Kinda seems like this might be some sort of Biblical reflection, right? with a title of “I will be with you…”? It certainly could be (cf. Isaiah 43:2, for example…in the middle of one of my favorite passages….). But–surprise, surprise!–it’s not! It’s just another personal reflection on this experience that I have been given…to live through, to grow into, to learn about, to gain from…on a good day! And to somehow survive, by gritting my teeth, hanging on by my fingernails, shaking my fist at God, and leaning heavily on my loved ones, on a not-so-good day!
As I’ve said at other times and in other places, by far the most common reaction I’ve gotten from people when they’ve heard of my “situation” has been, “Oh, I’m so sorry!!” Initially, that felt all right to me, because I kinda felt the same way, a little sorry for myself. But as time went on, that reaction began to chafe a little, as I began the dance of moving away from Self-pity toward Acceptance…and then back again…and then away again, this time for a longer twirl on the floor with Acceptance before being inevitably yanked back to my earlier partner of Self-pity, who would then pass me over effortlessly–albeit without my consent–to his nearly-identical twin, Frustration! But somehow (by the grace of God?), while I was in the stern and ever-tightening grip of Frustration, I would again become aware of the beautiful music playing in the background…and I would return to my senses, lift up my head, look around for Acceptance, my much gentler “guide,” and focus on getting back there…and trying hard to stay there. Trying hard to ignore the quiet but insistent taps on my shoulder by those ugly twins, Self-pity and Frustration, trying hard to stay focused on the clear, strong face of Acceptance, trying hard to listen for the deep and rich sounds of the beautiful Music that had lent its rhythm to this dance….
I didn’t want to “dance” with self-pity! I was miserable when I was partnered with frustration! And I didn’t like that people said, “I’m so sorry!” as if being where I was was so bad, so undeserved, so undesirable…. I had gained so much from this experience; so many good things had resulted from it, things that I truly don’t know if I (and my family) would have learned if we hadn’t been forced to…. Was it really a “bad” thing, when so much good had come from it? Did it need to be thought of, necessarily, as “undeserved”? or might it just be one of the many possible consequences of living in this world? And while, yes, there certainly were aspects of it that were unpleasant (and not only for me but also for those around me), did the whole experience have to be seen as “undesirable”? or might the deeper and greater long-term good gained somehow make the short-term, superficial unpleasantness not only tolerable…but actually something for which to be grateful?….
“I’m so sorry!”….”Please, you don’t have to feel sorry!” I wanted to reply….
But at the same time, I knew that people were speaking first and foremost, and very consciously, out of their kindness and out of their concern and love for me, and I could only feel gratitude for that. Additionally, it seemed that their “sympathy” was also coming from our commonly held, culturally-defined, and easily understandable sense of what is “good” and “bad,” at least when it comes to our physical health and well-being. AND, in the midst of all of this, ironically, I had the opportunity to be reminded that my own inclination, when the situation was reversed, was exactly the same!! At two different times over the past couple of months, I heard from two different friends that they were each going through some sort of difficulty…and what was my first thought in response? “I’m sorry!” !! It was no surprise, of course, to realize this, but the immediacy of that response within me–it almost seems instinctive in us–in the very midst of the above-mentioned struggles I was having with people saying that to me caused me to really think….
“Do I really want to say, ‘I’m sorry!’?”
“What do I really want for my loved ones as they go through a difficult time?”
“What would I really like to hear from people, as I go through what I’m going through?”
“Does a difficult experience necessarily have to be ‘bad’? Does a painful experience necessarily have to be undesirable, and wished away as quickly as possible?”
“Might it be that what I, or one of my loved ones, truly needs to discover, or to learn, or to experience in order to move closer to having a fuller, richer, deeper life can only come about through some sort of challenge that seems ‘bad,’ or ‘undeserved,’ or ‘undesirable’??”
And so to one of my friends, instead of saying, “Bummer! Hope you feel better soon!”, I found myself saying something like, “I hope you are moving toward wellness…” And to the other, rather than telling her how sorry I was that she was going through such a difficult time, I was more inclined to remind her that she was not alone in her time of struggle, and that I would be there for her throughout, as well as when she comes out on the other side.
I guess, the more I think about it, that’s all I really want: to know I’m not alone, to feel encouraged by those who love me as I move toward wellness–whatever form that may take, to have someone say to me, “Come what may, I’m not going anywhere. I will be with you, to the end, no matter what.”