This month’s #1000Speak post sneaked up on me. On Saturday afternoon I wasn’t even sure what I was going to write about, but I brewed a fresh cup of hot tea and sat down to write anyway, when my husband’s phone rang. I heard him through the open window, answer “Wazzup?” as he always does, and then his tone changed. I knew it was bad. I went out on the deck in time to hear both sides of the conversation: my husband’s brother had killed himself.
Even the birds were silent.
This is not a story about addiction or mental illness; those factors don’t add to this tragedy. It is the story of a man who had buried his wife only weeks before, the wife he’d loved as much as life as itself, and without whom he could not go on. I believe he did not leave this life so much as he chose to follow her into the next one.
I am not second-guessing, or recriminating, or blaming, or guilt-tripping. I cannot presume any of those things. All I can know is that they were both wonderful people. They were deeply loved and will be deeply missed.
And these musings bring me back to this month’s #1000Speak topic: Connections. How precious they are, how fragile, and how strong, even between the worlds, and how aware of them I have been of late.
As part of my coursework this quarter, I am up to my eyeballs in the subject of domestic abuse. It has swept me back to my own time in that hell, with all the fear and loathing. Each situation is unique, but all have one thing in common, and that is isolation. Abusers actively work to cut off their victims from the rest of the world and what they don’t accomplish intentionally is achieved by other dynamics. The rest of the world begins to say, “Well, she must like it there or she wouldn’t stay.” Like so many others, I believed I was looked down on for getting myself into such a situation, and for failing to get myself out of it. Shame and pride can indeed be bedfellows. All of this adds up to someone who needs help desperately and effectively has nowhere to go for it. Connections cut.
If you have not lived through an abusive relationship, please believe me when I tell you that what you may see is only the very tip of the iceberg. There is a violent storm under what may seem to be a calm surface, a storm you cannot know unless you are the one living it.
Would you help if they asked you? Be sure you let them know that. Don’t assume they “should just know it.”
Keep holding out that helping hand. If the connection is there, they will use it when they are ready.
The other thing that jumps straight to my mind when I think of connection are my children. Monster is unique, one of those easy-to-raise kids everybody loved, a charismatic overachiever who seems extra blessed somehow. We are eight hundred miles apart these days, but the connection is always there. Both busy with work and school, we may not talk for weeks but when we do, it’s just picking up the same conversation. He and I are always and effortlessly connected.
With Dream Girl, it’s rather different. I love her no less, and I probably know her more intimately. She has had a multitude of issues, none of them her fault, including crippling anxiety and a father who (apparently) fell off the planet several years ago. Dream Girl has had a rougher time with finding herself and molding herself through her teenage years, and it often seems that for months on end we do nothing but argue. She doesn’t like the situation any more than I do; she feels just as frustrated, just as unheard. She and I both take the same tactic to avoid it: we just don’t speak to each other. We love each other so much we’d rather be silent than be hurtful.
Sometimes the best way to keep the connection is to just let it go. For now. Seize the moments when they come — and they do. It will not always be this way and when things change, our connection is waiting for us.
Several months ago at the ripe old age of 52, I connected with my birthmother. I was giddy with excitement, and terrified. What if we had nothing in common? What if we didn’t like each other? What if she didn’t want anything to do with me? What if I was making a big mistake? I was so wonderfully, happily surprised to find that the connection there, and it was almost instant. Many things about me are nature, but others are definitely nurture. It has been a joy to have her in my life, and there was another, unexpected gift: In making the connection with my birth-mom, I rediscovered connections with my mom-mom. How blessed I am to be connected to both!
Connection waxes and wanes, like the phases of the moon. Too much is a leash; too little is slow death by starvation. Finding the right connection — the right strength, the right medium, the right touch — can take years to learn, or it can be effortless, like two jigsaw puzzle pieces locking together. The love any one of us feels for the others in our lives can never be duplicated by any other two people, making love infinite in its variety, for all the billions of loves between all the billions of people. No two people can ever love exactly the same way. No two connections can ever be the same. Some are fleeting, others are timeless, and none is any less important than any other. We may never know when the tiniest, most fleeting of connections may save a life – or when the lack may cost one.
All connections matter. These connections, whether a lifelong bond between husband and wife or a moment of kindness and compassion between two strangers, are what give humanity the power to be what I hope it will someday be: one race, the human race, all aware of the connectedness each of us has with all others as we share and care for this beautiful green planet we call home.
Photo credits, in order of appearance:
Tin can phone: t s Beall and many others
Women holding hands: Valerie Everett, Creative Commons
Shadow women: Justice Beitzel, Creative Commons
World hands: #1000Speak