Monday, October 7, 2013

Velvet Underground "Last Night I Said Goodbye To My Friend"

Here's the dream I had a few nights ago:

I was in a police academy, and we had to run a very complicated obstacle course.  There was lots of crawling through small spaces and climbing walls and ladders and narrow points of entry to the next step.  I was actually doing pretty well, meeting the challenge, making it through at good speed, except . . . there were many, many other people on the course and the congestion they created was making things complicated.

My wife had a very difficult last week.

(Let me stop here to say that I put a lot of my personal life out there/in this blog, but am also sensitive of her feelings and the feelings of the many folks that are involved in the story that follows.  So I'm keeping the details very general, hoping only to draw the larger point)

She lost a close friend.  A former co-worker.

They spoke (texted, actually) one day.  The next day, the friend was gone.  Sudden, and shocking.

As you would expect, my wife experienced a range of emotions in the following days.  Deep, bottomless-feeling sadness.  Anger.  Blame.  Helplessness.  And that weird, familiar need that we have to do something.

Her first reaction was to go to the place where she used to work.  Where her friend had continued to work.  She reconnected with mutual friends and former colleagues and shared in their grief.

But when she got home, she questioned herself.  Was that an appropriate thing to do?  To show up at the old workplace?  Was that something that would seem out of line to other folks still on the job?

My wife is an artist.  And part of her do something response was to create some art for the memorial service.  And to invite as many mutual friends and former colleagues as possible into her studio space to join her.  She spent the afternoon buzzing around the house, trying to get the studio ready, and calling, calling, calling people to get the word out.

After one particular call, she questioned herself.  The friend she had just spoken to was in a very dark place, overwhelmed with sadness.  My wife was in do something mode, very upbeat and resolute.  After hanging up the phone she said, "My God, I must've sounded completely insensitive!  I was zipping around talking about creating art, and she's on the other end of the line, a complete mess."

One more vignette.  At the memorial service, she approached someone that she expected was hit hard by the loss.  She hugged this person.  The person asked, "So how's PJ?"

"It was a complete disconnect," my wife told me later.

"Everyone is in a different place right now, processing this all at different speeds," I said.  "(This person) is probably in a very numb place right now."

Over the course of the week, my wife had felt deep, bottomless-feeling sadness, anger, blame, helplessness, and that weird, familiar need that we have to do something.

All her friends were feeling those things too.  But not at the same time.

The hardest part of grieving, sometimes, is dealing with other people's grieving.  If what they are feeling in the moment isn't the same as what you are feeling in the moment, you can appear insensitive to them, and they to you.

You can be like Lou Reed, John Cale and Mo Tucker, and write and perform a song for your friend Sterling Morrison, because that is how you process the loss.  But maybe to someone else, doing so comes of as self-serving or attention seeking or somehow inappropriate.

You can choose to ignore the feelings of others, and grieve the way you need to grieve.  Or you can moderate your feelings, in deference to others, and perhaps not process your grief in the way you need to.

I think my dream was basically telling me this.  There are obstacles in life.  You can run to meet them and even relish the challenge.

But there are other people running the course.  And ultimately, the real challenge is navigating people without bulldozing them to get to where you need to go, nor letting their progress (or lack of it) hold you back.

Hear the song on Youtube.

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