Tuesday, October 26, 2010


"There must be those among whom we can sit and weep and still be considered warriors" Andrienne Rich

I never thought of myself as weepy until a couple of years ago.

The circumstances of all that are almost to the point of boring even me, but it's a funny thing to continue to carry an indelible permanence especially when the general consensus seems to be that it's far time to have moved on, to appreciate what is and to cool it with the dwelling in the past.

In my case, I am reminded frequently how very lucky and very loved I am. And it's true, every word of it. It is no stretch to look at my life and see and maybe even envy a wonderful enduring relationship, a precious family, a meaningful job, amazing friends, a cozy house, money in the bank, competence and talent and skills, even a quirky playfulness and wit that sometimes I find myself enjoying my own company.

And yet count me among those who sit and weep. I have no justification for why I can not wrestle the past to the ground. It's not as though I don't do the work, don't help myself understand that sometimes things are just the way they are. It's not as if I'm unable to accept that the heart decides who will reside in its chambers.

I've now written four paragraphs and I haven't yet explained why I am writing any of this today.

This is why: it's hard to witness and support the pain of another over and over again. It's especially hard when it seems like the person isn't doing much to help her/himself. Even harder when you can see that holding on to some one or some thing is emotionally, physically, or spiritually harmful to that person. It's hard to hang in, be patient, be willing to hold and honor and listen to what another cannot yet do for her/himself. It's hard not to judge.

When I was in New Orleans three weeks after Hurricane Katrina, I was on the neighborhood streets of Saint Bernard County when families returned to their destroyed homes for the first time. Many spent all day digging through 12 to 18 feet of mud and sludge to retrieve what little might have survived: a glass vase, a Tuperware bowl--something, anything--that was part of the life they had.

I was there, on those streets, and all I could do was to bear witness. I looked at the pictures they showed me of their former back yard, the flower beds, the kids sitting on the front stoop of their modest brick home. I handed out water and I witnessed the life they had lost. It wasn't much, but I knew then and I know now that being there counted for something.

I am so grateful for the special people who care and listen and allow me to wallow again and again. I hope I give that back. But sometimes for my own reasons I have to say 'enough'. Sometimes I become concerned that I enable. Probably those who become impatient with me are concerned about that too.

But mostly, in the past couple of years, I have learned that listening is a far greater treasure than solving; and witnessing is far more helpful than advising.

The worse criticism my little Mr. Ryan, age 3 almost 4, will ascribe these days when he's upset is that someone is a Bad Listener!


Love kj


  1. Kj, friendship can be a very complicated thing. So can sorrow.
    I do think that listening is a wondeful thing, but after you have listened for years and the friend does not seem to ever move away from their addiction (yes, people can be addictions too)I think the best thing to do for them is to walk away. Seems harsh? So be it, sometimes walking away so as not to enable anymore is the most loving thing to do, sometimes you get so tired of seeing someone you love harm themselves over and over that
    you can't watch it anymore.
    As for your still continuing pain for a lost love one, that is something only you can fix, and time will help, I am still, after years letting go of my true love, almost daily, but I accept that and I know that it is the best thing for him and I, so I do it gladly. Sorry for the long comment :-).

  2. annie, i just can't judge. i don't want to judge. there may be circumstances where i may need to step away, but i hope to do that softly, and only in the areas where i know i cannot, will not help. and i hope and am glad when i receive that in return. god knows why i or anyone repeats questionable patterns, holds on when letting go makes total sense. i've found with clients and friends and loved ones alike that sometimes growth is slow and painful, sometimes it seems like right is wrong, but i and they are better off when i don't judge.

    this is my lesson in the last few years, and i'm glad for it.

    i'm sorry you've tried and been disappointed. i understand totally that you have to do what you have to do. don't we all!

  3. a complex post. I remember when a friend was getting divorced, for a time that's all she could talk about, it was such a powerful emotional change for her. The same words over and over. Releasing some dismay, some heartbreak and the way chosen was via words.

