Tag Archives: bereavement

Qualified for Life

koalifications_1350065583

Hello, you marvellous creature.  How’s the world been treating you this week?

One of the consequences of working on a play like Chris is Dead – “an awkwardly funny, shamelessly honest story about love, loss and splitting the phone bill”, if you’re interested- is that it reminds me and the cast of how unprepared we feel for life’s big events.

As we get older we are more and more likely to come across situations that require a lot from us, whether that’s mentally (“oh dear God, A Levels”), physically (“oh dear God, Freshers’ Week”) or emotionally (“oh dear God, the Friends finale”).  The bizarre thing is that, A Levels aside, we never feel that our qualifications actually qualify us to deal with what life throws at us, do we?

When I was doing a Paediatric First Aid course a couple months ago, I freely admit that I never expected to have to use much (if any) of the information.  When I ran into a genuine First Aid issue at work a couple of weeks later, I felt pretty sick.  I knew I had the know-how somewhere in my head, but what if I forgot something really important?  What if I got it wrong?

I did remember what to do, and the child was fine, but the point is that I felt shockingly under-prepared, even though I had technically been trained.  How much worse is it to have to deal with emergency situations that we can’t possibly be trained up for?

You can’t take a course in Guiding a Friend Through Their Spiritual Epiphany (Diploma) or do a GCSE in Moving House Without Getting Completely Destroyed by Stress (and Inexplicably Losing the Kettle).  There are no night schools for those of us who don’t know what to say to a bereaved loved one, and no one has yet thought to suggest a degree in the whys and wherefores of navigating a tricky divorce.  This seems impractical, unfair and, frankly, a perfectly decent enterprise concept gone to waste.

Everyone is afraid that they are under-qualified for life.  For example, my mum has five kids, a mortgage and her own food mixer, but she would be the first to admit that she doesn’t feel like a grown-up.  Even so, she has always managed to handle scary/difficult life situations brilliantly.  As long as we are doing our best, we’re probably handling the situation as well as anyone could expect or require of us.  In a way, life experience and ageing in general is our nebulous equivalent to gaining a foundation degree in Responding to Crises Without Completely Losing It & Actually Coming Out of the Whole Thing Pretty Well.

It might not be as reassuring as a bona fide certificate with signatures and foil seals and whatnot, but trusting yourself to be up to the challenge is a massive part of dealing with whatever the issue is.  Even if you’ve somehow lost a kettle.

Have a truly splendid Wednesday.

“Assume” Makes People Donkeys (Or Something)

Chinandolar-Bong

Hello, and happy Friday to you!

Friendships work because two people discover that they enjoy spending time together, and the more time they spend together, the better they understand each other.  One of the best aspects of long-standing and particularly close friendships is that we take pride in our complete knowledge of the other person.

Knowing how your friends feel about certain things allows you to anticipate their responses to given situations in a way that reflects how you feel about them; remembering things about their preferences shows that you care.  Here’s a very basic example: my friends know that I can’t stand Keira Knightley, so when they look through a list of potential films for us to see at the cinema, they tend to skip anything with her name in the credits.

This understanding of another person is great for things like choosing how you spend your time together, picking out excellent birthday presents and preventing them from  ingesting things that they’re fatally allergic to.  We recommend books, films, music, websites and even other friends based on our understanding of how the people we love are likely to respond to stuff, and this can be an amazing thing.

Knowing someone really well can also be a bit of a trap, because after a certain amount of time we start to assume that we can anticipate their reactions to almost anything, but the thing is that people can always surprise you.  Think about it from your own perspective: you as a person are constantly changing and growing, forming new opinions based on your experiences of life, and developing your perspective on the world every single day.  Your friends are doing exactly the same thing, and what might have been true of them a year ago may no longer be applicable.  (“I thought you loved How I Met Your Mother?”  “I did, but Lily’s starting to grate on me a bit.  Can we watch Grand Designs instead?”)

It is a mistake to assume that you can predict with one hundred percent accuracy how your friends will feel in a given situation.  Particularly in extreme circumstances like bereavement or stress, people can react in all sorts of ways that do not reflect their day-to-day persona.  If we limit our imaginations and expect a certain type of behaviour from our friends, we are doing them a disservice.  Our friends deserve the opportunity to think and feel whatever comes naturally to them, and if it isn’t what we were expecting then we should just respond out of what we can still be sure of: our love and respect for them.

If it were you in that situation, you would want the same thing, wouldn’t you?  If you woke up tomorrow and decided that you want to completely change your career (for example), you wouldn’t want your best friend to cry “but you’ve always wanted to be a sales data analyst!”  You would want them to say “tree surgery sounds awesome”.  It does sound awesome, actually.  I may have missed my calling…

Have an utterly delightful weekend.

Weird and/or Wonderful

bill-teds-bogus-journey

Hello, dear reader!  How’s your week going so far?

Today’s blog is about how we respond to weird and/or wonderful things that happen around us.  (Don’t panic.  I’m not on a mission to convert people to anything, I’m just curious.)

We live in a very peculiar world where strange things happen all the time, but we call them different things: some would say “miracle”, others would say “coincidence”, a few could say “fate” while many would say “bollocks”.  People respond to phenomena in very different ways based on their upbringing, religious background and even the extent of their experience with strange stuff.  For example, an atheist might be  inclined to convert to a religion that included miracles in its doctrine if he or she had a near-death experience and felt “saved” from a perilous situation.

Some people ascribe inexplicable events to aliens, others to an undefined set of spirits, and some think that we are responsible (but that our horoscopes are essentially dictating our movements).  I find it fascinating that there are so many ways for human beings to react to the illogical things that happen around us.  I have my own (fairly  strong) opinions on some of the interpretations, but I think it’s more interesting to consider why we feel the need to have so many different options in the first place.

Firstly, if something odd happens to you, it’s an incredibly personal thing.  It will be very memorable, emotional and probably quite disconcerting.  Miracles/coincidences/moments of destiny will stay with us for the rest of our lives, and they might even change how we look at the world.  A couple of years ago, I was travelling home via the Circle line when I remembered that a friend of mine worked in High Street Kensington.  I hadn’t seen him for a while and it was lunch time, so I popped in to surprise him and take him out for food.  As it turned out, his grandmother had died the previous day and as I walked through the door he had just been thinking about how much he wanted to talk to someone about it.  He believes that his grandmother was watching over him and making sure that he had a friend that day.  I don’t know whether that’s the case, but it really doesn’t matter what I think.  This was my friend’s experience, and the person who needed to adjust to it  was him, not me.  When the weird experience is so personal, of course people come up with their own explanations: how could anybody else completely understand what you went through?

The second reason that we have so many interpretations is that we are all only human, and nobody trusts anybody else to know more than they do about the universe.  How can they?  None of us have super powers, a time machine or have been to the afterlife (except Bill and Ted, obviously). We don’t even trust people who are experts in their fields, such as historians, religious leaders, physicists and psychologists.  They might have perfectly sound explanations up their sleeves for why the world is weird, but they don’t get complete support from us because how can they possibly know (or indeed prove) that their explanation is the right one?

So our emotions and our sense of intellectual equality prevent us from agreeing, as a species, on just what the heck is going on in the universe.  Thank goodness.  Can you imagine how awful it would be if we conclusively found out what the source of coincidences/fate/miracles is?  That would just ruin it for everyone.  There’d be no mystery left, and no need for science fiction or fantasy writing.  There’d be no Bill and Ted!  Now that’s a disturbing thought.

Have a fantastic Wednesday, everyone.  If you’re wondering who on earth Bill and Ted are, click here.