'We're the same, you and me'
'Actually, no we're not'
'Yeah, we are'
'Yeah, we are'
'No we're not!'
'Okay, okay, we're not...'
The above is from an episode of Friends, a TV show that has fallen far away from the sort of show I would watch now, but it will always have a place in my heart, because it's the show I watched with my friend Laura. We watched it and loved it, in that twilight time when you're too young to be a teenager but too old to be a child. We would quote the above routine at each other, along with other quips and silly references. Laura was really good at making me laugh. We were becoming best friends at the time, quite in each other's pockets, as you tend to be during the first year of any relationship, all enamoured with the awesomeness of this new person that you've made a connection with. But there was still so much we didn't know about each other, so much history that we hadn't shared together, and still pains me that I never got to have that with her. She was taken at the point I loved her most, which does not even compare to the loss of her for the world at large and everyone that loved her, but the breaking of that connection, combined with that loss, was the first time in my life that I really began to doubt everything. There is nothing like the appearance of the real world into your tiny sphere of influence to make you think about the meaning of everything, or the apparent lack of meaning. If something like that could happen, what was the point in striving, hoping, planning, growing? What is the point if it can all be taken away in an instant? No justice, no fairness, no happy ending, just an empty space where my friend should have been.
I guess that's when I started writing, in earnest, about how I was feeling. Laura and I had kept a diary together, in it, we would write to each other, about our crushes, our worries, our favourite things, just usual diary stuff. After she had gone, I kept writing in it, to her. After a while, about a year I think, I realised that I was no longer writing to her, because she was not here to react to what I was saying, or tell me what she thought of it, she couldn't respond. Except that, my memory of her could, and I didn't need to write those thoughts down to know what my memory of her would say.
I needed to write to Laura for that time, and in writing to her, I told her all of the things I would have told her, the things I never got to say. But the knowledge that the relationship could no longer be reciprocated, that I would never get to hear all the things she would tell me, made the fact that she was gone truly hit home. I had to come to terms with that loss and nothing and nobody could replace it.
The wrench of losing someone when you are at level of intimacy is heart breaking. We've all been through it, in one form or another, break ups are essentially the same, because you are losing that connection with someone, just without the terrible reality that the world has also lost that person and that they don't get to keep travelling through life. Even if a relationship comes to a natural fruition, and you don't love that person as you once did, you are still losing the intimacy of that connection, the influence of that person on your life, and all the good stuff that you shared together. That's why continuing to do the same things that you did when you were together, following the same bands, reading the same authors, eating the same foods, is not just about keeping the memory of that person alive, it is evidence of the impact of that relationship on you. You are forever changed because of the connection you shared with that person. Which is amazing, when you think about it.
I don't hold Friends in as a high a regard as I once did because I have seen more and experienced more and these changes in perception have changed the way I view it. But who is to say that Laura would not changed her perception too, in the same or a totally different way to me? That her opportunity to do so, that her potential for growth and change, was taken away, remains the most unjust thing. It is always like that. That is the intolerable cruelty of death, that it takes away everything that we could be along with everything that we are.
Originally, at this point, I went off on a bit of a deeper tangent, expressing some of my ideas about loss, how we deal with it and how if affects us, but on reflection, I don't feel that it is right to do so. I can tell you how it made me feel, how it has affected me, but I would never presume to know anything about your grief, just as you can never really know mine. It is too personal, too specific to the individual, to make generalisations about. It's different for each of us because it is always different, but I wanted to share the rest of this post with you because in speaking about how it made me feel, I think you might be able to make a connection with my experience. I can only tell you the emotional impact of my situation, and if you see truth in that, then there is a connection. I feel that need for connection, to know that I am not alone in this increasingly scary world. The irony is that making connections makes me vulnerable to further loss, but that is the cost of loving someone.
Does losing someone ever get any easier? To me? No. I've found that I've just developed ways of coping with it. Losing someone at the height of when I love them, never gets any easier, it always leaves a scar. One day, it becomes less painful to speak about, and I feel lucky to have had that connection with that person, and honoured that I got to be a part of their journey. The propensity for healing is one of the most brilliant things about us, but healing only comes through self reflection and empathy, and I need other people in my life to help me to do that. I always come back to the idea that, if I think this way, and feel this way, and ask these questions, then surely other people do? And this helps me to think that, maybe then, I can get through this thing, and the next thing. That's the weight that a few years gives you I guess, when the shit hits the fan, as it always does, you get a sense of, this is not my first rodeo, I can get through this, I will get through this, I just have to go through the pain first.
But the strength I need to get through each toss and turn of life has been developed through my relationships with other people. These relationships have in turn helped me to develop my relationship with myself, to balance the contradictions of my personality. I understand now that I can be fatalistic and hedonistic but I am also optimistic and interested in the world. It is the relationship between the worst and the best bits of me which creates the internal monologue that drives my life. The love of the people I have known has made the hope grow, has made the darkness less prevalent in my world. Because life is not just sadness and darkness, it is funny and fun and exciting and silly, and my friends have reminded me of that, they have given me that, whether they know it or not. That is the balance, the up and the down, the dark and the light, the hope and the loss, that is the story of life playing out. Because there really is only ever one story, the differences are in the telling of it.**
This post is for Laura, because I have never talked about you directly before, but that is only because I was afraid of how I would do so, knowing the impact of your loss on others who may read this, and I would never wish to upset them. And maybe more than that, I didn't before now because it still hurts me to remember. But I just sat down the other day and started writing about you. It's been sixteen years and you're still with me, and that's when I realised that you deserve to be mentioned directly, because you were a dude, and I miss you. I will never share all of my connection with you with the rest of the world, because it was ours, but I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for being the first person I ever really tried to communicate with in this form, one of the first people I connected with through writing, and a thousand million billion times more important than that, thank you for being a part of my life. Your influence and our connection is a part of who I am today and I feel honoured that that is the case, because you were here such a short time and so many others did not get the opportunity to know how awesome you were, and silly. I don't hold with saint hood, it's not fair and it's a lie, but you were my mate, and that's all that matters. Here I am, talking to you again, when you're not here to respond, because it feels like the most natural thing to do, because I've been doing it for as long as I've been writing.
*Eabhadh. I chose this title because it's the word represented by a symbol from the Ogam alphabet, and it means that we need other people to be. It's tattooed on my right wrist, because it's meaning is that important to me (also it looks pretty, and not at all like 'Cabbage',so balls to those of you who say otherwise, you know who you are!)
We do need other people to be, because, in so many more ways than we'll ever know, well, we're the same you and me. ;)
**That line of thought was was directly influenced by True Detective, and if you haven't seen it yet, oh me god just stop what you are doing right now and watch it! And then we'll talk. I'll tell you what, I'll give you a month, and then I'm gonna be talking about it right here, you have been warned!