Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sink, Swin or Buoy. The art of being a friend.



We all feel like this sometimes? Like we are locked up in prison, trapped, screaming to get out of our lives, circumstances, spaces or heads. It is not a nice feeling. I don't currently feel that way and I can say that is a big relief. I have spent a lot of time in that space. Believe me. A charmed life it has not been. Charming and cute at times, but I am sure if I counted my life experiences like pile of poker chips, the good ones would only in the past few years be making a move towards being even.

And I am not complaining. I love my life. Whatever it has taken to get me where I am, I accept it as part of the journey. Good or bad, Amor Fati, I accept it. Because if you take any of it away, I might not be where I am now and I like where I am. I like who I am. And I feel the same way even when I don't feel like this.....



But this post is not about my struggles.

While I am really enjoying the ebbs and flows my journey is currently taking, I know that not everyone I know and care about is in the same boat. For some, it is drastically hard times. For some, it is their darkest hour. For some, it is not easy right now. I can relate to that. I can understand that. I know what it is like to cry yourself to sleep night after night for months and months. I know what it is like to feel like you have no idea when the sun will shine again. It freaking sucks.

When people I care about are unhappy, struggling or having a hard time in the past, I have gone way past empathy and often found myself feeling a part of or responsible for their issues. Even though I know I am only responsible for myself, I am what is known as a "sensitive". I can't turn it off that I become sad when someone I know is sad. It usually works with genuine happiness to, so I'll take it. It has taken me a long time to figure out how to navigate knowing that about myself. I remember this time last year my joke was "I don't have any problems of my own, I only have other people's". That didn't actually help the other's with problem or myself. What was helpful was being an available, willing to listen, willing to hug and console.

I have slowed learned to be an empathetic, available friend but in a way that actually is helpful and healthy to both people. Remember a while ago when I was talking about being like a little boat being tossed around in a storm? And how helpful it was to have friends who didn't jump in my sinking ship and wallow in it, they threw me light teethers to key me upright until I was able to do it for myself. I likened it to a parent's hands under a child on the monkey bars. For me, I know that when I have a problem or feeling, I want to address it, I want to deal with it, I want to sort it. I don't want someone else to. If someone else does, than its bound to come back to me later. The little teethers, the guiding hands gave me a confidence to get through the storm, ship not sunk, back to calm seas.

Through that experience I again confirmed what I have learned through self-work, reading and Al-Anon, that people don't need to be knee deep in the mud with you to be sympathetic, supportive or helpful. In fact, it is the opposite of helpful. It is nice to realize that instead of jumping in the sinking ship and yelling for a bucket, it is better to stay firmly and safely in your own boat, but throw a line to someone else. It is better to stand on the edge of the quicksand and offer a branch, instead of diving in after someone. It was a revelation to realize this. I mean, if I think about my own sensitive nature, than shouldn't I think that someone else could have their spirits lifted by my happiness and joy at life?

I love my friends and family intensely. It pains me when they hurt. I have to work really hard at NOT trying to fix them. I want to fix, I want to help. And the reality is, I cannot. All I can do is be available, be strong, be happy, be helpful, listen well and offer a hug or a nice warm meal. I can be present. And that is all. I went for a run today, it turned into a very long run because I was trying to work through some of these feelings. I was trying to run my way out of others sadness so that I could be of use, be good to them. And it worked. I started to hum, "Lean on Me". And all of the above unfolded to me. And then I thought, what helps me when I am feeling down? A perfectly happy song. It may not change life, but it is a reminder of joy, it is a reminder of where life will be again. Today, that song(s) were this.... Listen and be well....
 


edward sharpe and the magnetic zeros on NPR's Tiny Desk

1 comment:

  1. I like the boat analogy -- you're so right. Sometimes it's hard when we love someone to *not* take on all their pain and drama. But you're absolutely correct that it's not productive for anyone.

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