Writing & Reflection – April 21, 2013

After my Monday post, Dying is Easy, Comedy is Hard, I looked back to see if I had any morning pages that were applicable.  Of course I had this entry:

I’m exhausted.  Monica died Friday night [April 19, 2013], apparently peacefully.  She struggled so much and no one could help her because she didn’t want, or couldn’t receive, or – I don’t know what – the help that there was.

And maybe there really wasn’t that much help for what truly ailed her.  Smoking was a long-held coping mechanism.  She was an angry, defiant smoker – ashamed of it, but angry at being shamed by others for it.

She was impulsive, although I think that often her impulsiveness paid off, too.  She had a pretty well-honed gut.

I knew her and didn’t know her.  She compartmentalized and hid parts of herself.  And at times she was very transparent – or at least it felt that way.  I don’t know if any of us knew her truly.

Her hurts, struggles, pains and despair were deep – almost eons deep.

<snip>

. . .  grieving is part of our life work – I know this intellectually – but now I get to feel it, too.

Especially with her.  With my Monica.

I do feel shame – I wasn’t a very good friend.  I distanced myself.  I felt a gulf between us and we never spoke of it.  I didn’t think it was appropriate.  Because how could I say what I truly felt?  That she envied me my happiness and ease.  My husband.  My home.

She could go on and on about how much better it was now that she was thin – but she was also sick; thin and sick.  Not that had she been fat, she would have been healthy.  But her being thin did not mean she was healthy.  In her case, she was very ill.

It’s like the cancer diet – only for fat people is cancer somewhat welcome – because for once in our lives we may be thin.  Woo hoo! Who knew it was so great.

<snip>

I’m sore all over – not just my hand. For the last few days, I’ve felt like I was beat up.  And maybe that’s what life has done in a way.  Beaten me up a bit.  Well, I suppose that’s to be expected.  Life’s a bitch and a bastard to boot.  And then you die.  Hopefully, a good death.

I do wish her peace.  She of all people deserves this.  Peace is a commodity in short supply for some.  I think it was this way for her – her demons were very strong.

I loved her – I love her.  Maybe it’s enough, and maybe it isn’t.  I really don’t know.

And I don’t get to know, either.  I can’t control this or even my poor, pitiful feelings.  I only know that I’m here, right here and right now.  And that’s enough.  Anon

 

I’ve often thought that envy which is one of the deepest emotions and much more corrosive than jealousy, is also one of the most difficult to cope with.  I have struggled with envy a lot in my life, so I know what I’m talking about.

I know that there was this unspoken thing between us, and I think it was perhaps, a mutual envy or jealousy.  On the surface, there was much for me to envy about her – Monica was the prettier of the two of us, often thinner, she owned nicer property and drove nicer cars; she even had a private office at work (I did on occasion, but I often had to share offices, or be in a cubicle which was rather horrifying to her).  I wanted what she had.  On the surface.

So it never occurred to me that this envy/jealousy might go the other way, too.  True, I didn’t smoke or drink to excess (those were never my favorite ways to numb out pain – chocolate was.)  True, I had a child, but being a single parent was no picnic.  I wasn’t as enamored with being a paralegal as she was, either.  And believe me, I was never as funny as she was.

What I think I did have that she might have been envious of was hope.  Hope in the future.  Hope in finding love and in figuring out another career for myself (she often told me that she had no hopes and dreams to do anything else and she felt incredibly stuck in her job choice).  Hope and optimism that things would turn out okay, even in my darkest moments.

I remember on many occasions asking her why she didn’t date more – it was the smoking; she was too chubby; it was that she was a love addict.  That last one did have the ring of truth to it, as she had a few love affairs that seemed to spiral a bit out of control, if only in her head.

