And when somebody knows you well
Well, there’s no comfort like that
And when someone needs you
Well, there’s no drug like that…
– Heather Nova, “London Rain”
These past few days have been a whirlwind of happiness and a roller coaster of unforgiving melancholy and unrelenting despondency. How do things change so quickly, in such a short period of time? How is it that a sunny day can pass so quickly to one filled with clouds, threatening rain?
Even threatening tears.
No, I’m stronger than that right now. The tears won’t fall, though I think I’d probably feel better if they did, if only because my heart is heavy with so much of everything that I can’t seem to shake. No, there are moments for tears and moments for learning and this is one for the learning…
Learning how to anticipate change and to stop doubting it in my own impatience.
Learning that I can (and should) imagine every dream coming to fruition without wondering if I can make it all on my own.
Learning to combat an inexplicable loneliness that runs deep without negating the love that surrounds me, those who are the most important, the people who fill up my life and my heart.
And now, I’m learning how to let go.
Only this time, it’s not so much a letting go of the past, or letting go of the people I’ve lost — even though those wounds open when I least expect it, even though my heart breaks for a friend who just last night lost his own grandfather and I’m assaulted by the memory of sitting in hospice with my own, even though I pass by a woman on the street who looks so much like my grandmother that I can barely breath for a moment, even though a coworker tells me about a friend whose dog passed from cancer at age 7 and my mind unwillingly flashes to Lucy while my heart grieves for both her unexpected loss and, selfishly, even now, for my own.
Those lessons I’m still learning; those lessons I think I’ll spend a lifetime learning and relearning until I finally get it through my head that loss doesn’t have to equal permanent, that goodbye can mean “I love you, so long…for now.”
No, the lesson I’m learning is less profound than that, though probably no less difficult and all the more important.
I need to let go of living other people’s lives.
I have this…I don’t know, this yearning, this need to fix things for people, to help them heal and encourage them to see the beauty in life, the opportunity that’s there waiting if they would only reach out and grab it, to see the good and potential in themselves. There’s this desire to take away whatever is holding them back — their pain, their heartache, their insecurities and doubts — and just make it better.
I do this with my own family, wanting the best for each of them, wanting everything good for my brothers who are so smart, so loving, who deserve everything, wanting everything for them, just wanting them to be happy. I do this with my friends, who are so genuine, with such good hearts, that when I see any one of them struggling, I either want to hug the hurt away or shout at them to “wake up! Look at what you have to offer, look at what the world can offer you!”
But I can’t. As much as I want to erase the hurt, I know that’s a part of life — every life — and that’s a part of living. And I know, rationally, that I can’t live someone else’s life for them.
And I know that knowing it and accepting it and letting it all be are very, very separate things.
But I’m learning…Learning to let go, learning that I can’t protect everyone, knowing that there comes a point where they have to help and heal themselves. I thought I’d learned this lesson before, many times over, but, as I recently said to my friend Sam, if this is my test, I’m afraid I’m failing…extraordinarily so.
It’s so hypocritical, even though it’s with good intent. You want to want to ease other people’s pain, yet you forget yourself in the process; you speak words of love and friendship and understanding, yet you ignore those words yourself.
It’s so easy to help others, to be there for them and, truthfully, I wouldn’t — couldn’t — have it any other way. But it really is that much harder to take your own words to heart, to apply it to yourself, to look inward at your own flaws and attempt to heal those instead.
And it’s that much harder to realize that not everyone wants your help. And while I can intuitively understand what others are really feeling, underneath their mask of words, under a facade of silence, it’s not up to me to decide when they want to speak or what they want to say.
Or even to whom they choose to share these thoughts.
It’s not up to me to decide if the help that I so desperately wish to give is welcomed or even needed. It’s not up to me to live any life but my own.
I know that I can’t stop being who I am and caring, and I wouldn’t want to. But I can step back and let the ones I love know that I’m here if and when they need it.
Maybe that’s all you can ever do.
I’m learning. I may suck at these lessons and be flunking these tests that life is throwing my way, but I can promise with all of my heart…