Tuesday, December 14, 2010

grown-up words

I am maybe fortunate in that I have very very few people, if any, demanding that I be who I used to be, which is one of the perks of being a relative loner and a great ignorer of opinions. I have a feeling my parents would like me to be doing things differently, but that is a much more long-standing issue than Just Grief. I know I have a few friends who would love to see me happier, who would very very much like to hang out and spend time with me - ANY time with me, and who respectfully and quietly wait. I definitely have a few people who are very uncomfortable around me, but try to pretend they aren't. I have a couple of new not-yet-friends who sometimes say they are stunned I am still standing, even now, and who listen to me ramble on if I feel like rambling, or just allow me to shovel out their barns or feed their cows.

I have at least one friend  from long ago who dislikes and disapproves of the way I am handling life. She was incredible in the first few weeks, then disappeared for months, only to call on the actual anniversary date to scold me for not being a better friend to her. I am thankful that when we did talk, she used incredible grown-up skills, showed beautiful compassion and understanding, and was all-around lovely. We aren't really friends anymore. We haven't said it, we didn't say it, but I have the sense that she respects my truth and my choices, even though she thoroughly disagrees, and wants it to be different. She wants a different me, and she can't have it. It's weird, because randomly thinking about who I would want at my "deathbed," I thought of her. Even though we aren't actively friends, and hadn't been for a few years before this Event, either. Something about someone who can use grown-up words, though, makes me like them forever, even when our paths divulge and we disappoint each other in pretty major ways.

A couple of years ago, I ghostwrote a couples counseling workbook. One of the best things I got out of the whole experience was language for desire and disappointment:

It is okay to want something from a friend or love that they are not currently giving. It is okay to express your grief about said shortfall or disappointment. It is okay to ask them if they would be willing to give what you are asking. However. If they are not willing, or simply cannot give you what you are asking, it is not okay to shame, harass, manipulate, judge, correct, and/or constantly try to change that person into the person you want them to be. If they can give what you ask, great. If they can't, and that disappointment is more than you can bear, bow out gracefully and Leave.

I know I used to have such skills; I used to be able to tolerate such discussions. Matt and I were doing awesome with this stuff. We were kicking love butt with our discussions of disappointment and needs. It was easy, and fun, and when it wasn't, we were massively brave anyway. The current me will get the heck out of such discussions quite quickly these days; I will wiggle out quite uncomfortably. It is different trying to be a grown-up with someone I don't know and trust as I do matt.  But I can still imagine what a grown-up set of skills might be. If I ever have need of them again.  

On other peoples' behalf, though, I am all about respectful and truthful communication. When I hear of someone being less-than-respectful to one one my widow people, I want to (aggressively, protectively) hand that person a little prompt card, suggesting a wee better way of communicating their needs...

"The reality of your life right now is painful/overwhelming/weird/boring/not fun and I am just not digging it.  Can you please go back to the life I enjoyed more? Can you please experiment with subject matter I find more interesting? Can you please change the way you are responding to this whole thing? No? Well then I will be self-responsible AND respectful enough to bow out gracefully at this time. Self-responsible, in that I will not continue something that is not feeding me, and respectful in that I honor your path even as it takes you away from me. "

That would be so cool ~ for those people I know who have un-graceful people they know, making judgments and demands on their lives. Not exactly fair that I would expect direct communication in others but not be able to tolerate receiving it myself, but there you go. You can't take the counselor out of me, apparently. I want other people to have the skills, I want the people I know to hear respectful, truthful, honest things. I just don't currently want anyone using those skills on me.


  1. Hmmmmm. What brought this on, I wonder.

    Really we should have a whole handful of widow cards -as freshwidow says- "Really, pull one today." Never dug that whole SorryforhoggingthechocolateI'mawidow thing, my reality is more SorryIburstintotearswhenyousaidhellointhegrocerystorebutthat'sjustthewayitistodayI'mawidow. Or something.
    Still you are cracking me up with your Just Grief, and Kicking Love Butt, and also I have perhaps never heard a more tender phrase describing love than Massively Brave.
    And it sounds like you DO actually want people using those skills;you respect your friend for having them even if you are moving apart and can't really be friends any more, or at least now. And having those skills does beat hell out of the alternative Snap out of it!
    In my situation, I did think it was audacious of her to insinuate that this foolishness has gone on quite long enough. And it was awkward to not be able to explain why it is taking so long, and how a whole and complete person can be so utterly broken and lonely when I would never have even said I "needed" him when he was here. (Just loved him is all.) But also alarming for me to recognize that not only do I not see light at the end of the tunnel, I can't even remember what light used to look like or why I would want it. And then I get an image of all of us crawling out of the muddy hole at some later point squeaking, blinking into the sunlight, and too pale, skinless, and fragile to survive in this world.
    love, c.

  2. There really is nothing like shovelling shit for an hour or so to clear the mind!

    I know that I have been a very bad friend over the last two and bit years - not answering letters, emails and phonecalls is a speciality of mine. Even now I find myself pulling back from friends who are going through their own emotional turmoils for various reasons. I am not proud of myself for that, but for most of that time there just wasn't space in my head to take on someone else's heartache as well. It is possibly a sign that I am really starting to find myself again that I can now handle other people's emotions to a certain extent without having to zone out after a few minutes - either that or scream.
    The result of that selfishness (and I don't use the term in any sort of bad sense - just what it is) is that some friends have moved on. I am sort of cool with that. We may come back together again or we may not, but I certainly don't blame them for moving away from someone who has essentially been up her own arse for 28 months!

  3. oh my god, J - you made me laugh til I nearly fell off the chair. Up one's own arse, for sure.

    C - earlier on, I wanted to wear a button that said, "please excuse my appearance. My husband just died suddenly, and I am not myself." I would wear one now, but I don't want anyone asking me about it, you know, like a button that says "I'm shriner! Ask me how you can be one too!" And, I wonder if physical calamities engender so much judgment from others as widowhood does. I don't know, maybe they do, but it does seems that nothing brings out the unsolicited advice, judgment, I-know-what-is-good-for-you more than early death. I wish these folks could realize that in advising us, they are really just coping in their own heads, imaginarily telling themselves what they would do, if this happened to them. Know what I mean?

  4. I'm still hoping people won't notice that, for me, bathing is just too much trouble. What's the use? No one's in close enough proximity to smell me, and as for my hair, that's what hats are for. Besides, one just gets dirty again. But I like the button idea.
    Probably more effective in this realm than the antidepressants, which seem to have no affect on my desire to wash and change clothes. Not a good sign.
    Up my own arse, indeed, J. Maybe it's good we think that's funny, anyway, although far, far too accurate.

  5. I was thinking of said button for when I tried to get groceries or something, and stood there shell-shocked, shaking, and unable to figure out how to push the button on the debit card scan thing, or bolted and ran when the cashier asked, "did you find everything?"