I should be writing a blog post about my life at the beach – diving with friends, eating good food and embracing the beauty and tranquility of solitude. But life has a way of crashing down around us sometimes. It literally did just that to a very good friend of mine yesterday. She was riding her motorcycle home, literally two blocks away, when a terrible storm started, causing a tree branch to crash down and fall on top of her, instantly breaking her back. I won’t get into the details of what’s happened or happening with her, as that is her story to live and share, in her own time. Although her life is forever altered, she survived, and I’m so very thankful for that.
It’s like there was a crack in the time-space continuum and everything that I saw and knew was turned upside down upon itself. My personal island paradise suddenly became Alcatraz. The constant easterly winds blowing a gentle breeze through my window became suffocating, wrapping their transparent hands around my neck, giving a relentless squeeze. The endless reflective shimmers on the ocean waves merged to form horizontal bars, ending my feelings of freedom, now trapping me in on an island 10,000 miles away from being with a friend, to show support, to hear first-hand how she’s doing.
My night and morning of mourning have been filled with alternating bouts of crying, pacing, texting, talking, and silence. My head has been spinning like the spokes from the wheel of fortune, with a different emotion surfacing each time the wheel is spun: thankfulness, worry, fear, faithfulness, guilt, confusion.
Part of me wanted to just get on a plane and come home. But hopping on a flight back from Asia is no quick, cheap, or easy feat. Out of needing to hear status updates, I stay put. Then I realize there’s a reason that this happened while I was away. That I am meant to be here. I allow the stillness to take over. Or is it post-crying lethargy?
My heart aches for a dear friend who’s life is now forever changed. I pray. I pray some more. I am comforted. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is more than strong enough to survive this. I know she will better than cope with this; she will triumph. There is a gift and blessing waiting for her through the dark, scary clouds that may lie ahead. But this heart-felt reassurance does not provide enough comfort. I default to my old ways, letting my head take over.
My thoughts swarm around my head like vultures looking for their next prey. They launch into a full-force attack, using every negative emotion in their arsenal…
- Guilt: What kind of friend are you that you choose to remain in Bali living your own life and not come home to support a good friend?
- Fear: How will she and her friends judge me for not coming home? Am I now bad friend #1?
- Pity: It sucks that I’m here, alone with have no one to comfort me!! I’m a mess! I need soothing for feeling so bad about such a tragedy! I can’t sit with anyone; there’s no one to hug me and give me reassurance that she will be ok. Why am I here by myself? What am I doing all this self-search, self-journeying for, anyways?
- Selfish Fear: Such a random, tragic accident happened to someone so near and dear to me. What if this happened to me?!?! Nothing in this life is guaranteed. Period.
- Self-centeredness: By not being there, I don’t get to show how caring and generous a person I am! I don’t get to be in the know! I don’t get to be one of the almighty helpers!
- Shame: Have you lost your mind? What kind of person thinks such crazy thoughts?? Why aren’t you focusing all your time and attention on your friend and her recovery and well-being?
But it’s from worrying about my friend and trying to cope with the shock of such a terrible, fluke accident that has sent my mind out of control. Thank God the dust settled quickly. That I only experienced a quick and dirty attack, and the genuine warmth of my heart provides a shield, preventing any of those negative missiles to take any sort of significant hold over me.
This was an important lesson, however. A quick journey into experiencing and observing the web of craziness that comes about when we allow our egos to take over. The difference is that now I have learned to recognize it when its happening and to deal with the ‘ugly’ side of me instead of just ignoring or pushing it aside as many of us so often do. I can’t be an authentic friend until I’m authentic and accepting of myself.
I’ve lived through tragedy and the long, hard road to recovery with my mom and her many phases of battling cancer. Sleeping overnight on cheap hospital chairs; cheering at the small successes in rehab; supporting, not enabling, through the failures of adjusting to a home life completely different; feeling the sweeping flow of relief when it all starts to come together and normalizes. It’s hard. It’s ugly. It’s challenging. It works out in the end. It shows everyone’s true colors. It strengthens and builds enduring bonds. It reveals and severs the weak bonds.
I guess my role this time around, for now, is to provide support for those who will undergo this journey. Truth be told, I’m going through a bit of my own challenging, ugly, true-color-showing journey of transformation. I’m thankful for being able to continue on this sometimes scary road and welcome the opportunity to learn how I can show love and support to my friends and family while staying true to myself.
Writing this helps. Getting all these emotions out cleanses, nurtures from within. Now I am able to sit with the ‘ugly’ so that I can return to the truth and the light. The truth that there is a higher power controlling everything, even the seemingly chaotic. The truth that the ‘ugly’ parts of us that we hold in shame are not really ugly at all, but simply a part of the human condition that we all share. The truth that even when I am by myself, that I am never alone (thanks for reminding me, Erin!!). The truth that I am so thankful that my friend is surrounded by so many people who are filled with nothing but genuine love for her.
I am reassured knowing that she has everything and everyone that she needs, and that we are all exactly where we need to be. I find comfort knowing that there’s nothing I can do but provide my love, faith, support, and prayers, and that distance holds no boundary for that.