Later in her life she said that the true love of her life had been her ex-husband.  He’d been a coke addict and after successful rehab and failed couples counseling, they divorced.  It was some months later that he was in a terrible car accident with one of his client’s cars (he was a mechanic who specialized in high end cars like mercedes and jaguar).  Now clean and sober, he was hit by a drunk driver on the Pacific Coast Highway.  It might have been better if he had died in the crash, but he survived as a quadriplegic.

Monica was, of course, devastated but she also said that she was so grateful that they were already divorced, because she could never have divorced him after the accident.  She knew that being put in one more caretaker position would have killed her spirit if not her body in short order.  Who knows what might have happened had they still been married.

So her romantic history was pretty rough.  Mine was much easier – I had an ex-husband and a son and stayed single for almost two decades, as my son was growing up.  But I had boyfriends and occasional lovers and even some flings now and again.  I never felt that I couldn’t love another, once I was through my divorce.  In fact, I enjoyed being courted and easily adopted online dating when it started up.

I encouraged Monica in trying new things like this but she became very adamant that this was not for her.  And at a certain point, after trying to argue that she was desirable whether or not she was a bit chubby or was a smoker (of course she’d probably be with another smoker, but who cared?  Yep, she did.), I gave up.  It was no use since she had made her decision that she was not cut out to love again.

The same with my decision to go back to graduate school and transition away from the law to being a private practice therapist.  It was a long, hard haul but I did it.

So when I met my husband and we got married, I knew on one level that she was happy for me.  But I also wondered if she was a bit jealous or envious, too.  Once I was married, I had an easier time of it financially.  We bought a house; I passed my state exams and was able to work part-time as a therapist because the money wasn’t as big of a deal anymore.  When my husband retired, I could retire along with him, at a younger age than many.  All of this because I was married.  And that’s not even taking into account the emotional pluses to being married.

It was after my wedding in 2006 (the same year I passed my exams) when I noticed a very distinct cooling between us.  But as I wrote above in my morning pages, I was as responsible for this as she was.

It was the elephant in the room that continued to sit there, even as she died.  I can’t do anything about it now, but I have wondered about it.  I like to think I would have had the courage to bring it up had she gotten better, but she didn’t get better.  So this elephant is one of those things I get to struggle to carry, until I’m ready to put him down.

The bottom line is although I loved her, I was a friend who didn’t always do her best as a friend.  What love we did have for each other was more than enough, though, and for that, I am forever grateful.  I’m sad that she made the choices that she did.  And it has made me angry, too – a lot of people were working on her behalf to make her better and you know, after she struggled, she gave it up and turned her back on getting better.  Because she knew it was going to be too much work to survive.  And ultimately, death was the “easier, softer” way.

 

2 thoughts on “Writing & Reflection – April 21, 2013

  1. Ultimately, as a friend, you can only help so much. You can *do* so much. You may not be able to save their life because they have to choose to live. Whether we like it or not, we are each responsible for our own lives and no one else is.

    Could you have done more? I don’t know, only you can answer that. But if you made the right decisions based upon the information you had at the time, then you have no cause for regret. If you didn’t make the right decisions… then I would say learn from your mistakes and move on.

  2. I think this is a case of learning from my mistakes, but . . . you cannot force anybody to do anything. I wish I’d been more forthcoming and had pushed her a bit to figure out what was going on between us (obviously I can only speculate based on the timing, the general issues between us and so on), but I suspect she would have resisted opening up a can of worms and further damaging a relationship that had been important to her (and also to me). Not everybody can confront well. Years earlier (I didn’t write about this) we had an incident that occurs between women where she felt I was putting her off or changing plans at the last minute in favor of a date with a man. Although I conceded there was some truth in that, she hadn’t been honest with me about how much it bothered her until she blew up, so we did confront each other and worked through it. I’m not sure why neither of us had the guts years later to do the same – for her, maybe it was she was just out of energy for something like this. For me – I have no real excuse except I knew she had been ill for a fairly long time and I’d let it go on too long. So yes – live and learn and choose to do better in the future. Thanks for your comment! Laura

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s