    I myself feel I am in that place of using words, the same words over and over, to try to express something, and I am not even sure what. I dont think it is really about the actual thing I am stuck on.

    Back in the old days when I found myself in a stuck place, I went into therapy and paid someone to listen to my moans and groans. Then I did not feel guilty. that was their job. Rarely, in those days, did I impose my repetitive thingydos on a friend. It seemed intrusive and a drain on their kindness.

    Yet I know now, I repeat the same moan and groan on my blog. I am trying not to so much anymore. I know what I need to do and I am not moving forward to the visible eye. However, under the microscope, perhaps I am.

    I do agree that listening is the more powerful choice rather than trying to solve someone else's dilemma. Witnessing more helpful than advising. amen. Listening takes practice and a bit of silence within.

    That Mr. Ryan, he is right on the money. Hugs and hope I am not the one who taxed your listening presence.

  4. dear suki, a complex comment! i moan and groan with the best of 'em!
    i think so much is about time, place, circumstance. to me, there is a time to vent and grieve and express and reach in and out and there is a time not to give doubt and self criticism the time of day. i so appreciate your honesty, always here and on your own blog. you are not taxing anything but my interest and caring.

    my favorite expression of all time is 'never cut what can be untied'

    i try to live by that, and it has served me very very well. my second favorite is 'ride the horse in the direction she's going,'

    and my third favorite is 'a ship in harbor is safe but it doesn;t see anything'

    haha, by now i don't know what any of this reply has to do with the intention of my post. :)


  5. Oh boy, I'm a bad friend because I have told you I couldn't bear to hear her name anymore. I thought I was doing that for you and now I see I was being selfish.
    Let me go back to listening and witnessing again. I want to be there for you, fully present.
    I never did and never will judge you, I hope you know that.
    I think I was just trying the 'tough love' approach hoping it would be enough to lead you away from torturing yourself.
    You will always have those memories and I know you will always, deeply feel the loss.
    I feel you have the right to.

    I'm glad you wrote this post. I've learned a lot here today and I thank you for opening my eyes.

    Please know that I AM here for you, anytime, anywhere.


  6. I've been in your shoes, kj. Painful and frustrating, it is. With time, it eases and as you have shown us, insight and new understanding emerges.

  7. I'll be patient for as long as it takes with you, kj. Until every last thing is dealt with and put to rest over a painful event, one cannot clear the waters, so to speak. And sometimes, this can take a long time and sometimes, laying things to rest comes easier and there is a shorter mourning period. I believe it is unique to the individual.

    I believe if a person is honoured enough to hear the confidences of another, that person, if it were me, will listen as the other finds their way through a difficult patch on their path. Without judgment, without the need to fix it, with compassion and love...for as long as it takes. I learn along with the other.

    Many times I will share the tears.

    I like the gentleness of this quote...'never cut what can be untied'...thanks, kj!


    You won't believe the verification on this comment...ducts! How funny!! How are your tear ducts these days, dearest kj? heh

  8. lo, this may be a discussion between two committed friends, off the blogs. honestly i wrote this not just thinking about what i may hope for for myself, but also about what i give to others who hope that for themselves. for the record, you have given me hours and hours and hours of faithful kind helpful listening. tsupmwah always ♥

    what a sweet comment annie, thank you so much. xoxo

    dearest marion, all i am going to say here to you is thank you times a million. i know full well how deeply you listen ♥

  9. p.s. marion, maybe the word verf really meant to be 'ducks', as in 'kj us a quackup' :)

  10. I think mostly for me it is the embarrassment, the humiliation, the naiveté (on my part) and the rejection that keep me wallowing.
    And it is worse when I am blindsided by the act.
    Just saying.
    Good luck with this.
    It is so ok to let it go, it is in the past.
    Love and huge hugs with this process.
    Your lessons make you a better listener;-D

  11. Hmmm....maybe tough love is no good. sorry honey....

  12. I like what you've said kj and i hope i've heard you well.

    Listening is an art and it gets better with practice. I like the expression 'there is a reason we have 2 ears and one mouth'.

