“You never leave someone behind, you take a part of them with you and leave a part of yourself behind.”
This is what I wrote as my Facebook status yesterday. You see, it was July 11th. Which meant it was the anniversary of the last time I saw Mike. This year, 2013, marked the 4th year that has passed by. When I mentioned this to someone earlier in the week they were confused and said: “I thought he died August 1st?” He did… But my journey leading up to the anniversary of his death begins in the weeks leading up to July 11th.
To many this may seem completely irrational; and that’s OK. When I said goodbye to Mike on this particular day I was saying goodbye for the reason that I was travelling to the Caribbean to work over the next 3 months. It was temporal. Completely temporal with the intention of keeping in contact via email and MSN. Little did I know that exactly 3 weeks later he would die. I couldn’t prevent his death. No one could… If you die in your sleep at the age of 18 and the coroner concluded there was absolutely no reason for his death… Then the only one who could have prevented his death was God. But that doesn’t stop me from feeling sad that I couldn’t prevent it from happening. The weeks leading up to July 11th comes with feelings of “It’s coming.” A journey with an outcome that I know is inevitable. I find parts of my life are being mentally relived from 4 years ago. Mike isn’t going to die every year. It’s done. He’s not going to die anymore. But it doesn’t stop me from having these feelings. Finally that moment comes where we say goodbye. Unlike in 2009… I know what’s going to happen. In three weeks time there is a date in history that will confirm he is gone. You would think these three weeks would be the hardest, rather than the weeks leading up to July 11th. But truth be told there’s almost relief in something being out your control. However, prior to this, I feel like I had every opportunity in the world to change the course of history before 11/7. After it… we were physically out of each others lives. I guess what I really mean by changing the course of history isn’t so much about preventing his death but more all the things I should or shouldn’t have done.
There is so much that I failed him on. And there’s so much heartache that we couldn’t grow old together and have the opportunities to make mature memories. Not all those childhood ones. I look back and see an argument here, a fight there… I remember so many things I wish I did differently. I wish I got him a present for his last birthday. I wish we did more together. And I feel so hopeless when I look back on all this because there is nothing I can do to change it. Nothing I can do to put any of it right. I can’t help but wonder if my passion for people’s birthdays (creating cool birthday parties) and gift giving (birthdays, Christmas, general etc) is rooted in the fact that I failed to do this for Mike and feel guilty about it. I was recently speaking to a friend about how our loved ones go on ahead to heaven and help build our heavenly homes for us to arrive to. It’s biblical… Check it out! And I was thinking, “Man, that’s like so unreal when you think about it! Mike’s up there building me this home and I’m sure he’ll do an amazing job at it!!” But then after a day of thinking this I started thinking: “I don’t deserve that sort of honour and love from Mike. It should have been me who went before him so I could serve him.”
I do realise the truth and I do know that so much is based on irrationalities. But that doesn’t change the dynamics of grief. It’s all still stuff that’s got to be processed. Even 4 years later.
So I was having this conversation with a friend from work about talking to ourselves in the shower. It really is quite random how we use the time in the shower to sing, talk or even dance around. Shhhh… Don’t tell anyone! I’m lucky I haven’t slipped and decked myself haha. My friend mentioned she does a lot of thinking in the shower which was soon followed by her asking the question “I wonder why the shower”.
I think it makes total sense. For many of us it’s the one place and the one time where we spend long enough to stop. No distractions… Unless you’ve stubbed your toes on the side of the shower as you were shaking your booty about and got soap in your eyes (nope? just me??). Ok, so limited distractions. It’s a place where it’s just you.
We think through our plan for the day, we think through situations with people, we reflect on our latest drams, we remember we forgot to buy milk, we have two or even multiple sided conversations with ourselves. Psychologically I can’t help but wonder if there’s something to do with warmth and water that makes us feel safe. Back to the future type situation with the shower and our mum’s womb. Hopefully the shower area allows us to feel slightly less claustrophobic.
I went through a stage when I was little of filling up large jags of water and throwing it at mum in the shower. I only remember doing it with cold water and it being winter. And I remember laughing my head of at it. When I was really little… like 3 and younger I remember me, Mike and dad would cover the shower plug on the ship with a flannel cloth and wallow in the water together. We called it “wallow wallow”. I still remember it. Mike must have only been like a year old. I remember bath times with Mike & Laura were we would cover the sides of the bath with soap, turn the shower on and make ourselves our own mini water slide. I remember all the times we would get into so much trouble for splashing so much water out onto the floor on the bathroom. And I remember that the shower was the place I fully and completely broke down for the first time after hearing Mike died. It was the first time I was alone… The first time I stopped. The first time I actually processed what was happening around me.
