Hard conversations and safe spaces

'' photo (c) 2010, Jessie Jacobson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

She’s been one of “my girls” for the better part of her time in high school, and I’ve lost track of the hours we’ve spent together and the coffees we’ve shared. Somehow over the last three years we’ve become an integral part of each other’s lives, and last week was a huge celebration for her as she collected her diploma and marked the end of high school. And I was on vacation…again.

Yesterday, she told me with a shocking amount of bravery and honesty that I’d hurt her feelings because I wasn’t there for her graduation or her open house or the recognition service at the small church. She told me that she understood I was traveling, that she wasn’t exactly mad at me, but that she felt like she wasn’t important to me anymore, since everything happened in August.

And I had no choice but to match her honesty with my own. I admitted something I’ve known but haven’t said out loud – “I keep running away because it’s too damn hard to be here.”

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I was in Michigan at the end of April for my goddaughter’s baptism. I really only “needed” to be there for a weekend, but I had the time, so why not stay a week?

My friend called a week before I left for that trip needing someone to dogsit in another state for ten days. Ten days is a long time, but I like those dogs and I’d be helping my friend, and I had the time, so why not say yes?

My mom called on day 4 of the 10 day dogsitting trip and said that she and my dad were going to visit my aunt in Ohio over Memorial Day weekend and asked if I wanted to go. There were things going on that weekend that I could’ve have stayed for – barbeques and the graduate recognition service – but, I hadn’t seen my family in a while and I love a good road trip and I had the time, so why not go?

And then it was family vacation, and we hung out in Maine for a week, eating lobster and drinking hot coffee because who knew Maine in June would be that cold?

I wasn’t keeping track, but people in my world were, and in the last two months I have been at home a grand total of two weeks. 16 days to be exact. And I was gone with a lot of good reasons, all family stuff, but the undercurrent to all of it, if I’m being honest, is that I have been running away. Because being here is too damn hard right now.

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My friends lately have been so busy being moms and raising kids and having jobs and serving in ministries, and I have been so busy running away, that we haven’t had a whole lot of time to chat lately. No cups of coffee. No lingering dinners. No catch-up lunches with kids in tow. We’re just moving from one thing to the next in a flurry of activity. And it occurs to me in this moment that I’m probably not the only one that thinks it’s just too damn hard to be here right now.

We’re all struggling to hold it together, to figure life out now that this is the new normal. We’re trying to be kind to one another, but the latent hurt and anger and disappointment and sadness is hard to ignore most days. We’ve lost something, and most of us are still in mourning, and probably will be for a very long time. We’re all dealing in different ways, with different coping strategies in place, and not all of them healthy.

And maybe this is where I am, after being called out by my newly graduated friend, begging all of us to find healthier ways of coping. And maybe part of how we do that is by trying to believe the best in one another again, and having real conversations that beg the hard things to be said. Maybe part of how we do this getting healthy thing is by hurting together, inviting to say the things that haven’t been said in almost a year, like “I keep running away” and “It’s too damn hard to be here right now.”

And maybe even, “I’ve been so busy taking care of everybody else for the last nine months that I’m only now feeling my own hurts in this mess, and I’m not handling them well.”

I mean, maybe something like that needs to be said. I don’t know, I’m just guessing. But, how about if we start creating safe spaces to say these kind of things anyway? Because I can’t speak for you, but I know I sure need it.

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2 thoughts on “Hard conversations and safe spaces

  1. I’m really glad for the second to last paragraph that you wrote because it’s too like you to feel guilty for taking time for yourself and for your family, and I’m glad to see that you aren’t doing that this time. Maybe you’ve been running, but to the Anderson-Nordykes, and to Joy, and your parents, and your cousins, I bet it doesn’t seem like you have been -or maybe you have been running but it’s been running in the right direction. There is a time to dig your toes in and hold your ground and there is a time to walk lightly and make space for the light and happy things of life.

  2. I liked this so much I had to do more than click on “like.” The only way to navigate the waters is to do it together, be honest, extend an awful lot of grace and allow others to extend it to you. This is an excellent post!

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