It’s been a funny old week for me. I am within spitting distance of completing a final piece of the jigsaw that releases me from my past – infuriatingly it’s still so close and yet so far. Over the past couple of years I’ve learned that some things just can’t be rushed. I’ve also learned that patience is indeed a virtue and that, contrary to the many messages I have been told throughout my life, I’ve realised that now I do possess it… in bucket loads! True, I still might kick and sulk a little when I’m required to demonstrate that particular skill – but there is no question. I can do it, and when necessary, it’s something that I’ve found can be exceptionally useful. Funny, don’t you think, since there are many times I can remember when I couldn’t possibly have imagined the value of patience!
And this is what brings me on to the theme I’d like to explore today. That is the one of finding hidden gifts when they’re not expected. The subject of expecting one thing and receiving something else. The topic of judging a book by its’ cover – and often picking up the wrong novel as a result!
What am I talking about? Well, I’m talking about what happens when we re-examine our own judgment and open up to the idea of possibilities that perhaps didn’t exist before. I’m talking about those exquisite moments when we think everything’s going wrong, but then all of a sudden it turns out that it was all for the best. The times when, despite careful planning or judgments, things just don’t go our way and we fear that we are doomed. Those same times when contrary to what we thought was good for us, there was an even better solution just sitting there waiting in the wings.
I’ve been discussing this subject with friends this week. Friends who, by the way, I would never have had the opportunity to meet or make a connection with while I was married. Friends who are quirky and colourful. Friends who could possibly be described as a bit odd-ball. Friends who are genuine, open, honest and – most importantly – are comfortable in their own skin, and comfortable with me as well.
This week one of those precious friends took time out to drive me for three hours so that I could visit an old friend I hadn’t seen for many years. Sometimes it just happens that way. You have a close bond with someone and then somehow, for no apparent reason, you drift out of each other’s lives. Sometimes you never see that person again. Other times you may be lucky enough to pick up with them again further down the road. And if you’re really lucky, you find that bond is still there as if you only saw each other yesterday. Well, that’s what happened with this particular friend of mine last week. This was a friend I used to work with years ago. Early on, she and I became firm friends and loved sharing each other’s company both in and outside of work. It must be said that neither of us have had what could be called a straightforward life. We both understand what it means to overcome a number of life’s challenges and how it feels to be seen as someone ‘different’… as a result there was rarely a subject of conversation that was taboo. We could be equally happy exploring life philosophies as creasing up in fits of giggles over something utterly ridiculous – much to the amusement of those around us!
This friend of mine, I’ll call her Jane, has recently been diagnosed with a particularly nasty strain of cancer. I knew I just had to go and see her, even though nearly a decade had passed since we last saw each other. Arriving at her house – at the end of a particularly amusing and erratic car journey – it was wonderful to see her again after so many years. Smiling and giggling like teenagers, the friendly banter started almost immediately and the years melted away.
She’s feisty, strong, direct, and also incredibly brave. She always has been. But to see her last week, in the grip of a terrible disease that is slowly claiming her life, in my eyes she became the most beautiful I’ve ever seen her before. I honestly don’t know what I was expecting. I suppose that, since the death of my own mother from cancer, I was bracing myself for the worst. I suppose I was expecting to find someone who was either carrying on as if nothing was happening, or who was so sick that we wouldn’t be able to talk. I don’t know. But I do know that what I found was something that has touched me deeply and made me even more grateful that my life has been filled with so many wonderful people.
Facing The Truth
“I’m dying you know, Melanie” she said, fixing me straight in the eyes without a hint of distress “this cancer, it’s killing me. I’m going to die. But it’s ok. I’ve made peace, and I’m ok with it” Jane is one of the only people who call me by my full name, and as she addressed me I felt an incredible wave of love and compassion flowing between us. There was no hiding to be done. No judgments to be made. No good, no bad – just the truth. And, harsh though the truth may be, at the same time it was liberating. There was no pretense. Nothing to explain. And no room for embarrassment. Nothing but love, understanding and acceptance. Beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.
It’s very similar to the feeling I have when I hear other people sharing their experiences with sociopaths or any other kind of abusive relationship. When they finally say “yes, it happened to me as well” or “I am broken inside, but I know I’ll get better” or “I have to break free, I just haven’t yet found the right way to do it”. Just like my friend Jane, these are all statements of the truth – and many of them are statements that most people wouldn’t imagine could apply to the people saying or writing the words. People who are expected to be strong. People who are judged to be clever and successful. People who, as many thoughtless critics are quick to say “should have known better” when the truth comes out. People like you and me, who look perfectly normal on the outside, but who share a common bond of suffering that I believe ultimately allows us to become more understanding, complete and whole as human beings. It’s a bond that allows us to say “yes, I’ve been there seen it and got the T-shirt – and you know what? I made it. So come on, let me help you to make it as well”
And I don’t know about you, but for me I regard that as an astonishingly valuable gift. If I can reach out and give something to another human being… If I can give even a glimmer of hope to someone who is suffering… If I can make contact with just one other person and help them in some way… well, then all the rubbish times have been worth it. OK, at the time it all may have hurt like hell, and there is absolutely no way I could have said that what was happening to me was a gift. No way at all… In fact I’d probably have punched anyone who might have dared to put that idea forward! But now, now that I look back at where I was and who I was, and compare it with my life today… well, I can honestly hold my hand to my heart and be grateful for the gifts that have been given to me. This is what I mean by judging a book by its cover. My experiences with my ex, and also my difficult childhood have all brought me a barrow-load of pain and suffering. But at the same time, they’ve made me who I am, and brought me in contact with a wealth of wonderful people – friends and colleagues as well as audiences who seem to identify with what I have to say.
Could I have done that if I hadn’t been given the opportunity to grow and develop through difficult times? Well, I don’t know. It would be great to think that I could have become the ‘me’ of today without all that rubbish… but I have a sneaky suspicion that I was born one of those stubborn students who need to have lessons spelled out loud and clear… so perhaps not eh?
And as for Jane, well, last week she gave me the greatest gift of all. She showed me that it’s ok. That it is indeed possible to face death squarely and bravely, with peace and courage. And I am deeply grateful that she’s my friend and that she’s back in my life – however long that might be. As I said to her when I left, “I’ll be back you know, because I know where you live!” And as she said to me in return “I’ll always be with you, wherever you are”
I’ve discovered that really, at the end of it all, love and friendship are the only things that matter. These are the things that hold true. Everything else is just a passing phase.
Thank you and with love and blessings to all my friends here on Lovefraud.