I have a friend who is in a lot of pain. He doesn’t want to admit it. I think that he believes that if he slows down to see it that something awful will catch up with him, that he might have to face it, that he might even have to bear it.
I see the grimaces that he tries to pass off as his everyday smiles but I know the difference and can feel the chilly winds settle in now in this autumnal time of grief. I feel the shift the way a farmer knows the snow is coming. His impatience is palpable. He shrugs off my hugs, my soft offers of care with the clang bang clang of a blacksmith forging a shield, protection I suppose, though from this angle is is hard to see what is so big that it needs to be kept outside our circle.
When I call him on the grief that appears to be leaking through the cracks in the wall he has so carefully constructed around his heart, he turns to leave. I am his bell calling his attention to the pain he so desperately wants to ignore. He would rather not see me, hear me, even know me now. He leaves me standing there with my empty arms, the ones that meant to shelter him, held open. He rejects all that is good about me when he turns to go. To accept the gift I offer, the balm that could soothe the sting, means opening to the very wound that he fears will slay him. I am dangerous.
Sometimes I’d like to leave him out there, in the valley of despair all by himself if that is what he wishes. I long to wave goodbye to him and get on with my day, escaping the ugly icky feeling of being rejected.
But long ago I made a promise. I made it even though he doesn’t remember. The fact he doesn’t remember does not release me from its solemn vow. I whispered it in childhood to him lifetimes ago when we were small. I told him I would not leave, no matter what.
And so I take those empty arms of mine and stay as he runs, and he throws himself into this and that, as he distracts his throbbing heart as convinces himself the throb is just his heartbeat, that it does not exist, that it is all just fine. And I stand, quietly, not too far away, hoping that when he is tired he will allow himself a rest at last and there I will be with a shoulder. Maybe he will see me then. And maybe he will let me kiss his pain and release it.
Or maybe not. Perhaps he will continue to pretend not to see me with my gentle, healer’s hands. Nevertheless I will not abandon him. I will stay. Even when he hates me, I will stay.
I will not leave him all alone, for he is me, and I am him and the healer and the hurt are the same.
For my sweet, wise vibrant healer woman who dwells inside. The ancient part of my soul who never leaves me even when I have run far away, even though I have ignored her love for years. An ode to her voice and her patience. An answer to her call.