Trust in me

Adapt

Thanks to Karen at YSM|ink, I’ve been thinking about trust.

Such a big thing, trust. Such high stakes. Get it wrong, and depending on who you’re dealing with, it could cost you your life. For me, with the expection of one person, the stakes have not been that high, but the risk of being hurt is present with every single person I encounter, and most people I know have turned out not to be worthy of my trust. I don’t think that’s unusual. Humans are unreliable. What we do best is adapt, so nothing for any of us is the same all the time, including our willingness to betray someone else’s trust if it suits us to do so.

In this life, the only two things that are always true are:

  1. Nothing stays the same. This too shall pass.
  2. Everything and everyone ends sooner or later.

Other than that, it’s all up for grabs. What I finally came up with this morning, laying in bed opening to my heart’s reaction to the idea, is that trust is just another expectation, really, and so not something I invest emotional capital in anymore, and that’s okay cuz I was never very good at it to begin with.

Not that surprising, I don’t think, for someone whose first experience of life was loss. Being taken from my mother seconds after birth did not set me up for a lifetime of trust. I have no idea how my baby brain and heart processed those first few weeks of life, but I’m sure trust in anything or anyone was not in the mix. It never got much better, really.

I was trying to think this morning of a single person in my life who had not betrayed my trust and I couldn’t come up with anyone until I thought of my grandmother – my Nana – who I really don’t believe ever let me down. That’s it, though, she’s the only one. Family members…friends…co-workers…nope…not a single person in the parade of folks passing through my 57 years of life has proven worthy of my trust.

Some have been flaming, banner in the sky, heart-deadening betrayals, others much smaller, but all have done damage. Some years ago, one quite recently. Some of the people I counted on the most. Some surprised me, others didn’t. They all hurt, though, and changed me in some way.

So trust is not useful to me. Trust is an expectation that someone won’t hurt me and that’s just setting myself up for disappointment, like all other expectations, because it’s unlikely to ever be true. That’s just not the way human beings are. We think of ourselves first, and ultimately, if it comes down to me or you, I’m going to choose me. That’s simply human nature and to expect something different, to trust that someone is not going to hurt you at some point just isn’t realistic.

I don’t ever feel safe with people. With the exception of my Nana, I don’t think I ever have. Not completely. I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop my whole life. But here’s the surprising thing I realized this morning:

I think that’s a good thing.

Does that surprise you? It surprised me this morning as that was not at all what I thought I was thinking or feeling. Hmm…

I have allowed people to hurt me and that’s too bad. I was naive and just so desperate for human connection and validation that I left myself open to abuse. I put my heart in other people’s hands and trusted them not to break it as if it were their own, rather than learning to trust myself and to take care of myself; to stand on my own. It took me a long time to figure out that was a bad idea, and that’s too bad, but I forgive myself for my naivete. I didn’t know better.

Now I do.

The trick is to keep my heart open to connection with other people without expectation that they won’t hurt me. I don’t want to seal myself off from the world because it’s scary and I don’t feel safe. I’ve never felt safe, and yet here I am. I’ve survived being hurt – repeatedly – and lived to tell the tale.

And I will continue to. People will continue to hurt me and I’ll contine to be okay in spite of it. I trust myself. I trust my ability to survive. I trust my ability to adapt and keep going no matter what happens. I don’t like pain, and I’m not looking for people to hurt me, any more than I’m expecting them not to hurt me. I like people and I will continue to be the best friend I can, the best daughter I can, the best me I can be.

Beyond that, no expectations other than life – and people – will be as they should be. We are each here to walk our own way, to learn and to grow. Throw karma into the mix and everything’s on shifting ground. I can be scared and afraid to move, or I can be scared and just keep going, trusting in my ability to adaptThere is no such thing as safety. There is only this life, and taking the risk to live it as fully as possible.

It’s the only way.

Dispatch from the other side

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I struggle a lot with my expectations of people. I’ve written about it here before. It’s an ongoing thing; one of the lessons I’ve grappled with since I was very young.

When I was young and people let me down, I assumed it was my fault. I thought there was something about me – I didn’t know what it was – that alienated people and I accepted that as fact. I grew up believing I was unlovable. Again, I didn’t really know why, but I took my cues from the way important people treated me – my mother, other adults, kids, and the reality that my birthmother gave me away. That seemed like proof-positive to me that I was indeed, unlovable, certainly unwanted.

