First, there was my neighbor, a lovely elderly man who shares his garden produce with everyone and cheerfully keeps watch on our homes when we're away. He stopped by as I was coming in from walking to the dogs and told me all about his wife who is showing increasing signs of dementia -forgetting to pay bills, repeating questions over and over, signs I am certainly all too familiar with. My heart was still aching for him when the phone rang, and it was my friend and colleague, bemoaning the fact that school counselors had pulled another five students from her girls choir because of a schedule conflict with required courses. She admitted to feelings of despair over the music program she had worked so hard to build over the past 18 years, now feeling as if it were now "disintegrating before her eyes," in her last year before retirement.
While I was still in shock at these mournful comments coming from my eternally optimistic friend, a call came from another friend whose 27 year old son died by suicide in January of this year. September 1 marked his birthday, and it was a conversation full of tears from both of us, as we remembered him and mourned his loss all over again.
I admit to being someone who likes to fix things, and when people confide their hurts and problems to me, I just itch to find a way to make it all better. So, after finishing all these conversations, I was wracking my brain trying to think of a way to help these people that I care about. Suddenly, I realized that I probably had helped them, just by listening to them, by lending a sympathetic, non-judgmental ear. Then I had a revelation of my own - I realized that I rarely, if ever, confide my problems to anyone. Not the really deep down, crisis of the soul sort of problems. I carry them with me, tightly knotted in a heavy sack so they can't possibly get out. Occasionally, I feel them come bubbling to the surface, trying to leave my mouth during a conversation with a friend, or even to flow from my pen as I write in my journal. Usually, I stuff them back inside the sack, hidden forever like an evil monster. I'm not sure why I persist in this reticence - fear of boring people? of seeming weak or out of control? or just plain fear of looking head on at the things that pain me the most?