The Eye of the Storm

I haven’t known what to write about lately. It is unusual for me to get writer’s block, so I began to assume that maybe it was an okay time for a break. Life has been very ‘full’: some things very good, others downright hard. I have been quietly processing all of it, particularly what is going on with my Mom, Dion’s health and the lives of many people at The Dale. I know there is a weariness evident in my eyes.

I recently walked into the Monday Drop-In late, having gone to a doctor’s appointment with Dion first thing that morning. We often find appointments with the MS specialist hard because of the bombardment of well-intentioned information, very little of which is related to the possibility of life without the disease. When I walked through the door at The Dale I was feeling raw. One of our community members was feeling off too. While it was just the two of us in the foyer, he launched into a bit of a tirade about everything wrong with Parkdale. Knowing I had little capacity to manage it, I said, “friend, I’ve had a really hard morning. I don’t know what to say”. He suddenly stopped, said, “ya, I heard. I get that” and proceeded to sit with me in silence.

It can be a difficult discipline to simply be with the one who is in pain. When people are struggling it is easy to fill up the air with platitudes. There are of course times when people want and ask for advice, or need to process out loud. I desire those things. What I’m learning is that I also need to be still, often with people who know and love me. In the stillness I am reminded that my circumstances do not outweigh my inherent worth in God. This truth usually enables me to take a deep breath and carry on.

On Monday I was surrounded by people who tenderly cared for me. The typical flurry of activity continued all day, but somehow the community created a pocket of space for me to be in. Most people didn’t say much at all, as though they knew it was enough to touch my shoulder and nod, or give me a hug. When I wanted to talk there were people to listen. I want to liken my experience to being moved to the eye of the storm, that calm region at the center of a storm or hurricane. The storm didn’t stop, but in the midst of it I was able to be still.


The Transformation of a Relationship

To a stranger she can come off as extremely tough with her in-control swagger and apparent chip on her shoulder. She’s done jail time. Alcohol is a major part of her life in that she’s either indulging or working hard to abstain. She is also a great dishwasher, loves dogs and listens to Patsy Cline. We’ve been slowly developing a friendship for nine years.

Last December she came to a Drop-In drunk and desperately sad. As I tried to guide her to a chair in the foyer, she fell, taking me with her. We landed in a heap and stayed there for the next forty-five minutes. She proceeded to open up to me in an entirely new way. Instead of giving me the bare minimum of information about herself, I learned what the swagger, the chip and the booze were covering. She had been abandoned by a person in her life who should have stayed. Her pain was palpable. Together we wept.

As hard as that conversation was, I left feeling encouraged. On that day our relationship shifted. For the first time I was allowed to catch a deeper glimpse of her true-self underneath the tough exterior. Though she’d often been present for me, allowing me to be present for her had not come easy. Being vulnerable requires a great deal of trust, especially when that trust has been routinely compromised in the past.

The hard stuff in this friend’s life just keeps on giving. We talk about it a lot. She is much more free to share her tears with me and continues to accept mine. Almost every time our visits come to an end I say, “Remember, I love you”. She usually pauses, puts her head down and says, “You too”. I noticed recently that instead of waiting to hear me say it, she now initiates. It’s not that she didn’t mean it before, it’s that her confidence has grown.

Too many people in this world experience a poverty of relationship. Building community can be slow and oftentimes hard work as evidenced in this story. Isolation and the accompanying loneliness had stripped my friend of the belief that she was lovable. Though we had seemingly little in common on the outside, when we took off our masks we came to realize that we were more alike than different. Discovering this has been and I believe will continue to be, transformative.