Friday, July 30, 2010

Social Challenges

I would very much like to hear how others of you manage these things.

Example: My daughter and I attended a baby shower ~ which for me was pure agony, for a number of reasons beyond the usual. It seems to have meant a lot to the young mothers-to-be that we went, and I survived, but not without some damage.

Example: My husband and I are skipping a wedding this week-end. To do the whole thing would entail 24-plus hours away from home engaged in nonstop celebration. We have attended two weddings since Josh died, and I think we have sworn them off for awhile. But people are Not Happy with us.

Example: A conflict has emerged over a moms' week-end away and an 8-day retreat I have planned. I do need to spend time with my friends, but I also need this time away with a spiritual director who has particular gifts and training applicable to the situation in which I find myself. I think I am at a pretty critical turning point, and I would like to navigate something well rather than badly for a change.

How I see it: People have, of course, gone on with their own lives. I WANT my friends to enjoy each other and their children and grandchildren. I cannot expect them to know that, much as I want to see and talk with them, the usual, run-of-the-mill social events are painful for me and I do much better with one-on-one conversations over coffee. I have tried to hint at that, but apparently I need to wear a sign. Interestingly, I am doing much better these days at keeping up with friends who are not part of my usual "group," precisely because we do get together only occasionally and usually only in pairs.

More challenge: My husband, who was already an Introvert of the Highest Order, lost his son and father in one 18-month period. I am trying to be supportive of his needs as well as my own and our children's, and often we don't mesh. I read somewhere that a family in grief is a like a family in a pool or lake ~ when one person comes up for air, she looks around and see no one, because everyone is popping up on different timetables. It requires a whole new level of resiliency and commitment to stay in the water.

The kicker: I am no different from anyone else. I, too, find it difficult to remain attentive to and considerate of friends who have suffered big losses.

I wish that I were a brilliant conversationalist and moved with ease in the world, someone of whom people could say, "She's so strong and courageous!"

I wish that I lived all by myself in a cottage on the edge of the sea, someone whom only migrating birds would see, and of whom people could say, "Well, she just vanished."

Real life is a good deal more ~ um ~ mushy.


Lisa :-] said...

Have to say that cottage on the edge of the sea looks very attractive to me most of the time...

Anonymous said...

I have been doing this dance with functions that I can attend and those I absolutely can't for nearly 14 years. I wish I could say it gets easier.

But I have gotten used to people being Not Happy. Gee that did make me laugh as I so do l know that. I did find it helped to be specific with my friends and say I can only do this and this and this, and sometimes I can't even do that. If I am absent it is not because of anything you have or haven't done. It is just me. It was too much to say in words so I wrote to those who meant the most to me. Many understood and still do. Some did not and I regret that.

I am fortunate to have a small group of friends who have patience and love enough not to take my periodic absences personally.

None of this helps I know.

Gannet Girl said...

Lisa, we could go up to the Madeleine Islands and rent a cottage for awhile and not talk to each other. You cook; I'll clean.

Gannet Girl said...

Gabriele, thank you so much; it does help.

After I wrote this post, when I was out walking, I was thinking that this is a family systems thing -- when one person departs, everyone else changes (my family) and when one person changes, everyone else gets pissed off (my group of friends).

I was thinking of writing an email, and I will probably quote some of what you say. The reality is, I am not who I was or ever planned to be, and neither are my relationships with others.

Nancy said...

Praying for you and yours.

I'm in the cottage in mind.

Nancy said...

Of course I meant I'm in the cottage in my mind. Think maybe I'll stay awhile.

Anonymous said...

Ah GG thats the rub isn't it. We end up as someone we never imagined. someone we never planned on being. And our family and friends don't always like what happens.

This whole process has taught me this. To be patient with my friends, and not to take stuff personally and mostly not to judge to harshly.

Oftentimes I forget but I do know, and so am able to find my way back.

Heather said...

I can so identify with Gabriele:I have been doing this dance with functions that I can attend and those I absolutely can't for nearly 14 years. I wish I could say it gets easier. Well its 15 years for me..and still I struggle.

And I think you are awesome and strong!!You're able to clearly identify what you can and cant do, and verbalize that..I couldnt I do..and I dont really care if someone gets upset over it, I have to do only what Im able..and after all this time, I still prefer one on one rather than a group social event!

much love

Heather said...

(ohh and Im so there at Your Cottage..I will read, while you two clean and cook..chuckles)

Cynthia said...

I've gotten used to people being Not Happy too. It takes more energy to get them to understand than I have. Accepting their Not Happiness is just easier. Getting them to understand that my staying away is also a way of not hurting them is harder than getting them to understand my need to protect myself.

Karen said...

Social challenges are terrible. It's just one more difficult domino that toppled over when our beloved child left. And there are so many toppled dominoes. I am always amazed at the number of secondary and tertiary losses caused by one loss. Family is different, marriage is different, friendships are different, socializing is different--and by "different" I mean often dysfunctional and broaching on painful. It requires patience, gentleness, acceptance, non-judgement, surrender. First with ourselves, then with others. We lay down what we thought life was going to be and accept it is very different. The dream (fantasy) is gone. We are strangers in a strange land. For those who don't know that (and I was one of those) there's nothing to be done but wait till they do.

Robin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gannet Girl said...

Heather, I'm moving to the reading chair. We can forget the cleaning!

Actually, I'm just going to sit in the porch and look at the ocean.

Gannet Girl said...

Cyn, there's a whole other topic - how we inadvertently hurt others in our interactions with them because they don't have a clue as to why we say or do certain things.

Gannet Girl said...

And Karen, I don't really want my friends to know -- this is not an experience I would want them to share, ever.

Mary Beth said...

You are not responsible for other people being happy.


christine said...

Hi there dear friend. I still want to take time to walk my beach this year with you.
This read of your blog for this day has put into words what swirls in my mind day after day--being careful of the shards of normalcy that I navigate--normal weddings, baby showers, family partys and on and on. So often I find myself in a bubble trying to figure out just how to breathe in and out and stay there present till it is ok to leave without appearing like I am melting down. Fighting the thoughts in my mind....talking to myself...encouraging myself to stay present, not back to my own loss and all the "clothes that get thrown back out of the drawers and closet" that I talked about awhile ago in my own blog.
I am going to my first baby shower this weekend for a dear friend of Sarah who has not been able to conceive and loved and grieved so for Sarah when she died...and feel I can do this--for the first 3 years. I want to go and celebrate with this woman and go knowing Sarah would want me to go. There are those who understand and those who have no clue---and some of those are family and friends who are very close and walk near, with no clue of the walk. It just is. I am better with that now. My sorrow walk is much more solitary, maybe people want to hear more...maybe I need to blog more---as I can see I have alot of words here! :o)
glad for the friends I have never even met whom I share my tender heart with in this blogging manner, Thank you for your words dear one. I do hear you...i do.