Yep, there are many things that happen in the shower.
We’re told as children to say thank you. Our parents drum it into us and I think it’s safe to say it almost becomes a reflex. But this concept of acknowledging appreciation for one another has become something of a concern to me. It seems to also be safe to say, as we get older saying “thank you” becomes harder for us.
Now, I’m not talking about those two words exactly. It’s easy to say “thanks“. It’s one syllable. I’m thinking a little deeper than that. I think sometimes we take it for granted that people know we appreciate them and what they do. But I’m not entirely sure we actually do know how much others value us. Recently I was at a baby shower when my friend, at the end, gave me a little bag with a card and a gift. I was like “What’s this?!” She just wanted to show she appreciated what I had done to help her, yet I had done it without ever once thinking “I wonder if she’ll thank me.” In fact I was really blown away at her gesture! I knew she’d appreciate what I did to help but it meant a lot to me that she went above and beyond a simple two worded phrase.
Often we do things for one another just because actually, it makes us feel good. So we don’t really expect them to thank us. But it’s deeply encouraging when those who benefit from your kindness turn around and show it. Saying thank you is one thing. Saying “I hope you know how much that meant to me” takes it slightly deeper. Words of affirmation always does. But to really go all out, when opportunities arise we can go even further and show our appreciation for one another though acts of service, gifts, quality time… That’s when I think people really know they’re valued. I think it’s really cool when someone out of the blue says to me: “Hey remember that time… Well, I still think about it and it still means a lot.” I have this friend that out of no where… she just went and bought me a brand new iPod. I think I had a mini heart attack because it was so out the blue and I didn’t know how to respond. I think for the most part we don’t always know how to respond to extravagant generosity. And I wonder if that’s partly why acknowledging our appreciation can be hard to do. I’m still learning. I mean, I get really shy and feel really awkward when I go to someone’s house for dinner and thank them for the meal! It’s bizarre!
We say we don’t do things in return for anything else… But I think we’re kidding ourselves. No one can press forward doing things for others if there is no appreciation. And I hate to break it to you… I don’t believe simply saying “thank you” is actually enough for any of us in life.
The first duty of Love is to listen.
Paul Tillich wrote that. Apparently. I’ve no idea who Paul Tillich is. Actually, this is a good example of something that makes me smile. When it comes to debating whether God created the universe or science… So many people struggle to accept something or have faith in something they can’t prove yet there are about a billion things we accept without questioning every single day. Why is that? Anyways… That was a total side note and wasn’t what I was going to write about lol.
I think listening is often easy to do. It’s what you do with the information that is the issue for most of us. How do we respond? People and situations bring out the worst in us. How do we use people and situations to bring out the best in us? Sometimes when people act in an unusual way we are quick to judge rather than ask questions. I find myself reacting firstly with the thought: “Why are you being a dick?” Right there… That’s already judgement passed. I haven’t even gotten onto “Haha, you are so uncool”; “OMG thank god I’m smarter than you to not react like that”; or even one of my personal favourites: “Wow there went your dignity.”
Dignity. What planet am I on? I’m pretty sure my own dignity is in a turd hole somewhere.
Most of us know how to listen to each other. Whether we practice it or not is another thing. But… Do we listen to ourselves? I know I don’t many times. And when I find myself starting to realise I’m having these thoughts… It takes a lot to fight against my number one human error: Pride. The ability to listen in love is hindered by pride. I’m better. I have a right to say this to you or to treat you this way. I can. I will. I want. I am. I. I. I.
I know of a few people who have held me in a place of error because of a mistake I’ve made. Holding me in that place has prevented me in moving forward in their minds. So whilst it’s in their own mind. It does still mentally, emotionally and even physically affects me. They will always see me in the eyes of a mistake rather than what I’m trying to do right. But then I am aware there are things that I hold against people. Mistakes they have made. I too hold people in places where I should allow them to be free. I can’t explain why other people may have held me in a place I don’t belong in. But I can say most of my judgement comes from a place of not understanding.
I don’t understand you. I don’t understand why you do things. Why you say things. And I can’t help but think if I did understand then my thoughts towards people would be a lot less harsh. But then again… Do I have that right to understand? Quite possibly not. And if that’s the case… Man, this goes to a level of comprehension that boggles my brain. I fear I’m never going to learn or successfully get anything right at this rate! :S This would be simple if I wasn’t complex.