    I think we all have to find the way of healing for ourselves. What works for one doesn't work for another. I want you to find your healing path, that's what i hope for you.


  13. Ahaaa! A good read because it touches all. Regarding judgement others I remember one quote - " I understand everyone, so I don't judge anyone."

    Listening is important, witnessing is more important. Witnessing sadness breaks our dreams. We try to solve the puzzle, we find one grand truth that behind every sadness there lies selfishness and yet we don't learn.

    When our mind is in absolute silence and we listen then we hear that it is not someone else talking but its our own self that echoes.

    I also like the illustration of beautiful home, talent, money etc. and paradoxically weeping.

    Sometimes I feel we are all so similar yet so different. Incredible paradox!

  14. I don't really know what to add here.
    I like the post. It's honest and beautiful.

    I wish you peace and I'm learning to be a better listener.

    xxx Robyn

  15. What a great post! Looking at the wise and wonderful comments it seems to me that being a good listener IS what friends do.... everyone goes through pain and heartache in their life....friends do not judge, but offer an open ear and a loving heart. This is not always easy to do....but in the end, it is the true expression of love and friendship to be able to do it.


    ♥ Robin ♥

  16. "But mostly, in the past couple of years, I have learned that listening is a far greater treasure than solving; and witnessing is far more helpful than advising."


  17. marie, how interesting your comment. all of that but mostly, i think, the callousness. i think in the world that is probably one of the most troubling traits. ♥

    mim, i'm not the best with tough love. i'm sure i give it better than i receive it :) thanks honey back

    lori, hahaha special sweet friend: sometimes i think i already have a phD in healing and paths!!!


    "behind every sadness there lies selfishness and yet we don't learn"

    hmmmmmm.....selfishness as in focusing on the self? at the expense of most everything else?
    i have read this four times now and i find i don't accept it because to do that i would have disappointment in myself. for me that comes too close to blame or even shame and that is not what i want to carry now or ahead.

    your comments are wonderful, shubhajit. you always make me think. xoxo

  18. robyn, thank you as always. is there any way you could have tea with lori and me? :) i imagine you are a fine listener. i have the skills to know :)
    love kj

    wrobin, i agree. i do think sometimes listening can get pretty stale and not helpful, and i would want a good friend to tell me that.
    that is often hard to hear, but it's how we grow. i get tripped up on the judgement. alot of learning to handle a difficult situation is about trusting yourself, so to me, the friends who trust me to trust myself help the most. does that make sense? p. s. ♥

  19. cs, actually, i liked that sentence too. :)

  20. But mostly, in the past couple of years, I have learned that listening is a far greater treasure than solving; and witnessing is far more helpful than advising. no truer words, and well said kj! There is such strength and healing in truly bearing witness, and listening. I almost said 'simply listening', but there is nothing simple about it when seeing another suffering. The desire to lift the pain can be so incredibly strong, but to follow energy in it's natural flow, more often means being present and hearing another fully... I also agree that eventually there comes a time when we walk a fine line between being a help and indulging or enabling. I don't feel that time is the major step in healing though, because each person, each scenario, all healing, is so individual. You seem to be constantly working on your Self, and looking with honesty - demanding *enough* from yourself - that's healing! Two years or twenty, wallowing ain't your style!! and yes, you are loved, admired, talented, and a true friend.❤ much love, Karin

  21. Listen and not judge nor say: if I were you I would ...

    Mr Ryan is very perceptive*!*

  22. yes...listening is a gift, for both people involved. Nothing makes me feel as good as when someone says to me 'When I call, it's like I am the only person who has a cat from you. You always listen, no matter how busy you are'...