A few days ago I was told that a family friend had passed away. This family friend was someone that I appreciated in my life when I was young but I had not seen her for years. I had assumed that she was living her life, only to discover that she had been in a nursing home these past few years. No one told me.
I felt like a terrible person for not knowing that she was in a nursing home and for not seeing her these past few years. I immediately felt regret for not sharing with her how much I appreciated her in my life when I was a teen. But honestly, I may have shared my appreciation with her (because that is something I would normally do) but I just don’t remember. I could say so much about what I loved and valued about my friend and how sad I am that she has passed away, but I want to share with you what I have learned through this experience.
Did you notice that my first reaction to not staying connected to my friend was to feel like a terrible person?
After sitting in sadness on hearing of her passing and swimming in shame and guilt for not staying connected with her, I realized something that did not occur to me until a few days later. “Why had we not stayed connected with each other?” I tend to take more than my share of responsibility for situations (I am constantly working on that) and it took me days to shift from “I’m a terrible person and why didn’t I” to “why didn’t we” stay connected with one another. Upon more reflection, I’m sure that it had nothing to do with anything negative about either one of us.
But it upset me when I realized how quickly I felt like a terrible person and felt my shame. Oh, shame, it really can derail me. I sometimes forget (when life is going well) how fragile we are in life. I know in my heart that I am not a terrible person. And I will never know why my friend and I did not stay in touch with one another. I can guess a hundred reasons why but the truth is that they all would be assumptions that can never be confirmed. However, I will always feel regret we did not stay in touch with one another.
Another thing that I realized was that during my struggle to understand why we did not stay connected, I felt nothing but compassion and understanding for her, even as I reflected on some of the challenges that she had in life that I’m sure affected her relationships, just like we all do. And then I realized something more,
I struggle to extend that compassion and understanding
And I think I know “partly” why that is; it has to do with not being truly seen, loved and accepted by some people from my past in my life.
And so I worried that she thought I was a terrible person.
I don’t believe that she did, but it was my fear. And I think she would be upset that I even considered such a thought.
But when people don’t see me, when they impose whatever it might be on me that is not me, it hurts and then I don’t feel seen for who I am, or at least what I always strive to be. I think that at times, I am left feeling or seeing myself through the eyes of other people. I am going to write more about this in my next blog post because I think all of us want to be seen and loved for who we are, flaws and all.
But let me end with this thought. In my attempt toward self-healing and nurturing, I was doing an online yoga class this morning in my home. At the end of the class, the yoga teacher suggested that we thank ourselves for doing the class. This thought seemed odd to me, “thank myself?” so I did, and it felt good.
Then I did a bit of meditation, and I meditated with this affirmation:
“As I open the door to my own self-love, I attract more and more loving tenderness to me.”
And then it hit me, I thanked myself for doing the yoga class, but I have never, ever said to myself “I love you Pam.” That’s silly, I told myself. But I did it anyway. It felt very uncomfortable, and then I cried– a compassionate, loving cry.
One more thing…..I really would love for you to share your thoughts with me. I know it is not easy to do! Believe me, I know, it took me a very long time to work up the courage to begin blogging! But I want to get to know you! When you feel ready, please feel free to share your thoughts with me in the comment section. Thanks for reading!
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Details of the any stories told in my any of my blogs have been changed to protect the identity of people that I work with in therapy.
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