So it seems my blog updates get further and further apart. But I figured it was time to write again 🙂
Recently I’ve been thinking a little bit about how time can change so much. I look back over the past 12 months and think “Wow! This happened. Or, that happened.” Some things feel like yesterday and other seem so much longer than 12 or even 18 months ago.
I wrote a lot in the past about not knowing where my life is going. Not having anything in my name was at many times a real struggle too. On one hand I was aware of what a blessing that was and on the other I felt like I simply had no identity what so ever. I struggled to make decisions. Was it the right decision? A purposeful decision? Was it ok to make spontaneous decisions? What if it wasn’t wise? How do I know? What if I commit and then find a couple of months down the line I couldn’t commit? Mike’s death changed so much. It changed me. In every single way. The enormity of that level of change or difference I couldn’t and still can’t grasp. The first 12 months after Mike’s death was filled with hurting and trying to get through my final year of university; the next year was really about trying to stay “safe“; the next 18 months was actually in retrospect a very difficult time with “rejection” being a very key theme… And these past 10 months have been a lot to do with stepping out.
I made decisions… Good ones, ones I won’t make again… I have a mobile contract, gym membership, a job and even, as of yesterday, a car all in my name. I took risks and figured if things change again we’ll cross that bridge when it comes. I’ve found myself and lost myself almost daily. I’ve messed up my priorities and other times I have made myself feel pleased with what I achieved. There’s still so much I want to grow in and change. There’s still so much I struggle with. But somehow in my somewhat blind stepping out… God’s using it to bring me slowly but surely closer to other things that make slightly more sense to me. Or things that make me think “I’m going to be ok.” I’ve allowed work to take over my life and I’ve allowed exhaustion to prevent me from hanging out with Him. I’ve found seeing my monthly wage increase with every hour I work to become slightly addictive. I haven’t made the time for others like I should have. But… having said all of that. I don’t feel guilty. I don’t feel like I’m messing up. I feel simply like, I’m learning to walk again. I’m learning to move to the melody of my life. Sometimes my life looks like a jumping jack high on speed, other times it looks like a psycho serial killer, and sometimes it looks like it needs some serious TLC. I feel ok to just walk and I feel like I’m safe to put one foot in front of the other in however way seems right to my heart because I have chosen to simply believe that God will guide me. If I’m on the wrong path He’ll show me.
Friendships have been an interesting one. These 4 years have taught me a lot about myself. And a lot about others. Maybe more than ever I’ve become more aware of what I am and am not willing for in my relationships with others. I’m learning what it looks like to love people from a distance. I’m learning that not all relationships are healthy. Even with Christians. I’m learning that people suck. And I’m learning that I suck. I know what I look for in relationships and I’m learning to not feel guilty to not have people in my inner circle who don’t match up to what I want, need or look for. For the first time in the last week or so I deleted people off my Facebook. Admittedly they were all “deactivated accounts” haha. But still, its steps forwards in directions I feel I want to go. I don’t KNOW where I’m going in life. I just go on feelings now. Again… I know the problems and the advantages of that. But if I don’t do something then I sit still in a very harmful place.
Where does my future go? I don’t know. I still feel the need to justify my job. Why I’m not using my degree. I still find I panic and struggle to breath when I think of certain people or situations. I prefer one on one to big groups. I even like being alone a lot these days. I hate people looking at me with what I call “knowing eyes“. I still day-dream about forensics. I feel restless and confused… But more and more, I’m finding I’m feeling “OK” about different things. Or people. I see glimmers of growing and learning. And my gut tells me to stay put with a couple of things until I find contentment. Until I can say “God, if this is what you want for me, then I’m OK with that.” Again maybe I’m wrong… And that’s where I just have to believe in God and his ability to show me otherwise.
I turn 25 really soon. And yes, I still very much think to myself “God, will I ever…” Get married? Have kids? Have a job I truly love? Travel the world the way I dream of? Sometimes it’s easy for me to literally cry big fat drops of tears in fear that I will never see any of those things. And again, I realise that it’s ok to feel that way. It’s ok because Mike’s death has influenced that fear. And it’s also ok… Because whatever happens, I’m going to be OK. True my whole world could caved in all the more tomorrow. But the belief that I’m going to be OK is growing. It’d be pretty cool to see these dreams become reality… But honestly, I think my biggest success in life will be to stand before God, face life and simply say with complete conviction “It’s OK.” And if I can do that… That one simple thing… Well, I think it’s possible it might outweigh the joy of any other dream I have.
P.S. Fallen in love with this song. I put it in the context of God, myself, my life, my future… and a little treasure called “opportunity” 🙂