One of the most surprising things about this blog is what actually ends up on it. I walk through my days often thinking of the things I want to discuss with you, my dear Aunties. But it always seems to be something slightly different that emerges, one topic will morph into another, and the result will be unrecognizable to the original idea. But I am learning to give in, to trust the process, to know that where we land is where we are meant to be.
Much like life.
This week something deep on my mind is the response to the loss of Anthony Bourdain. While I know we have lost so many others, this is the one that hit me. Like many, I admired Chef Bourdain. He was comfortable in being himself, he celebrated life the way it was, and spoke a truth that many chose not to see. The part of him that stuck with me was that he recognized how many cultures had taken the cast off/thrown away parts, and from those parts, created something beautiful. I have seen this first hand. In my travels, in my own culture. The sweet, sad music, the dancing, the food, the yummy yearning, the result that comes from doing all you can with what you have, so that those around you have a sliver of joy.
So that hope persists.
In response to Chef Bourdain’s passing, I was able to see two waves (edit: maybe 2.5.) First the outpouring, the pleading of people to call, to reach out, to provide a resource. And then the second wave. The activists that spoke their truth. The survivors that spoke on behalf of those currently fighting to live. The reminder that when you are in the deepest depths of depression, sometimes the hardest thing to do is to make a call, to reach to someone for help. And then maybe a 2.5 wave. The grief from a friend who had lost two friends in rapid succession, an absolute grief and questioning.
All of this during mental health week, while I was celebrating my 40th, a time when I had purposefully arranged my days to bask in love. How to be joyful when there is so much hurt?
So here is my response and something I think we can all do: be the light. Be the love.
Be someone that people will walk towards, who people know will show up. When someone comes to your mind, text them. Call people when they post something disturbing or are sick. You can start with “I just wanted to check on you.” And then, and then, and this is the hard part: listen.
Here is a level two thing for you overachievers: reach for someone’s hand. I remember two times this made all the difference. Once a friend was visiting me when I lived in Washington DC. I was telling her a story. I had been particularly vulnerable, I had fallen on my proverbial face. My friend grabbed my hand. I sobbed. But I knew I was not alone, I had an anchor.
Another time, a few aunties (real, bona fide aunties) had gathered to support my cousin through a tough time, along with her friend. At one point, right there, at our table for six, her friend offered her hand. My cousin took it. They held hands while we spoke words that would never be as effective as that touch.
And finally, something I had to remember today, for all you Aunties that are fixers. Remember that help is different from being there. We can be there without fixing. We can show up without making lists and arranging and cost-benefit analyzing. It is our presence that heals, the sharing of light. The “here, let me hold this. You can take off your life for a moment and use my hand as a beacon, it will bring you back.”
But my dear Aunties, and I hurt for those of you who have had to learn this, sometimes even our brightest light cannot change a path. I recently went to a seminar where the speaker said “if you speak from a place of truth, you are not responsible for the outcome.” (Um, or something like that.) And the point is, we can shine our light, we can do the checks, my sisters of faith can pray their hearts out. But that is where our control ends. For those of you grieving a loss, forgive yourself. Grieve fully, but know your light was enough. It was more than enough.