I met a new patient this morning who absolutely broke my heart. I’ll call her Celia. Celia really revealed herself to me today and told me things she didn’t believe she could share with her loved ones because of who she believed they saw her to be. But I, being a mere kind stranger with listening ears, with whom she had nothing to prove was her chance to let go and unburden herself. And unburden herself, she did.
The details of Celia’s unfortunate situation is not the story here, it’s the way she has suffered through it silently and almost shamefully. She has not gone through it all alone – she has been married 37 years – but other than her husband, she has taken on the worry, the stress, and the anxiety primarily by herself.
She has let no one – not her grown children, not her siblings, and not even her friends – in on the real story of what’s happened to her. Because she feels the need to sugar-coat reality for her loved ones, she is left to share her sad thoughts and deepest fears with me – a total stranger. When she does speak to family and friends, she tells half-truths to keep them from worrying. So, in a sense, she is holding herself hostage in this prison she has created that allows nobody to visit her, comfort her, and give her what she truly needs.
She claims the anonymity of it all gives her peace; no judgements, no pity, no worry, no gossip…..but chances are, these are self-imposed ideas and while the possibility of one or two of them are true, with anonymity comes isolation.
Celia believes that taking this on – just her husband and her – without anybody knowing the truth of her trials will give her the strength to overcome the challenges she faces. She talked a good game with her bright smile and cheerful attitude, but I did not see peace. Instead, I saw a woman talking herself into the biggest lie of them all – that we can do it alone.
Celia clearly has a strong faith in God, which is a good start, but God gave us our family and friends for a reason. They can help us through the hard times and provide us the shoulder we need to lean on. While God may surround us with His love and His strength, His love is best felt through the arms of loved ones that he has so generously given to us. Heck, for as much as family drives us crazy, the least they could do is wrap their arms around us when we need a hug! I think God gave us family because they are bound to us forever with no returns or exchanges allowed, while friends are the ones we get to pick out ourselves and return as we like. We choose our friends. Of course, I’m certain God places them in our path and it’s up to us to let them in and be our friends, but we do choose our friends.
Not only do we choose who our friends will be, we choose the type of friendships we will have with them. They might be fun friends, occasional friends, similar-interests friends, or maybe just convenient friends. These are all great, but nothing is better than a true blue friend.
A true friend is the kind you let into your world to see it all - the good, the bad, and the ugly. They know the stuff only your family should know. Remember, family is stuck with you, but friends can walk out whenever they want. Real friendship is trusting that they’re not going to walk just because you‘re a little “cuckoo”. They know what scares you and terrifies you - what motivates and inspires you. They know what you pray for and what you dream of and they pray and dream for those things too. Let’s get real – if you win the lottery, what friend’s not gonna share it with another friend – especially the true blue variety?
Of course, the best kind of friend is the Double Decker friend – the sister who’s also a true friend – I’ve got two of them! Then you’ve got the “I’ve known you since you were five, I know all the idiot boys you think you loved in high school and of course, I would be honored to stand up with you as you finally marry the real love of your life!” I got five of them. But don’t forget the thirties – you need real special friends for this rockin’ time of life and I scored two of the very best – Jen and Sarah. Life gets more complicated as we get older, which means friendships are not all about fun and boys anymore. The stakes are much higher, so choosing who chooses to stand up with you now, is more important than ever. I know in my heart that every one of my “friends” would be devastated if I kept the secret Celia is keeping from her friends and family.
Celia prays that God will heal her without anybody ever knowing what she really went through and I pray that God heals the part of her heart that hopes for that wish to come true.