I felt that way well into my 40s. Less so, perhaps, but when people treated me badly or let me down I just chalked it up to me being hard to love. I’ve lost enough friends to populate a small town. It got so it wasn’t really even a surprise anymore, just another loss. My lot in life.

My fault.

Three years of therapy and 10 years on some powerful drugs went a long way to convince me otherwise, and alleviated the depression that went along with those thoughts and feelings. I’m perhaps not the easiest person to love, but I’m not unlovable, either. No one is.

We are all worthy of love.

So now I realize that it’s not just me, but my expectations are still too high. I keep getting tripped up by them, even though I know better. Because people let each other down. That’s just what happens. As the young, mostly unhelpful, but very nice policewoman said to me last weekend:

Most people really only think about themselves.

She’s right. I would like that not to be true – about myself and other people – but I think that’s really it. It isn’t so much that we don’t care about other people – we do. In theory, and sometimes even in practice. It’s just that for the most part – for whatever reason – we don’t go out of our way for others, even people who matter to us.

Mostly.

I can think of a couple of situations in my life in which someone rose to the occasion for me and really tried to make a difference. I’d like to think I’ve done the same for others a few times, at least.

Mostly, though, we just plod along, and try to get through on our own as best we can. At least, that’s been my experience. I can think of quite literally hundreds of situations over the years in which people have let me down so completely that the thud reverberated for weeks in me. It goes the other way, too. I can think of times I let people down, especially when I was deep in the abyss of depression. No one’s perfect, and when it comes right down to it, we are all fundamentally alone.

It’s become increasingly clear to me over the years that being disappointed really has nothing to do with my friends, or co-workers or people in general; it’s all about my expectation that I should matter to anyone other than myself.

That’s the mistake I keep making. And here’s why:

I’m a people-pleaser. Always have been because of the way I grew up, mentioned above – always trying to figure out how to get people to like me/love me. Scanning every word, every movement, every expression for a hint at how to give them what they want so that maybe they’ll like me. A chameleon, changing shape and color to be pleasing to the person I was trying to connect with.

I was astonished as an adult to realize that other people don’t do that, for the most part. Some do, most don’t. No one cares what I want or need, at least not to the extent I’d like them to, even people I’m close to. They’re not trying to please me in the same way that I’m killing myself for them. While I’m knocking myself out to figure out just the right birthday or Christmas gift, or rushing to answer an email or get a card out to someone for an occasion, or worrying myself sick over why I’m not hearing from someone for a while, they’re just getting on with whatever. Not thinking about me, not worrying about me, even if they care about me. They put themselves first.

Imagine that.

I alienate people cuz I expect more than that.  I really think it’s just that simple. I kill friendships by caring too much, trying too hard. I wear people out, and I must have seemed very needy until I finally wised up. Now I think I’ve gone in the other direction, actually.

I’ve been thinking about the metaphor of the snow “wall” in my driveway (I love me a good metaphor!) and I think that’s what it represents to me – the ways in which I’m cut off from other people, mostly through my own choices and life circumstances in the last few years, but not entirely. A few people in my life have had a part in erecting that wall from their side.

Whatever.

I’m doing better at pleasing myself and worrying less about pleasing others, except when it pleases me to please someone I care about. I still get caught up in expectations, and I still get let down when I least expect it, but that’s probably just the way it’s always going to be. That’s just who I am. An idealist. And that’s what being vulnerable is all about, isn’t it? Keeping our hearts open is risky, cuz we can be hurt, but it’s also the only way to connect and heal the rifts caused by life.

It’s the only way to melt the wall. 

It won’t happen quickly, but it will happen. Life goes on. This too shall pass. We’re all just doing the best we can, including me. What’s called for is forgiveness; not blame, not anger, not shame or retribution. Just forgiveness for our broken humanness.

As with everything else, at least for me, it’s a work in progress.

Growing pain

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I had a revelation about my personality last night, thanks to the pretty little girl above, Clare. Well, not exactly because of her; it was really more her claws. Her needle-sharp, very long claws.

She sets up camp on my legs in the evening when I’m watching TV. I have my feet up on an ottoman, and that provides her with the perfect platform. This is fine with me. Grace is not often snuggly, so Clare’s propensity to contact is and has always been welcome. She’s a “person” cat. She is either sitting with (or on) me or mom if we are stationary. She’s warm, and silky soft and she purrs so loudly I’m sure the neighbors can hear her. She’s my baby and I adore her.

