2018: Bubble Wrap

It’s referred to as compassion overload.

Sad to say but there are times in my life when it feels like we’re so caught up in just hanging on by our fingertips – while so many dear friends are also locked in deadly combat with Life- that individual tragedies are no longer quite so upsetting. In the words of my foreman at Swanson River: “When you are up to you’re a** in alligators it is hard to remember that your original goal was to drain the swamp”

I wish I’d have ignored some of those alligators when I recently found out Janice Young had passed away.

I had called another friend to check on Jan’s phone number only to find that she had passed away almost a year ago.  I carried on with the conversation, sharing a memory or two then rang off and:

  • finished my lesson plan for the next day’s class at the college
  • checked back on the crew scheduled to remove a fallen tree
  • paid some bills on-line

… then collapsed into my chair and broke down completely.

Jan was gone.

It was the winter of 1975 when I first Jan and her family while I was serving as a missionary in Skowhegan Maine. Her husband Dale had recently retired from the Navy and friendship developed as I talked with him about his career – I was forever looking to connect with sailors that may have served with my own father during his 20 years afloat. As I would visit there were times when Jan wouldn’t move from her chair or her hands would be wrapped, actions that I first took to be unique measures to fight the legendary Down East winter temperature but later learned were therapeutic measures in her battle against the pain and limitations of advanced arthritis.

I also learned that Jan was smart. She had a highly developed insight into human behavior and consequences more commonly found in elderly people with a long lifetime of experience and knowledge to drawn upon.  More than once I found myself on the phone seeking her guidance after a “people problem” had blown up in my face.

My time in Skowhegan came to an end much too quickly but thankfully my friendship with Janice and her family stayed on. Despite too many years, too few visits and too few telephone conversations Jan and her family stayed in my life. I came to especially treasure those occasional phone calls that Janice insisted were for her benefit but were in fact my own pleas for help when once again I was drowning in a sea of human chaos and complexity.

…and now the phone calls are over.

There are too few “Jan’s” in my life now – people that maintain a measure of kindness and sanity around them.  Instead I am surrounded by bubble wrap, albeit a verbal variety of bubble wrap that emotionally insulates and does little other than clutter up my life in the same way that the tangible polyethylene version clutters up my studio after I’ve opened a package.

  • “C’mon, nothing can hurt that bad”
  • “Are you sure this isn’t a subconscious ploy to get meds?”
  • “When the going gets tough the tough get going”
  • “If you really wanted to get better you’d try to have more faith
  • “Good people don’t use pain medication

Empty useless prattle as useless as the other plastic stuff is after my grandson Jayden has popped all the bubbles. Thoughtless words that emotionally fester in my isolation just as  a splinter can fester in a finger if left unremoved.

Eliminating those toxic comments can be as difficult as disposing of or recycling the aforementioned polyethylene packing material. I am left to find relief in doing my best to not make those same kinds of thoughtless comments, but rather to have kind words for those around me who are fighting their own battles.

…just like Jan did.

46 thoughts on “2018: Bubble Wrap

  1. I’m sorry to hear that you’re experiencing all of this. The grieving process is so long and difficult… it takes a different path for everyone. I don’t believe any of us escape from it “unscathed” or “unchanged”. Best of luck to you and thanks for sharing your experiences.

  2. I hope you find people to support you through your hardships. I know what it is like to not have that because the last time I had a heart break I had none. Not even my parents. But now, being in college, I’ve come to find three gems who listen to me and help me. I hope you get there, too. Also, fitting comparison.

  3. My grandmother used to say “Friends that are new / Friends that are old / One is silver / The other is gold”. I am so glad you have your “three gems” to listen and help. I have found that situation unfortunately changes more often than we’d like it to. I am extremely fortunate to have my beautiful Saxon Princess to carry me across those “gemless” stretches.

  4. It is a sad and heartwrenching time when we have to say goodbye to family and friends. There are no words to describe the sorrow that permeates our soul when there is no chance to say goodbye. In this life, a loss is expected but, to be honest, one can never truly be prepared for it. Your desire to be kind and compassionate to others and not return the sarcastic or insensitive comments in return is selfless and humble. Thank you for sharing.

  5. So insightful!!
    Really nowadays…
    We all experience a life in the ocean of human chaos.. Always around us.. And only few of them genuinely care..
    Now people have became more practical..
    And don’t care that there are feelings too..
    Well written!!

  6. Hey, enjoyed your blog post, and shared on my page and hoped to get you a new follower if you wouldn’t mind for me? Reaching the most people who need support is my future goal and I hope you can help me achieve that, if not I understand and I’ll keep reading your blog posts

  7. David, I’m so sorry for your true loss. When we lose someone that dear it brings up good memories of the past and much too often regrets for things not done. But when you share your heart as you did here, you touch everyone who reads it. I know it has spurred a motion in my heart to connect while I still can reach out. Thank you so much for sharing.

  8. Your situation is painful but I would like to say a battle of life never ends …it continues . We don’t need to be strong but we need to be patient enough .A battle needs patience not strength and so it is called the battle of life . all the best for your upcoming challenges and do share more of it!

  9. Jan sounds like an awesome person – I’m sorry she’s gone, but thankful you could share her story for us.

  10. She sounds amazing. I’m so sorry you have to go through loss. I lost someone who i loved dear too. She was lucky to have someone like you in her life😊😔

  11. “I came to especially treasure those occasional phone calls…”
    I have a friend who came to my mind as soon as I read that. I don’t know what will I do when I can’t have those phone calls anymore.

    I am terribly sorry for your loss. Hope you know that there are people who will stick around in your life.

  12. Yes. Challenging the negative thoughts is work, the dreadful, tedious work that needs to be done in the small moments of our days. When we feel the most vulnerable is when the voice starts shouting, but that doesn’t make the quiet whispers during the other times any better. Jan sounds like an amazing woman, and honestly, I bet she meant it when she told you those calls benefited her. Because by sharing yourself, you were connecting with her, and connection – true connection – is a gift.

  13. Most of us are so busy with life that we don’t always realize how much we have loved to give until that person is gone. My mother’s brother passed away last month at the age 43, and every time I thought of him, I feel deeply sad that I haven’t had the chance to meet him before he’s gone. RIP uncle.

  14. Really appreciate how eloquently you wrote to the accuracy of what proceeds the passing of a loved one. Such a sweet yet hard & beautiful life this is. Thanks for your words & sending condolences.

  15. I’m sorry for your loss, people like that who seek to understand, who offer compassion instead of placing blame, who lift the feeling of burden from us with out us ever even having to say it’s there, well they are all to rare a gift, though it sounds like she was well treasured for her all too brief a time.

    I am glad to see the silver lining here, that she inspired you to follow her spirit. I like the terminology of emotional bubble wrap, I never would have thought of it and yet it makes perfect sense. Unfortunately in times of loss and grief especially few know what to do, the don’t want to upset you further and so they walk on eggshells, use the kid gloves, hold back so much of what is real, when sadly good or bad some sense of real, some normalcy, can help if only slightly. I believe no one truly dies, we live on in the hearts and minds of those we leave behind, and it that sense Jan is immortal. I hope your able to find other like minded individuals who can offer the much needed comfort and support in these hard times

  16. You made me think of a friend of mine. She supported me every day in spite of my sadness. She was loving, caring and valuable. I never knew she had cancer until she died. How could I be so indifferent? I believe she is one of my angels.

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