I had a great weekend last weekend full of good friends, good food, and great conversation. It began with a visit from an old high school friend. We caught up about life’s changes and I got to show her what my life is about here in my new town and tell her what work is like for me. I had had a pretty intense week and wanted to unload a bit about it. Since she is also a minister, I felt comfortable telling her about my week.
I’ve long realized how hard it is for others to share deep experiences of sadness with others. One, we might not want to hear ourselves talk about it. And two, we don’t want to burden others with it. My uncle, for instance, who served in Vietnam said that there are just some things you don’t burden others with, but you can talk about it with those who will truly understand it-fellow soldiers.
Herein lies the struggle because often all that we really need to do is talk about what we’ve gone through. We have to ‘unburden’ ourselves of what we’ve experienced but of course don’t want to do so at the expense of someone else carrying our burdens then. When my friend and I talked about the plight of African women the other day I felt like we kept compounding the sadness by each of us sharing what we knew that the other person did not. Its hard to hold all of this sadness, and yet it helps to relate to others about it; and I knew my friend was interested in knowing because she cares about people so much. It felt good in a way to share my sadness but I felt guilty that I gave her even more to grieve. Not quite survivor’s guilt, but maybe bystander guilt.
At the end of the weekend when I got together with some local friends I began to tell a work story I wish I hadn’t. If ever there was TMI, this was it. Besides being a pretty serious situation this story was also a bit gruesome for some to hear and I forget that (plus I had to give myself the label of “Debbie Downer” for the night and we were having so much fun too!). I forget that people don’t see the things I see even if they are fellow ministers. I don’t mean to say that I’m so much stronger than others, just that we get used to the things of our own little world and forget that others might not be prepared to hear such things. With as acclimated as I have gotten to my work environment, I think I still just don’t want to be alone in it. And isn’t that what a lot of our sharing is about anyway? Not wanting to remain alone in the world we are living in? But I can’t shake the feeling that it isn’t fair to bring others into it, and unfortunately, I can’t seem to tell that until it’s too late to take it back.