“Hey, I found this outside the door with your name on the card,” she said holding a beautifully wrapped gift box, her hands extending it to me.
“Really?” I questioned. Who would be leaving me a gift outside my office door? As I began to read the card, I felt silly by the obviousness of it all. It was from my mischievous friend, standing right in front of me. I laughed and felt ridiculous at the same time. My friend, Jayne, who I had met through work, had become one of my strongest cheerleaders and supporters in my life in a very short amount of time and I was grateful she was simply in the room. I’d spent so much time with clients lately, I'd forgotten the feeling of human friendship in the flesh.
Good Things are on Their Way to You, it read, along with a heartfelt note of thanks for our friendship and acknowledgement of just how much it meant to her. The gifts inside the box were a blend of silly and serious tokens. A spiritual book her mentor had written, novelty napkin and matches with funny pictures and sayings, and a few other items that represented just the kinds of things that would make us smile and pause. It was the perfect gift.
We waited a few minutes to acknowledge that we were, in fact, alone in the office. We were running an empowerment group we just began advertising for and were thrilled that no one showed up. It was just us, happy friends who got to spend the next hour telling stories of our week and the immense growth we were feeling and a genuine appreciation that our previous struggles were finally beginning to pay off…and more importantly, we were understanding why.
We laughed hard at ourselves and the texts we sent earlier in the day. She had become that friend for me, that offered me daily support and we would text each other all day long with updates and words of encouragement and insight…like an interactive friend journal. We knew just how the other was feeling and exchanged the play by plays of learning our daily lessons in living. Deep, spiritual and always an additional bonus of humor. She totally got me.
When she walked out the door that night, she showed me how big her pants were and I scolded her for wearing them. Money was tight for her and she didn’t want to add more to her credit card and I went on a tangent about deserving and blah, blah, blah…buy some pants that feel good. While I was getting in my car, she yelled out, “I Love You!” and I responded that I loved her back, thinking, “Huh, I should say that more often.” I looked over at my friend waving goodbye and she looked stunning…and happy.
That would be the last vision I had of her.
My beautiful friend went home that night and died quietly in her sleep.
To fill in the gap of what I’ve experienced since that last sentence would be a book in itself. It’s been…incredibly painful. And I am no stranger to grief.
I’ve thought a lot about loss since then and why it’s such a challenge to manage emotionally. I see how the more we attach ourselves to people, ideas and beliefs, the more we risk being hurt when we discover those people, ideas and beliefs can change overnight. The stronger we attach, the higher the risk of disappointment if something goes “wrong.” They are the kind of thoughts where anxiety festers, and a fear of attachment begins.
It’s so easy to focus on loss when it happens…everything that’s missing. All that we’ve lost, including the loss of the dream of the future and the way we thought it would be. We focus on the change. It’s a typical response and it hurts like crazy.
But when we slow down and look at what we’ve gained from a person or an idea that didn’t play out the way we once believed it would, we can begin to pull out the positives, the gifts, the experiences we wouldn’t have had otherwise. And that’s when we can start to see the gain in almost anything.
If I was given the offer to create a friendship with a person who would change my life and perspective in such a way it would alter my view of my world, myself, how I give, how I love and how I want to grow-- but it would be taken away from me when I least expected it, would I take the offer?
Would I have had the courage to accept the experience for what it was?
I’m a risk taker, but risking dropping the peace in my heart is not my strong suit.
And yet, I took a risk to befriend someone who altered my life forever so profoundly that I will never be the same. I will take all that she taught me to expand my view of faith and create new opportunities that wouldn’t haven’t been inspired without her. I will hear her voice when I’m scared and she will counsel me through as I try to avoid all that I want to pursue, but am fearful of.
Without taking the risk to attach, to love, to let go and trust that we are supported by life, how can we ever live in our dreams? Every idea and experience and person comes into our lives to teach us something and when they are present, we are unaware of how they will play out. Does that mean we are best to avoid them? How many incredible experiences would we miss out on if we chose not to risk potential temporary discomfort?
When we look back on all the pains we’ve lived through, how many would we give up if it meant we couldn’t be where we are?
I wouldn’t give mine up either. I wouldn’t be who I am without the risks and challenges and I am liking this woman I see transforming. I am eternally grateful for what I’ve learned. Worth every tear I’ve shed and feeling of emptiness, especially now that I am beginning to refill my own cup.
When assessing risk, the ultimate question becomes, which will bring me closer to my joy and which will take me further away? I choose joy in whatever form it comes in. You?