Make Yourself Uncomfortable
I am writing this after recording an episode of my new Podcast, 'The Way Forward' which launches next Wednesday 15th November (links on Podcast page).
I can say without second thought that this is one of the hardest, most raw and visceral discussions I have ever been allowed to handle. I am not going to go into the story here because there are no words i can piece together to do justice to this incredible woman's survival through life altering tragedy - you will here her do just that when the episode is released.
What I do want to share with you is something that I took from our candid discussion today and that is this, 'We need to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.'
Often we have been raised to skirt around difficult conversations such as death, grief, illness, sexuality, identity, disability, mental health struggles etc. The intention I believe comes from a place of kindness, not wishing to seem insensitive or say 'the wrong thing'. However by avoiding the murky, tear jerking, anger inducing conversations all we are really doing is protecting ourselves from discomfort.
Maybe a grieving parent needs to sit and wail in the middle of the coffee shop - maybe they need to sit and say nothing. Perhaps the car accident survivor wants to tell you everything about their physical pain and distress, or maybe they want to show off their new wheelchair skills? The question is, 'but how can i know which one they need?' The answer is simple - you can't, ever. because a lot of the time they will not know either until that moment arises. The only remedy to this is to get curious with kindness. Ask that person what they need and go with it, even if they then react by taking out some of their most putrefied emotions on you for doing exactly as they asked.
Honesty is another absolutely essential ingredient to this mix. If you simply have not got, cannot give or do not know your capacity to hold space for them, just say so. Find a way to convey that you are not the person that can best help them right now - it is OK to not be that person, but it is not OK to pretend so that you don't have your pride dented.
This kind of relationship with another human is something we have rarely explored let alone usualised. We can though, we really can. You can be the person that instead of trying to fix a grief by cementing on platitudes can identify that you do not know what to say, you want to know what they need and you want to support them in finding the right person to facilitate a safe space for them to process. It sounds laborious but that is only because it isn't a regular type of conversation. Look I'll show you, real conversation names amended for anonymity:
ME 'It is so bloody unfair you are dealing with this Laila, what do you need from me right now?'
LAILA 'I need you to turn back time and stop this shit from happening but you can't can you so f@ck off.'
LAILA 'No I can't........ and I am sorry I can't be the person you need right now - who can i call to be with you and make sure you feel safe?'
LAILA: 'Nobody. I just want to drink my coffee in peace. Leave me alone......please.......I'm sorry I said f@ck off though. It's not your fault.'
ME: 'It's OK. I am going shopping and I will call you in an hour just to check in OK?'
LAILA 'Thanks. Yeah. Why did she ...... She was only 19.'
Was it uncomfortable - YES, as it should be. Losing a best friend at such a young age is painful and vile and unthinkable, so yes the conversation was uncomfortable, but I was comfortable with that fact. I hope this has helped shed some light on the need for more honesty, reality and regularity in the conversations we hold with friends and family in the wake of the toughest parts of our lives unfolding.
Touch base - email me at email@example.com to let me know your thoughts and/or to explore any uncomfortable areas of your life that you need space for.
You are incredible, don't hide that from the world, or yourself.
X Fliss X