Less welcome are her claws, which she uses to “knead” my legs when she’s getting settled. A common enough cat thing – every cat I’ve had it has done it, though Clare is the first cat I’ve had that does it on me. It hurts. Really. I try to encourage her gently not to use her claws, and sometimes when I say “soft paws,” she pulls her claws in and then no worries. But that happens rarely; mostly it’s full-claw massage/torture.

Did I mention it hurts? Not a big thing, but not a small thing, either. I don’t make her get down because I love having her sit with me. But it hurts, and leaves marks. I just endure it. I’m clear about why I allow it to happen: because I love that she wants to sit with me. So the pain is worth it.

The revelation I had was about how I allow people to hurt me, and for the same reason. I like to have friends. So, for much of my life, to my mind, that was the price of admission. If you’re going to have people in your life, you’re going to get hurt. Hopefully not a lot, and not seriously, but sooner or later it will happen. Right?

Yes, sometimes. The problem is when it happens all the time, and the relationship is not worth the pain. I’m getting better at recognizing those relationships, and ending them or making an attempt to change the dynamic by letting the person know what’s bothering me. In recent years, I’ve also developed a Spidey-sense about the kind of person who is likely to treat me as less than I deserve and I avoid those relationships from the start. So that’s all good.

My revelation was about the past:

I just wanted people to like me, and I thought if I made it hard for them by complaining about how they treated me, they would leave me.

Easy, right? Duh. I mean really: DUH. Abandonment. Major button for me – for lots of people. Not weakness. Not a character flaw or moral failing.

Here’s what amazes me most about that revelation: I was in therapy for 3 years, and I don’t remember ever understanding that part of me so clearly or in those terms. It must have come up, but I didn’t really get it, I guess. I certainly didn’t see that it was so simple. To me, now, having that understanding seems like a big piece of the puzzle that is me fell into place.

It is now, and has always been, my choice. Just as putting up with the way my mother treated me when I was younger and occasionally treats me now – I choose to overlook it and do the right thing by her because I can. I wouldn’t allow a friend to treat me that way, but she’s my mother, so she gets a pass. She struggles with her own demons – it’s not about me. That is something I got from therapy. I’m clear about that. So I’m strong enough now and sure enough about who I am that I can look past the hurt and just get on with it.

I’ve been patting myself on the back this morning over what I perceive as growth and maturity and insight – all those wonderful “adult” words. Such a nice thing – out of the blue. Not even something I was thinking or puzzling about particularly. I love it when that happens!

Do we ever get all the answers? Figure it all out? When we die, does someone hand us the answer key to the test? I certainly hope so.

Seems only fair.

My wild, messy heart

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I’ve been thinking a lot about connection and belonging, since listening to this TED talk by Brene Brown a few days ago. Belonging is not something I’m particularly good at, proven over and over throughout my life. I almost always feel more comfortable on my own. I was an only child, so entertaining and comforting myself were skills I learned early on.

I also learned early on that when you are connected to people, family especially, their problems are your problems and you can get caught up in the chaos forever. I discovered young, too, that if people think there’s something different about you or if they think you may need help, they will shy away. Having spent much of my life experiencing major depressive episodes 2 or 3 times a year, I found it was best to have fewer connections so that I could slip in and out of my life as necessary without losing too much each time. So, while friendly, I kept most people at arm’s length.

Depression made belonging to a group or club difficult, too, as there were times I couldn’t go to meetings or complete an assigned task on time. I usually ended up quitting fairly quickly, even if I enjoyed the people and the club, and finally I just stopped joining things. Ditto friends and lovers. Hard to maintain a relationship when you can’t be counted on to be the same person everyday.

Now my mother consumes my time, not depression, but the effect is the same. I have very few connections now. The ones I have are solid, but not usually a part of my daily life. They are busy people, too, and it’s hard to keep in touch or get together. That will probably not always be true, especially for me after my mother is gone, so those connections will remain and get stronger, I’m sure, and for that I’m grateful.

But then the question becomes where will I belong? Really the only group I’ve ever felt fully a part of is my family – my mom, dad, and grandma. For better or worse, I belonged to those people. I belong with my mom, now, just the two of us left. I know that’s where I’m supposed to be and that she is my “home.” Our family was not always a refuge for me, but it was always where I knew who and how to be and that I was loved. They took care of me and I took care of them, and continue to take care of my mom, and that’s what connection and belonging is all about.

Commitment. That’s really what it boils down to. Shared commitment to each other. Shared interests, common viewpoints, similar, if not completely shared, goals. I see you, you see me, we are the same. In order to have that kind of connection, you have to be clear about who you are and what you want, and you have to be willing and able to show that to others.

