning she recounted to me that it had all caught her off guard. Not that I needed that confirmation because it was written all over her brown eyes as she struggled to hide the fact that she knew…that I knew….

That she had been handling it because she was expected to handle it.

I knew the look.

Intimately.

And I will expect that many of you do too.

It caught me off guard too. A scene swelling in my mind of my caped crusader curled up into a ball that made her no bigger than the pillows on her couch.  With her sister in her awful polyester navy pants and bright red blouse wrapped tightly around her trying to console her pain. Not what I thought I would see. Not what my friend thought I would see either.

But something I needed to see. And something she needed to share with someone other than the little bear that was made of her sisters clothing. The little bear that was hidden under her chest as she curled up like her throw pillow.

I couldn’t find my words this past several months because I was out of words you expected me to say.  I was out of what might feel comfortable. Comfortable for you to hear and more importantly comfortable for me to say.

I’d like to thank Kerri. The little sister that died because she couldn’t hit a possum. Because her heart was too big to cause pain. Because she talked about bleaching her backside. And sex on the kitchen table.

And because she showed me what real strength looks like. It looks like a throw pillow wet with tears wrapped around a small bear. A wee Wonder Woman that breaks apart in the early hours and then unravels herself to her full five feet as the sun comes up. Brushes her teeth. Puts on her eyeliner.  And handles it the way she’s expected to.

The way I do. The way you do. The way all that feel so deeply do. Every single day.

And now I am left wondering why something so incredibly beautiful and courageous is something we don’t talk about.

Because it opens our own discomforts? Our own what’s “not expected” of us?

Perhaps.

Lets change that.  Because my intention going forward is a whole lot of….

“Well I didn’t expect that”

Of course not. Because you are doing what’s expected. In grieving, in losses, in love.

Stop it.

Show me. Show others. Show them the truth. Because they might be hiding their own.

Show us what we don’t expect you to do.  And then we can heal together.

Sending love to those that are curled up and crying before you stand up and do what’s expected.  I got ya. xo

 

Tania