I have to share something I’m ashamed about. It’s uncomfortable.
The other day, I attended the funeral for the passing of my friend’s mother. When I heard the news, I was really struck by how out of touch I had been in this friend’s life. I knew her mother wasn’t well and that my friend had been caring for her of late. I had no idea how severe the matter was until hearing of her death.
Enter guilt. Why hadn’t I known what was going on? Why hadn’t I been kind enough or thoughtful enough with my time and attention to remember to check in with her more often? To offer my support and be there for her when her times were tough?
So I’m sitting there, trying to swallow this feeling – not so much for myself but in that complicated way that emotions go when we turn awareness on… not wanting to add the additional burden onto this friend of needing to exonerate me of my guilt. In the realm of who has to own what, that definitely ain’t hers.
As I’m leaving the wake, I flippantly ask another friend how she’s doing. Last I knew, there were some health concerns, but she had been optimistic. She responds by tearing up and confirming the diagnosis in question. I’m completely stopped in my tracks. I am overwhelmed for her and empathetic. I am also the worst friend in the entire world. (…also a me-centered thought! Damn it all.)
If the universe ever tried to send me a wake-up call, this one was pretty overt. I get it, I see.
We are, collectively, a self-absorbed species. Not in the think-we’re-the-best way, but in that we are largely consumed with all things our own lives. So often I’m counselling patients to go inward, to check in with themselves, to learn to love themselves. It seems over the last few weeks or months, I lost sight of the going outward part. Just like Yin and Yang, we need both directions of view.
How to re-direct our gaze? It’s as simple as it sounds. Consciously look in the other direction.
Try to identify where you have largely been focused – has the weight of attention between towards yourself or towards others? And let’s remember that there is a time and place for each to take precedence…Nature is replete with wild and shifting imbalances. My girlfriends at the wake? Let them focus within for however long they need. This is not their moment to be taking care of others.
For me, right now? Time to seriously shift my gaze. Not to forget myself entirely, of course, but to better show up for those that I love.
How utterly humbling to be an imperfect human.