Vulnerability.

For me, and for most people, that’s a very scary word. Without it, though, you can’t really connect with another person, and you can’t really belong. At least, not authentically. If you can’t let people see the real you, then that connection doesn’t really have much meaning and it will break fairly easily. That’s what I’ve experienced most of my life, as I was mostly hiding, not living fully, and not connecting fully – or at all – in most cases.

That’s not me now, though, so the question becomes where do I find “my people?” After the last of my family is gone – my mother – where will I belong?

I think Ms. Brown has the answer in the quote above:

True belonging is not something we achieve, accomplish, or negotiate with others – it’s something we carry in our hearts.

I belong to me, first and foremost. I belong to the universe and the stars, the Earth, and the human race. I belong to my ancestors, and to my family as long as they live in my memory. I belong to my friends – the people I love and the people who love me – and to all the people I don’t know personally who have helped me on my path.

I know and love who I am – messy heart – and all, and I’m not hiding anymore. Here I am, all of me, ready to rejoin the world, life.

I belong.

How do you mend a broken heart?

This has been a pretty intense week. All about life and death, really, nothing less.

On Monday my mom had an episode of some kind – I’m not sure if it was a stroke or a seizure – and she fainted. She was out cold for 2-3 minutes. She stopped breathing twice, and for several seconds I thought she was dead. She woke up, though, and over the course of that day came fully back to herself, though she felt a little like she had been hit by a truck. By Tuesday evening, though, you would never know it had happened.

On Wednesday I went to have an echocardiogram, cuz when I was at the doc for a physical last week she thought she heard a murmur, and was concerned that maybe I have a partially blocked artery. I had high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and in the past 2 years or so I’ve managed to control both with exercise and diet, and bring those numbers down. So I thought I was in pretty good shape, and honestly, I’m not that worried about something that’s going to kill me in 30 years. Cancer is what concerns me. I’ve had 2 middle-aged friends die in the past 2 weeks from cancer, not heart disease. I don’t know anyone who has died from heart disease, in fact; everyone I know died from cancer.

Laying there listening to the blood whoosh through my heart was sobering, though. I had a psychic tell me a long time ago that I had a broken heart; that’s what I was thinking about while the friendly young women was moving the sensor around my chest. Could there really be something wrong? Is my heart broken? I’m only 56. How could I be having heart trouble? I don’t have the results of the test yet, but I’m hopeful that it was nothing and that I’m as healthy as I think I am.

Then yesterday, I got word via Facebook that a friend who has been battling cancer for a few years had taken a turn for the worse and the doctors had sent her home to die. She was only 50, a recent grandmother, a bright spot in our little community – just a beautiful soul. Last night she died, with her very large family around her, and I just feel so bad about that. I will miss her, even though I didn’t know her very well. She always made me smile.

So near-death, worrying about death, and actual death in the space of 5 days. My head is spinning a little and my heart is breaking (figuratively) for Leslie and her family and friends. Through it all I’ve really been trying to just take it all in, let it be, and then let it go. So much sadness and loss in the last 2 weeks; but life goes on. My mom will die, people I care about will die, and I will die. That’s the reality of this Life, and there’s no getting around it.

Don’t take a minute for granted.

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Leslie Anne Miller Knoop 1967-2018

Rest in peace.

Loud and clear

The universe seems determined to show me all the ways in which I don’t measure up this week. There are a lot of them, and I’m painfully aware of them all, but I try to look past them and just do the best I can with what I’ve got. This week, however, I keep running into those walls at every turn and I’m a little bruised.

Those obstacles are people-related, mostly, with a few work failures thrown in. As I said, nothing I’m not aware of, and if you know me, chances are that you’re aware of them, too. The work troubles are new, the people thing, not new at all. I’ve tripped over myself coming and going over that one all the time, all my life.

I don’t know why. I like people, and I’m friendly. It seems to be that like some snakes or toads that have markings to let you know they’re dangerous, I send out some kind of signal that folks pick up sooner or later that lets them know that I’m different in some way. With two notable exceptions, I have trouble keeping friends, and consequently, I’m lonely and feel left out sometimes.

It’s something I’ve come to terms with for the most part, though, and luckily I enjoy my own company. Most of the things I like to do are solitary pursuits, so not a big deal most of the time. Every now and again, though, I hit that wall hard and this week I’ve run into it multiple times.

