People are Talking…

These days of distancing, mask-wearing, not hugging and isolating, people are talking about loneliness. Not the existential sort of loneliness, but missing the actual physical connections with one another. When you live alone, this is magnified. I used to be able to go out and connect with people in cafes, at musical events and other social occasions. This has been less available. Whenever I met a friend or acquaintance in public, we hugged. No more.

In the film, Shall We Dance with Susan Sarandon, her character is sitting at a bar and talking to a male acquaintance. She is experiencing some challenges in her long-term marriage. She says to him that the thing she found to be invaluable in her relationship was that the two are witnesses to one another’s lives. This really struck me as something important. Perhaps crucial to one’s well-being.

If you aren’t married or in a relationship, then you have to construct friendships that support this need. Extended family and therapists can also be witnesses–it’s not necessarily that we want to be fixed, rather we want to be truly seen and heard. A few years ago, a well-meaning friend trying to console me around the loss of an older gentleman friend, quoted a yoga sutra–something like, “We are going to lose everything–our bodies, our lives, our friends and family.” I thought, if this is meant to comfort me, it’s falling way short! Don’t I already realize this at some level? I took it as her saying, so don’t take it too seriously. Maybe she wasn’t comfortable with my feeling sad and wanted to dismiss it with a wise but inept saying. I responded by saying, “We are here now and we each face challenges and we learn how to be with them or take action around them. Grief is part of the human experience and it’s immediate for me.” Reminder to self my need is not to be fixed or judged. Rather, can she/he be a witness to my experience, to my life in a compassionate way? Can I be that for him/her?

I realized this morning that my feelings of isolation have more to do with not feeling so witnessed. That, at the end of the day, my occasional cynicism is about not voicing what goes on in my daily life to someone. When I meet a friend, I notice how I fast forward talking about my particular life circumstances because I don’t want to sound ungrateful or like a complainer. The message to myself then is that I need to minimize my life stuff in order to accommodate someone else’s potential discomfort. I might conclude that this friend doesn’t want to hear about what’s really going on with me which may or may not be true.

When someone else has a seemingly larger problem, that doesn’t diminish my or your need to be seen or heard. We’re not supposed to be so smart and so wise as to not face challenges over the course of life. I think that we’re meant to learn, grow and come to a place of self-understanding and self-acceptance/compassion. At what age can a person finally say “I’m completely together.” Age doesn’t necessarily equal wisdom. We’re still humans with needs. This is alright. Some things we handle alone, with other things there is benefit in sharing.

My friend asked “Are you feeling better?” “No, not really,” I say. She offers “It will pass,” which disallows what is here and now. Sounding to me like a dismissal again–as if she’s saying, “I don’t want to hear more of your pain. Can we move on to something else.”

I might be judging her responses too harshly. It’s likely that few of us were trained to feel comfortable with another’s grief or know how to best offer support. And, we’ve lost the ability, it seems, to just listen.

Empowering Friendships

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately. There are friends and then there are friends! What do I mean by this? One friend may be the support I need in the moment. Another friend brings out the playfulness in me. Another friend shares superficial or gossipy things. Yet, the friend I need first and foremost is the friend I need to be to myself. As I cultivate self-honesty, self-care and self-love in the easy times, I can then employ these more readily in the challenging times.

For those who study Astrology, we are in a period of Mercury Retrograde for the next three weeks. The planet, Mercury, is in the sign of Gemini at this time. Gemini is all about communication, the thoughts that we think and how we relate to others–our relationships. We are asked to look at how we use our own words, how we listen to others and we are asked to be receptive to the influence of the heart on our mind.

I’ve been evaluating some of my friendships. Alright, one in particular lately. For me, a bottom-line question in any relationship is not only do I feel supported in this relationship, but am I challenged to evolve? Is this connection keeping me stuck or is it contributing to my growth as a woman in the world today? While I note my insecurities, does this friendship help me recognize my strengths?

When a friendship is reduced to gossip about other friends shared in common, when the subject matter is always about what so-and-so did, then I want out. Because if this friend is talking about other friends in this way, I can be sure that I’m also the subject of her gossip. How can I feel comfortable sharing anything of any depth with her if she doesn’t hold what I share in confidence?

What do I want in a friendship…I want to share dreams, interests, goals, projects, poetry, art, writing, ideas, fun and frolic. I want to share hopes, fears and doubts. I want to feel safe in doing so.

Yes, this is important to define! And then, who am I as a friend to others is also important to review. What type of friend am I? What I notice is that there are degrees of intimacy in friendships. With some friends, there is access to more of me. With other friends, there is a layer of intimacy beyond which we don’t go. Friendships can be lifelong or transitory. They can be sporadic like the long-distance phone-call to a childhood girlfriend who you talk to a few times a year and seem to pick up where you left off the last time. We get to define what works for us. In the most intimate ones, I desire to be seen and to see…to be supported in my growth and to have a degree of honesty that is able to recognize when there is stagnation.

As you can see from my rambling, I’m contemplating, pondering, evaluating, discerning–great words–what I want and need and can offer to another in friendship.

Mercury in Retrograde is also in proximity to Venus…so there is a tenderness to this contemplation.

Be the friend you want to have…thinking about that one.

“Truth”

I live in the mountains of northern California.  In early 2018, my sister, Kathy, moved one hour south of me at at a lower elevation.  Prior to moving, Kathy had fought cancer for several years.  She followed her own instincts in treating it.  In January, 2018, she opted for chemotherapy.

Following is an excerpt from my journal at this time.

Angels meet and greet.  Glances exchanged, hearts engaged, hands touch–sisters–when the end is near, the truth becomes clearer.  I couldn’t drive her to her first chemo appointment.  It was yesterday.  It was rescheduled from last week.  Last week, I had a good excuse–a big snowstorm.  My sister, lymphedema in her right arm–swollen beyond recognition.  A warrioress with literal wounds.  A bandage is swathed under her arm and across her chest.  This wound that hasn’t healed–the bandages need to be changed daily.

My word today is truth.  Her word is courage.

I told her that I couldn’t drive her because I couldn’t sit there beside her in the hospital as she underwent this intravenous process.  I wouldn’t have been the best support.  She thanked me for telling her my truth.  If we can’t be straight with one another now, when?

She got her hair cut short.  She asked me to knit her a hat, which I began working on immediately.  I painted her a picture of a woman surrounded by butterflies.  I think that she’s going to make it.  We need optimism.  Truth is, I don’t know very much.  The mystery is here, is in us, is around us, is us.  Nature helps.  I send her daily photos of the nature where I live to calm and center her.  To support her with beauty.

Truth is, some days I think that she’s doing better than me.  Truth is, love is a strange animal–she is always showing up at odd times, giving us opportunities.

Like that night I sat on a log beside my driveway, stargazing.  It was so peaceful, I shut my eyes.  A visiting cat sat beside me.  Out of the shrubbery beside me, a rustle. Opening my eyes, I see a creature emerging.  I can’t name it immediately.  And then,
Skunk.  A few feet apart, we stare at one another.  Neither of us felt threatened.  I watched him waddle away.  Truth is, it felt like love.  Does recognition equal love?

Truth as an expression of love.  I love you enough to tell you the truth.  Is there something that stands in the way of truth?  At least, I can try telling it to myself.  When my parents were in their declining years and the family was in chaos, I began a poem with this line:

“Truth lies in a shallow grave
while perspectives hang out everywhere…”

transformation.