Loving Forward

It’s a new year and it’s time to catch up. I have spent the latter part of the year in a kind of grand experiment. In addition to adopting 2 soldiers and a marine and sending 6 letters a week through Soldier’s Angels, I decided to offer to listen to anyone who needed someone to talk to online. I did this in a limited and controlled fashion and also talked weekly with my rector about the experiences I was having.

I started this experiment for a number of reasons. The first was that I discovered a site where there were many lonely and desperate people who seemed to need someone who cared and who would just be there and be present for them. I am made to care and love so it was a perfect fit. It called to me so strongly.

I have also been considering whether to go into counseling in some form as a career once my books are published and this seemed like a way to see whether I would be able to deal with some of the emotional requirements of that role.

If I even helped one person it would be worth whatever grief I suffered.

So, did I suffer grief? What was the result of my experiment?

Well it hasn’t concluded, because when I signed on to be present for people I signed on for good or as long as they needed me. Again, that’s just part of how I’m made. Loyal and devoted to a fault.

But I have met some people who became very dear to me because of their sorrows and their triumphs. Some just needed to talk over decisions that were weighing on them and they had no one they could seek advice from. Some sought a parental relationship, guidance, support and encouragement. Some were just lonely and wanted company. Some were in crisis and because I have been there myself I was able to reach out and take their hand. Some have become friends I know I will keep because our relationship grew from me listening, to me sharing in return. Some have already said goodbye because they no longer have need of what I offer.

I think that was the hardest thing. Letting go when they are ready to. Because of course, I get attached to each person I help. I fall in love with each person a little bit. I can’t help but see the beauty in each person when they share themselves and it is captivating. The more time I spend with them, the more I care. I don’t look for anything in return of course. But to no longer see their face or hear their voice when they are ready to move on is the hardest part. To no longer be able to check on them or worry for them when for weeks they were my concern all day, every day is painful. To no longer be allowed to care. This is where the grief comes in. I knew it would happen up front and that makes it little easier to bear. I gladly pay the price for having known each person for even a short while. They were a blessing in my life as I hope I was in theirs. But it still ouches.

You know I’ve written about loss and accepting it, how it is such a natural part of life. The thing to do is stay open, accept and love anyone you feel love for. Know that it will hurt when you lose them and spend your energy on learning how to recover from loss effectively instead of building walls to protect you from caring. Walls don’t work anyway. You end up caring and hurting no matter how hard you try to keep your distance.

So I let myself have a few days watching marathons on TV and sleeping in. I stare at their pictures and talk to them through my prayers. I think of all the things I wish I could have done with them or said to them. I carry a memento of them with me that I can touch as I go through my day. These little things help me move forward. I might not “get over” people or be able to stop loving them, but I can let them go on without me. For myself, I can keep my memory of them close and honor the feelings I have by paying them forward, always ready to love again.

Thanks and Prayer

If you can believe it, the Devil Dog in Charge of Ask-A-Marine has already gotten back to me in answer to my many questions! I can’t thank him enough. If you have any questions related to the Marines, they are definitely the place to start. With the information he gave me I could see my character come completely into focus.

I kicked off my consulting work today. I am looking forward to knowing everything there is to know about making organic peanut butter, but more importantly getting to interview each person and learn it from them. My first interview was extra fun because I had actually met this employee before. The change of scene also flipped that switch I mentioned creatively and I’ve had a killer idea related to my book. It was the best part of my day and it gave me goosebumps. I’ve learned to recognize those moments as almost divine inspiration. Super psyched.

However in the bad news department I have had a friend fall off the radar and I am taking it very hard. I don’t have any verification that it has to do with me, but I am afraid it does. I think I am most upset because I fear that I did something to damage our friendship. I don’t make friends easily and I value them so highly when I do. At this point there is nothing I can do, it’s a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation. I have to wait and see if they ever want to reach out and if not just accept it. It is almost the worst thing I can imagine to think of someone having to avoid me on purpose. The shame and embarrassment quite literally makes me sick to my stomach. So, yeah, a little queasy today. I have mentioned so often that you should not act from fear, yet here I am doing just that. I suppose it’s in fear that I am inadvertently hurting someone I care about, which is a good reason. I just won’t risk that. The Lord knows I am completely here for my friend in every way if I am mistaken, I just don’t want to impose on them at all.

I wish, wish, wish I had a better sense of boundaries. I think one of the residual effects of my near death experience has always been that people seem to have blurry lines. I see into them more than I should, which is probably why I think people are so amazing and beautiful. But it makes it crazy hard to know when I’ve crossed a line when I don’t see lines well. Sometimes that can be an incredible gift when I instinctively reach out to people to comfort, help, heal, other times it can make me an awkward fool. Like now I suspect.

So tonight I am praying for my friend, though they are far away and may be well shot of me or may be in some sort of difficulty or trouble: Father I ask that you watch over them, at their waking and their sleeping, hide them under the shadow of your wing, be with them faithfully to guide their steps, comfort them, heal them and protect them in this life and in the life to come. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.