As for work, I seem to have outlived my skills. I was not wildly talented at what I do to begin with and now 25 years later, the expectations have outpaced my creative ability and my skills in some cases. The young people who run things now have no patience and no respect for experience; they have their own ideas about how things should look and be done, and they’re not interested at all in what I think. I think that’s probably as it should be, but it’s hard to take being treated as if you have no value after working so hard at something for so long.

So that’s really what it comes down to – being treated as if I have no value. I tell myself over and over that I am fine, doing the best I can, and that I’m worthwhile. The message I get over and over from other people in most areas of my life repeatedly, however, is different. This week that message has been particularly loud. And clear. It’s been hard to take.

Ironically, though, when I go home to my mother I’m reminded that I have a lot of value in her eyes. That hasn’t always been true, but it is now, and that’s a good thing. So the hardest part of my life has been the best part this week. Maybe that’s the message I’m supposed to be getting from the universe – that I’m where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to be doing, and the rest of it isn’t important.

Maybe.

What a ride

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My 97 year-old neighbor died last summer, and her memorial was this weekend. Her family had been our neighbors for 50+ years; almost all of my life. Her daughters were like older sisters to me. Our houses were 20 feet apart; our families were close in proximity and close in feeling. Now the house and Jean are gone. Her daughters sold the house soon after she died, and after Christmas this year an excavator came and knocked the whole thing down.

Almost 100 years old.  An orphan in England, she joined the RAF as a young woman, met and married an American serviceman, and immigrated to the US after WWII. She had six children, countless grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She worked hard, raised her kids, loved cooking and gardening. She had a picture of Queen Elizabeth in her living room.

And now she’s gone. There’s a big hole in our neighborhood. Something that has always been there is gone. Such a long and full life, and now it’s over. Life keeps moving on.

So on Saturday I attended a Catholic mass for the second time in my life. It was dedicated to Jean and her husband Clem, and following there was a buffet and family get-together in another part of the church. Four of her daughters and their kids and grandkids were there, and also another 50+ year neighbor couple, who I hadn’t seen in person for a number of years even though they still come back for the summer every year.

I was raised in the Episcopal church, so the Catholic Eucharist was familiar, though I didn’t really participate. I just don’t believe anymore, so I found it hard to say the prayers and sing the hymns. I sat in the pew and focused on being present and respectful, and I thought about Jean and Clem and the memories I had of life next door to their family, and about how much has changed.

In his homily, the priest mentioned that he would be performing a baptism following the mass. It struck me that in one part of the building we would be celebrating a very long life completed, and in another part a new life was being welcomed to the world.

There it was – the whole thing – start to finish – in one small church on a Saturday afternoon in May. Life keeps moving on. What will that baby see and experience in her life? What will life on this planet be like in 97 years? I wonder what the world was like when Jean was baptized in 1920? Could anyone then have imagined the way her life unfolded?

And the house that had always been there – what will fill that space? In another 10 years, who will remember the big yellow house and the big family who lived in it? Most likely there will be another house, another family. That’s the nature of life – it’s fleeting, and so are we. Nothing lasts forever, not even memories once there’s no one around to carry them anymore.

So I guess that’s what’s so appealing about religion, right? It reassures us that we will go on beyond the physical, beyond memory, even. Presumably God knows who we are and will remember us forever. In the mass Saturday, the priest proclaimed the “victory over death!” and everybody said, “Amen!” That “victory” is comforting when you fear death, fear loss of those you love.

So the mystery of life is less of a mystery to the believers, I guess. I’m not one of them, so I guess that means for me the mystery is unsolved. Lately I’m content to leave those questions unanswered. In each moment is the opportunity to experience life directly and appreciate what’s present and that’s where I want to be. In this moment. I have fond memories of the past, and I love to ponder the possibilities of the future sometimes, but mostly, I like being right here, right now.

Someday maybe, someone will be looking back over my life at the end and remembering me, and that would be nice. Maybe someone will even celebrate that I was here. There will be a point, however, where I am completely erased from memory, and that’s okay, too. I will have enjoyed my ride, but when it’s over it’ll be time for someone else to take my seat and have their turn. That is as it should be. Like a roller coaster, life blows by in a flash. The only way to get your money’s worth is to experience and appreciate it moment by moment. It’ll be over before you know it.

RIP Jean. I hope you got your money’s worth.

Wasting Away

“To do the useful thing, to say the courageous thing, to contemplate the beautiful thing: that is enough for one man’s life.”
T.S. Eliot, The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism

I caught up with a childhood friend yesterday on Facebook. She and I were best friends and neighbors until she moved away when we were both 14. I’ve seen her once since then – 30 years or so ago when she came back to town to visit her mother – but then we lost touch. It was nice to see pictures of her now and to hear about her life, but it made me sad, too.

