Saturday, February 1, 2014

Thank you for being a friend...

What happens when a person has many friends, so many people who speak kindly of her, so much positive recognition within her community...and it is insufficient?

What happens when the treatment becomes worse than the disease and instead of being a balancing force, it pushes her over the edge?

I know the answer. You know the answer. It isn't pretty.

Accompany the dead for burial. Comfort the mourners. Those aren't just nice things to do; they are commandments. So I do those acts. I sing for them. I hear their names. But the whole situation is awkward because no one wants to talk about the real problem.

The following remedies are socially acceptable: medication. Therapy sessions, but only if you can afford them.

The following remedies are not socially acceptable, and requests for such remedies are frequently followed by some form of "pull yourself together" "cheer up!" or "back in my day there was no such thing as 'mental health days.'": Taking time for oneself. Reaching out to people, in person, even at odd hours, if you're not on their list of acceptable companions. Taking days off from work for emotional and mental recovery, if you cannot afford to do so.

I'm guilty of this: I talk about my friend and how great she was and I find myself thinking, if I had reached out to her, she'd have thought it strange, because we weren't that close. If I'd had any clue that she was struggling like this, even as I saw her successful personal endeavors through social media, I don't know what I could have done. I maintained a positive image of this superstar woman who deserved nothing but happiness, this wonderful and talented woman whom I had known since we were children. But I'm guilty of dismissing my own power as a friend and source of comfort.

Emotional displays never came easily to me. That's my husband's job--he can feel all the feelings and I can be stoic and insensitive. Logical, rational. Helpful skill to have in order to keep the ship running, but probably what stunted my abilities as a singer and made me uninteresting to watch as a performer. No one cared what I sounded like because, when I was younger, I had nothing to say. I am rediscovering myself through surprising new idioms and embracing the emotional aspects of singing, for work and for fun, and even the ability to evoke emotion in other people.

I don't know where to go from here. I don't know that I've sufficiently learned the lesson of how to be a good friend because I stay stuck in my world with my own family--my husband and children, as well as my parents who still care for me unconditionally. And I try to return the favor. It's hard because I do call people, and they don't call me back. Or they do call but they're too busy.

I don't miss the companionship of one person or another until it's too late.

I wish it were never too late.

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