It also means sharing. And sharing not only the good, but also the bad.
Somewhere along the way I learned not to complain. I learned to keep my pain and my struggles to myself. Somewhere I learned that no one cares what keeps me up at night (literally).
But as I recently learned… I was wrong.
If something is going on in your life, I’m happy to hold space for you. But I rarely tell you what is going on with me. I thought this was how to be a good friend, a good listener. Be strong. Don’t show my pain, my worry. You have enough to worry about. You don’t need my struggles, too. Besides, it seemed those who really know me seemed to know I work too hard, and they already worry enough about me. So why give them more to worry about? Right?!?
The pain started mid-December. I’d wake up at 2 am from the pain growing in my belly. Once awake I couldn’t tune it out. I’d pace around the house and take Advil or Tylenol. Sometimes I would read, sometimes watch something on my phone. Eventually I might fall asleep sitting up on the couch or crawling back to bed when the pain subsided. I told no one. My husband figured it out. But I downplayed the pain, telling him it was indigestion. This went on for many nights. I really believed it was digestive and tried to find the culprits… Tomatoes? Wine?
The sleepless nights stopped suddenly and allowed me to enjoy Christmas.
But they came back with a vengeance right after New Year’s. Now worse than ever, the pains were not only happening at night, but during the day too. The pain was even making me sick. I was trying Tums, Advil, Tylenol, sleeping upright, watching what I ate. The result was I was eating very little and sleeping even less. But still, I told almost no one. My husband was getting worried.
My doctor had recently retired and I was currently between doctors and spent most nights googling when should you go to emergency for stomach pain… This was not something you went to a walk-in or emergency for, right? It’s just indigestion. Then my husband made me a deal… he was going to take his grandmother to the doctors (vs. me) and I was to go to the walk-in. FINE! Fast forward a walk in visit, an emergency visit, a CT scan, an ultrasound and finally the call… You have to go to emergency now! Twenty-six hours after walking into emergency for the second time I was on the operating table having my gallbladder removed.
While in the hospital pre- and post-surgery I told a few people. I mean a small few. Some I had to because I needed coverage for a commitment, others because I didn’t want them to find out from someone else. But it was when I texted my friend that I started to see that there is more to being a friend than just listening…
Me: Have a great trip. FYI I had my gallbladder removed last night.
Friend: OMG, what happened?
Me: blah blah blah
Friend: Aww, I get it. However I bothered you with all my stuff. Wish I would have known. I love you my friend. Speedy recovery.
We chatted some more but her comment really hit me. “I bothered you with all my stuff. Wish I would have known”. I realized she was upset I didn’t allow her to be there for me. I didn’t open myself up for her to hold space for me as I do for her.
I was reminded of this again when some amazing women came to visit me ten days after surgery. As they sat with me I admitted I was in a lot of pain the week before surgery and even did a presentation in pain. They all looked at me and demanded to know why I didn’t tell anyone. They would have helped me. Once again showing me that I didn’t have to go through this alone… that people want to help me. They want to be there for me.
Recently a friend of mine who is going through a painful medical issue herself sent me flowers.
When the universe wants to teach me a lesson it does a good job. I realized that my lesson was that being a good friend is as much about giving myself to them as it is about being there for them. They want to help me with my pains as much as they want to celebrate with me. I feel very lucky to have attracted such amazing friends, people, and women. I promote being yourself. I promote being brave and to be brave means being vulnerable. But yet, I keep people at distance. Thank you gallbladder for such a beautiful learning. It’s time… time I shared a little of my soul…
What do you think? Is friendship about holding space for others AND allowing others to hold space for you?
“It’s not about how much we give but how much love we put into giving”Mother Teresa
“It’s not about how much we give but how much love we put into giving”
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