how to say the wrong thing, and it's ok

As I sat on the queen mattress, without box springs, just sitting on the floor in their first studio apartment and ate my doughy rolls that didn't rise and fought back morning sickness with our first pregnancy while surrounded by my cousins and their spouses and everyone's family, I never thought about how connected our lives would continue to be. As my family and friends have grown older and started different paths and families of their own, we are all still connected, 10 years later, 20 years later, for eternity.

My friend and cousin's wife lately opened up to talk about her experience with mental illness. It is beautiful and real and...hard. I don't know what's she is going through, but I'm so grateful she is writing about it and sharing. That is such a gift to share. You can read her two posts about it here, and here.  In that order, she is an exquisite writer.  I have grieved for her, and thought about her while folding my laundry, while reading my scriptures, while running errands. All the way across the continent I feel and pray for her and her family on a daily basis.

The net of Indra is one concept from humanities I actually remember. To vaguely describe it, it's a Buddhist belief that life is like a spider web (or net, but spider web is a better visual for me), and we are all connected to each other. What one person experiences, affects all, and vice versa. There is no unique experience that just affects you. Everything and everyone experiences different things, but they are all, yes, everything, connected.

Lately I've read a lot of " Insert Various number ways to not say the wrong thing" to someone about some various hard subject. Whether someone who is grieving over a loss, or cancer, or foreclosure, or divorce, or or or or or.  At first I started reading and reading them and soaking it in because, well, I always seem to say the wrong thing.  And these were going to help me so much!  But the more I read them, the more irritation creeped in and I found that I wasn't saying anything anymore because it would probably be wrong. And apart from a small percentage of people, the majority want to say and do the right thing.  We are all trying to be kind and helpful, (at least I really hope so).

Most of the time I don't know what to say to my sister about her grieving experiences with two severely autistic sons. You can read her blog here. So I listen. And most of the time I say things, that are, most probably, wrong. But I am trying. I know everything she has been through, but I don't know what she has been through. Does that make sense? I am not her, I am not her experiences or life. But I love her, and I love her family and I have the best interest out for her when I listen and talk with her.

I haven't lost a living child, so I don't know how to talk to someone about that. But I have sobbed (sobbed!) in my bathroom over other parents' experiences with that. We haven't experienced divorce, or step children. We haven't had debilitating mental illness or chronically or terminally ill children. We haven't had cancer, we haven't lost a job or foreclosed on our house.  So many things we don't personally know how to connect to, but still affect us and we care.

But we have had our own unique experiences, that each and every time broaden our empathy and understanding for more of God's children.  Sometimes, but not all the time, I can say, "I know what you are going through, and I'm sorry. What can I do to help?".  The rest of the time though? I don't know, but I'm still trying. And I think the majority of us are. We are just trying, and we aren't perfect.

Ty's cousin's wife and my friend Jessica was diagnosed with breast cancer two months ago. She writes about it here on her blog. She is young and her children are young, and it is heartbreaking to read. I'm glad she is writing it down, and it helps us understand more what they are experiencing. I know our entire community is affected and grieving with them and reaching out in their own ways to help and comfort. I see it in their faces when they ask "How are they doing?" and "What can we do to help?"

We all are connected. Lately, especially in our close community I have felt so much love and kindness and prayers from friends and neighbors. When things are hard, I know there are people there for all of us. And you know what? Things have been really hard lately, even if I'm walking around with a smile and yoga pants on. And there have been countless people there for us, in one small way or another. We are really floored by the support and kindness.

But even when people have said things that hurt a little, I have never been upset. I know they are trying, and my experience is affecting them and hurting them also. More importantly, I don't want them to go through these trials just to be able to say the right thing to me.   I know they want to help and say something. And I think we should just say it! There is nothing wrong in trying, so I give us all permission to just do our best and try. And sure, you might just do and say the wrong thing on accident, but you tried. And that's the part that matters, because it will affect us all, that trying and loving and trying and loving until we get it just right.  I think it is far worse to let the fear of saying or doing the "wrong" thing stop us from trying.

One of my favorite scriptures is in Enos, when he says: ... And I rejoice in the day when my mortal shall put on immortality, and shall stand before him; then shall I see his face with pleasure, and he will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father. Amen.

Isn't it pleasure we experience when someone hugs us and we see in their face that they know?! They know every thought and prayer and fear and sob fest we have had during our trials and hard times. It is one of the most comforting experiences. And I too look forward to that day when I see in His face that he knows, and He went through it all because He loves me.


Danna Banana said...

you listening, ALWAYS helps me

stephanie said...

loved this, annie. thanks for posting it.

Trent & Tara said...

great post Annie you brought out such great points. Thanks for sharing:)

jes said...

annie, i meant to write ages ago. thank you for this beautiful thing you wrote. i know i rarely leave my stamp here, but i always read every word you write because it matters so much.

i wanted to say, back in cleveland, i had this visiting teaching companion who was a self-proclaimed little old black lady. i remember saying to her about one of the special people in our charge "what if i call at the wrong time?" and she turned to me with all the fire in her little body and said, "girl, what if you call her at the right time?"

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