Sometimes when people behave extremely well or extremely poorly it can be a glossy 3D example presented on a gorgeous silver platter of how to be or to never be.
Here are a few samples of my favourite reactions and behaviors from my people. I hope to always remember these – to somehow be all of this to others in those big life moments.
The vault My favourite neighbour across the street noticed my husband’s car had been gone for over a month asked me where he was. I whispered painfully that we were having troubles and that for now it was private. Many weeks later it was clear to me that she had never even confided in her own husband. That level of confidence was a gift- a silly indulgence now in retrospect – but a safe, warm place at the time.
The simple beauty of silence One evening at dinner with my best friend, I took the moment of silence between funny anecdotes to throw my sadness her way. I told her quietly and simply,- and for a storyteller, simply is rare- “we are separated”. She, who would have been entitled to all kinds of details as the BFF is, asked nothing. She cried softly for me and said she was sorry.
The funny girl Another very close friend told me I should get some new underwear, presumably because I was going to start dating momentarily. This was her injection of humour in dangerous times and I loved her for it .
The person beside you at the dinner party flattery At a large dinner party, I was seated beside a woman I had just met and loved immediately- wise, funny, tender and human. We started talking about dogs and I told her I had separated within the last year and that I felt we needed a dog now. She said don’t get a male dog- and I said “don’t worry the next male who comes into my home will not be on all fours” She said to me -‘ you are beautiful. Nobody leaves you, you must have done the leaving’. Beautiful people are left and beautiful people leave but the way she said this made me soar. Sometimes the kindness of strangers has power.
The dramatic delayed response A childhood friend was so stunned that she did not fully react until the next day when she called me crying hysterically. As I was out- her 4 minutes as a wounded animal was left on my answering machine. It was touching, heartbreaking and, I am a bit wicked,but a little funny too. I could not make out a single word from the english language above her wailing. It was exaggerated and extreme but it was her way and heartfelt and therefore the right way.
Obscene generosity I remember my friend who had thyroid cancer said she could handle anything but the sight of casseroles at the front door. For her, that represented a weakness, a neediness and a sign of pity. For me, a reluctant cook of three squares, nothing spells love like a casserole at the door. My very dear friend brought me a casserole every week for a year. Never asked permission. Would not accept payment. This is the same friend who dropped off a fat envelope of crisp twenties- for emergency treats in tough times (not to be used for heat and light).
More obscene giving The day I refer to as The Day the Piano Fell on My Head (you’ve seen it in the cartoons and you know those moments- when no amount of fooling yourself will protect you from the obvious), I emailed my younger brother, a man truly busier than God (although you would not know it from him- never complains, is steady, right on target with what matters) “please help me”. He was at my side in two hours and refused to leave until I did not need him. He gave his time unselfishly, his energy, his understanding and remarkably, as we yield from an extremely opinionated Scottish clan, never his judgement. My love and admiration for him grew exponentially as I saw of what he was truly made.
The provoker and the absent minded My mom over and over said in those early days”you are going to be just fine” and I kept protesting “I don’t want to be just fine”. She knew how to pull the feisty-ness out of me. My father, who is in the mid to late stages of dementia ( a gift here only as he never saw my suffering and could not grasp the loss) has nonetheless had so many clear comments he seems almost angel like.
The wise My sister in law is one of the steadiest, kindest people I have ever met. She is also incredibly wise. She said “People often confuse sentimentality with love. ” She went on to say that without respect there is no love. This made everything clear to me. We can be attached to an idea of family and love and forget that we are not living the way we should be. Or deserve to be.
Devils My older brother, with a long history of soothing women in their hour of need-if perhaps for his own devilish interests- spoke to me over the phone for hours at a time, telling me to stay up late, remember I was beautiful and alive, laugh and drink too much with close friends, tried to force trips on me that he could not afford and showed me the clearest sense of what life is, that I felt I was meeting him for the first time.
Angels My children have been my greatest source of inspiration. Their belief in me, in faeries and magic, in goodness and hope , prevented me from falling down. I needed to hold myself up and them as well and the cycle fed constantly off of itself.
In all the difficulty of the early days, there was pervasive giddiness- as though I was free at last and that the worst was over. The way good people reacted and saw me in this time helped me to stay straight and do my best.