Sunday, November 09, 2008

Departures, and Selfishness

"Just being alive
It can really hurt
And these moments given
Are a gift from time
Just let us try
To give these moments back
To those we love
To those who will survive." -- Kate Bush
The past few weeks have seen something of a cold wind blow through some of the more distant regions of my personal life. In all, 4 friends -- some of whom I've met only a few times, and one whom I've actually never met in person but who I've known for well over a decade -- have lost family members to disease.

None of these folks are what most people would consider "close" friends of mine -- one is a fellow Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan member with whom I've a had a few beers, the others are "e-friends" who due to lack of proximity I've only managed to meet a couple of times in The Real World if at all. But in just the past few weeks these folks have lost, collectively, 1 wife and 2 mothers, with another expecting to lose his under-hospice-care mother in the very near future. Other friends have family members whose health is in dire shape, with prospects for recovery looking more and more scant. Additional deaths are clearly imminent, if not exactly scheduled.

It leaves me wondering what, if anything, this means. Or, more precisely, what this means, if anything, in regard to myself, my life. I feel tremendous sympathy for these folks, and I imagine that my budget will be a bit strained in the coming weeks with all the sympathy cards and flowers I need to send. But a big part of me wants to integrate these events into my own life, somehow. Like this all indicates ... something. To me. For me.

It's human nature to try to draw patterns out of chaos, to try to assign meaning and importance to disconnected events. Ultimately, I think this an impulse that actually betrays a need to make other people's stories more about ourselves -- not ill-intentioned, exactly, but perhaps a bit egocentric. The more people we know, the more people we know by proxy and the more likely we are to be touched, remotely, by loss. So I know, intellectually, that what matters most is that I send thoughts of comfort to these folks.

But deep down there's a voice that wants to take their sorrows and make them my own, somehow. To make this about me. We all know people who, no matter what is going on in your own life, when you tell them about it they instantly turn it around and make it about them (You, perhaps seeking a bit of sympathy: "I barely got any sleep last night because I was coughing so much." Them: "Oh, I know what you mean. Two months ago I had a cough, and I didn't get any sleep for nearly a week. It was awful. My friend at work noticed I was exhausted all the time and she said..." etc.). I think this is a similar thing, perhaps a little more subtle and inwardly directed, but I feel like it may come from a common source.

It's a strange sort of selfishness, an impulse to try to insert myself into the center of things. I'm straining to find the right word or it, I guess because I recognize it as a kind of weakness of character, this need to be What It's Actually All About. Name it, and put it aside and grow through it.

Mood: Reflective
Now Playing: My son's piano playing....