“He loved me in the purest sense and I loved him. That’s how he kept me alive.” says Marsha about Ted, a catholic priest.
This relationship taught her two important things that she applied to her work as a therapist for seriously suicidal people. She wrote about these things and taught them to her students, the future generation of therapists.
‘I was unable to say thank-you then. Now I can.’
If you’re giving unconditional love to help someone cope with the hell they are in, if you’re holding them emotionally and physically, don’t interpret their absence of ‘thanks’ as a sign that you are not giving them what they need. You probably are.
2. ‘Keep loving them.’
When someone sees no point in living, they are like someone walking in a mist. They don’t see the mist. They don’t see that they are getting wet. If you’re walking with them, you may not see it either. But if they have a pail of water, you can collect the water that was mist, in it. Each moment of love adds to the mist, which adds to the water in the pail. By itself, each moment of love may not be enough. But ultimately, the pail fills up and the person in hell can drink that water of love and be transformed.
Like Marsha, I know this to be true. I’ve been there and drunk from that pail.
(Inspired by Marsha M Linehans’s book: ‘Building a life worth living’.)
T: It came to a point when she couldn’t bear to celebrate Christmas with her family. Her brother and sister and their respective spouses could roll out one child per year effortlessly while she had been through all kinds of tests and procedures, and nothing. Absolutely nothing but heartache and multitudes of unbelievably negative pregnancy tests to show for it. Six years of nothing.
S: Yes. I suppose nobody’s got it all. Some of the missing stuff is obvious and some not. Surely, even those who appear to have it all have their painful stuff hidden away. Who said everyone has to have everything?
T: It’s hard for her to watch other people with their babies. Intolerable. I can understand.
S: Isn’t that like saying no one should walk in front of a man in a wheel-chair? They might be offended. Let’s all pretend we can’t walk. Poor man! It might be intolerable for him.
T: That’s harsh. That’s a completely different situation.
S: It is an extreme example. Yes. It’s all about comparisons though. Isn’t it? You have something that I don’t. By right I should have what you have. Everyone should have it. But everyone is different. Their life path is different. The lessons coming their way are different. Her unhappiness comes from ‘yours’ and ‘mine’, ‘desirable’ and ‘undesirable’. Kids come with their own brand of drool, cackles, dirty nappies and tantrums. Those things are there for everyone.
T: But her sister’s kid is not hers. That is fact.
S: Indeed. However, the kidness of the kid belongs to the whole world. It’s okay to be jealous – nothing wrong with it. It’s also okay to know there are other possible routes to take, other possible responses to make. She could choose to recognise jealousy as the most conditioned and expected response and embrace it. She could also be present to the pastness of the past, the kidness of the kid, the sisterness of the sister, the aliveness of her life, the heartfulness of her heart and work with that. See what happens. She might be surprised. There might be a beautiful garden behind that wall.
T: It’s hard though.
S: It’s worth a try. There are more Christmases on the way and they want to be happy.