When asked to superficially describe my life I find the only thing I’m comfortable talking about is my work. I don’t want to admit that much of my life was determined by the severity and duration of the chronic depression I’ve struggled with since high school, and the rest by my obligation to my parents. I feel good about myself and the fact that I’ve survived the depression and done right by my family, until I’m talking to someone else, especially someone I grew up with. Then I find that I feel that – compared to them – I’ve wasted my life. Or, at least, that I have nothing to show for it.

On the face of it, anyway. In the condensed Facebook version you can’t see how much I’ve grown as a human, or what I went through just to be alive now. On the surface, it seems like maybe I took the “easy way out” by staying in my hometown and living a “small” life by myself. Maybe I was lazy or scared and couldn’t manage anything more important or exciting. Or more normal. 

What’s not clear is that my life has been the hardest way out, for me, anyway, because none of it is what I wanted or dreamed of. I’ve had to deal with the worst things I could imagine as a child – never getting away from my family and being alone all my life. I didn’t ask for depression; it just took over. I didn’t ask to have the parents I got or to feel obligated to them. I didn’t choose any of the things that made other choices impossible as my life went on. I have always just made the best of what I was given, which in terms of freedom to choose, was not a lot.

In the vast realm of human suffering, my life doesn’t even register on the scale, but it was hard for me. It’s been a struggle. I don’t have anything to show for it except that I AM STILL HERE. Still getting out of bed every morning and facing the days as they come. Going through a very difficult time right now and hoping that things will get better, but knowing they may not for a while, and still getting out of bed.

Every. Single. Day.

That’s worth something, isn’t it? Not giving up? Still trying to be a good person, and trying to do the right thing. Isn’t that valuable? I think so. But it doesn’t condense well, and that will always be a problem for me, as much of what goes on between people never goes below the surface.

I know, though. I know the whole story and I know I’m alright. My life has been worthwhile. I haven’t wasted anything. Most importantly, the ending hasn’t been written yet. There is more to come and I will keep showing up for whatever it is with the best that I have to offer.

 

Legacy

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A friend died recently. He wasn’t a close friend, just someone I had known since we were in school together starting at age 6. Later on in our lives, we worked at the same company for a while, and even later, we were neighbors in a duplex quite by chance. He wasn’t a great neighbor (he was loud and always had people over at all hours), but he was a good guy and I enjoyed his company. He was one of the funniest people I’ve ever known. Always friendly, and oh, so funny!

So he’s gone now, and I find that I feel disproportionately bad about that. I have no idea how he died – he was only 55, and as far as I know he hadn’t been ill; I find myself just hoping it wasn’t suicide. I would hate to think of him so unhappy. I suppose I feel bad partly because he was my age and I hate to think of my own mortality this soon, but that’s not all of it. I feel sort of bad that we lost touch, but we were never that close, so it’s not that surprising. I’ve lost touch with people I was much closer to – that’s just the way it seems to go as people get older and lives and personalities age/change.

I think mostly I feel bad cuz he was one of the good ones, and now he’s gone. It doesn’t seem there are so many left that we can afford to lose any. He was a gentle and kind soul, with a little bit of a drinking problem and a great sense of humor. He was probably never going to make a mark on the world at large, but he made an impression on everyone he met, and the world is a little emptier without him. He had close friends and family, and he was here in a big way to those who knew him, and now he’s not here. Just that fast.

I suppose it will be that way for all of us, and it makes you think about what it’s all about and what you’re all about. Will I leave a mark? Will people not in my daily life mourn my passing? What kind of an impression will most people I’ve known be left with? I have a feeling it won’t be as good as the feeling Mike always left people with, and that makes me sad. I haven’t always been a particularly nice or friendly person, nor am I always now. Depression was responsible for some of that, but still, I probably could have been better.

I don’t want to live my life for other people, and mostly I don’t care what they think of me, except that I think I would like them to feel that I was at least kind. I would like them to be left with that memory. They can think whatever they want about the way I live my life, or the way I look, or anything about me, except that. If I drop dead tomorrow, I want someone to say about me the kinds of things I’ve been reading on Facebook about Mike.

So I realize I’ve just set myself a pretty good goal: Be Kind. Just that. I don’t know if I can achieve it, but now that I’ve identified its importance, I will try to be more mindful of it.

RIP Michael. Thanks for the memories, and thanks for the nudge.