One Thing I Learned Recently

It’s the kind of phone call you dread.

My cellphone rang yesterday morning. It was sitting right by me, not lost in the bottom of my purse, or left in the car.

I answered and heard the voice of an acquaintance. She said she was sorry to call with bad news. Our mutual friend had collapsed at home. Her husband found her on the floor and had been unable to revive her. Our friend was dead, she said.

We exchanged a few teary words, requests for information, promises of help and support. Shock, disbelief, confusion.

I always feel uncomfortable when I read a story like this, and I feel a bit frustrated in writing it.To write about her, her interests, her life, or her family seems strangely exploitive. To write about how her death has affected me seems stupidly narcissistic.

Ah, Narcissus! Self-absorbed little brat of lore, who couldn’t stop admiring his own reflection in the pond. ZAP! he got turned into the flower that bears his name. There’s a cautionary tale for you! Narcissus, archetype of the self-absorbed, hoarded the reflection for his own admiration.

But here’s my question for the morning — if you share your reflections — or the act of reflection — doesn’t the sharing take on a deeper meaning? Does this sharing actually “prevent” narcissism from taking root? By sharing reflections, we have a basis for empathy, understanding, perhaps even intimacy.

My friend was the consummate hostess in every situation. She welcomed everyone, everywhere, and drew them in with her laughter, wide-ranging conversation, and always fabulous food. Wherever she was, there would be a party — or it would feel like one. She had recently begun to train to become a Feldenkrais teacher — work that had helped her to recover from back pain while living abroad, listening to recordings of my lessons. She threw herself into the process of learning via immersion, eager to learn and know and do all she could to benefit from the work and share it with others. As I talk to some of her other friends, this is how she approached everything. What a great way to be remembered!

Many friends from around the globe are reflecting publicly, posting their thoughts, prayers, and condolences on her Facebook page. How ironic that this contemporary tool, often held up as a flagrant contributor to the development of narcissistic personalities, should be used for such an ancient purpose. Apparently, we are made to connect with one another. Whether it is in person or through a computer screen, people are in pursuit of that basic human need. We will establish connection by any means available — and we miss the connection when it is gone.

Yesterday I enacted my habitual pattern for times of duress. I organized a telephone tree to notify members of our Feldenkrais training. I paid a short visit to my friend’s daughter. And I did my own work– lots and lots of work.. My new behavior is letting the emotion and the words come when they will. This piece is part of that process.

What started this train of thought? Monday morning routine database management before sending my newsletter. I saw her name, clicked on it. I selected “Remove from list.” The other choice was “Unsubscribe.” A little info window popped up that said, “This action is irreversible. It cannot be undone. Do you wish to proceed?”

Now the tears are flowing. I couldn’t do it. Not this morning. I can deal with her death, but banishing her to the “Do Not Send” list? Isn’t that worse, somehow? Not worse for her, finally free of email madness — but much, much worse for me. I’m not quite ready to let her go yet.

So I learned, once again, that emotions WILL find their way into expression. Occasions to feel grief and sorrow come on their own — we don’t have to seek them, nor create them for others. However, in their presence, there is such sweetness in remembering the fan – f@#!-ing-tastic times I had with my friend.

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8 thoughts on “One Thing I Learned Recently

  1. Hey Babe,
    I’m so sorry for your loss and the loss of this wonderful person. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. You do your friend honor.
    Embrace the sorrow. I love you.
    bff
    C

  2. We need more examples like yours about how to deal with grief. Ridiculously, grief is about to be lumped into official categories of “major depression.” Your feelings are not depression – they’re a rightfully expressed process of dealing with significant and meaningful loss. This takes time, so give yourself time…and surround yourself with people who will not be impatient with however long it takes you.

    Heartfelt thanks for being public with how you feel and your impressions about grieving.

    Absolutely right on! As it is artfully expressed in a medium, what is the most personal becomes the Universal. Grief is a universal human emotional experience that we all need to hear more about to help us deal with it. It is an emotion that each and every person will experience at some point in their lives.

    1. Thanks, Franis, for your thoughtful and encouraging comment. You are correct — I am not depressed. I am sad. Appropriately sad. So much going and coming, and coming and going, as Dorothy says in The Wizard of Oz. Indeed. Change is part of life — and all is an opportunity to practice resilience. Thanks for reading and responding.

  3. Mary Beth,

    I am so sorry for your loss, and I think it’s amazing that you let your feelings out and shared it with the world. Indeed, it will help you to grieve and the sharing DOES take on a deeper meaning. My heart hurts that you’ve lost a friend. But I know that your friends that are here will help you get through it. Me included. Lots of love and big bear hugs. I hope that your memories and the celebration of your friend’s life will comfort you as you say goodbye. I’m here if you need an ear or a hand. xoxo

    Aimee

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