With the storms of life comes uncertainty. The waves crash around us, tossing our boat around. We feel vulnerable. Will the next wave be even bigger? we wonder. Will we survive? During times of uncertainty in the storms of life, we may turn to a friend to be our anchor and help steady our boat. Our friends help keep us grounded when life tosses us around. But what do we do when our friend is in the midst of a storm? Sometimes it isn’t easy to know how to steady our friend’s boat, especially if their storm collides with our own.
A few months ago, a dear friend called to tell me she was experiencing a storm in her life. She needed time and space to focus on dealing with the wind and waves. I was concerned for her struggle and wanted to support her, but I didn’t know how. I suddenly found myself with my own storm brewing. I started having flashbacks of my past when I was painfully hurt and betrayed by those I trusted. (See Journey of Healing – Part 1). I was so afraid that this would somehow be a repeat of what happened 16 years ago, and I was afraid of doing the wrong thing. I had tried to bury and ignore that trauma for years, but I couldn’t ignore it this time. This was a category 5 storm I was battling.
My demons attacked full force, telling me that I was a burden, that I was “too much” for my friend and that she no longer cared to be friends with me. My demons told me that I was a failure, that the past was repeating itself. I desperately clung to what I knew was true in my heart, that the demons were lying, and my friend’s storm had nothing to do with me. I wrote down the truth on a piece of paper so that I could read it to fight back when the demons whispered their lies. Eventually their voices grew quiet.
I battled the storms of uncertainty while my friend dealt with her storm. I hated not knowing what was going on with my friend. Is she doing okay? I wondered. Will things turn out for her? Is she staying safe and healthy from the virus? Will she come back? I felt vulnerable. The dark cloud of the pandemic made me dwell on the possibility that my friend might be swallowed up by the waves of her storm. What if our friendship didn’t survive? The pandemic was a cruel reminder that life is not forever.
I struggle with uncertainty because of the events around the end of my mother’s life. I was 12 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. There was much uncertainty during that time. I worried, Will Mom be okay? Is Mom going to die? My Dad would have to wake me up sometimes in the middle of the night because Mom had to go to the hospital. What’s happening? I asked silently. Will Mom die tonight? My worst fears came true when she passed away when I was 16.
With uncertainty comes a deep fear of loss and pain. In the words of Yoda, “The fear of loss is a path to the dark side.” That fear and the need for certainty can drive us to destruction, just like Anakin Skywalker. As much as I wanted certainty from my friend, I knew that if I tried forcing it, I would certainly upset her and potentially cause the destruction of the friendship.
Feelings of uncertainty are unsettling. It is uncomfortable to sit with. After Mom died, I felt anxious. I missed her. Recently, I went to the cemetery and sat next to her grave for a long time. I told Mom what was going on. Then I sat and listened with a clear mind. I heard her voice: “Believe in the friendship, give her space, and she will come back. Be patient.” I felt comforted. The answer to uncertainty was having faith and holding on to what my heart knows is true. I needed to rest in faith, and let go of my need for certainty.
I wanted to support my friend, but was unsure how. I decided to leave a small gift on her doorstep and wrote a note letting her know that I would always be there if she needed me, and that she was loved and prayed for. This simple gesture wasn’t easy for me. I felt very vulnerable. I was terrified that I was making the wrong choice and that I would cause a repeat of the past. The uncertainty spawned a panic attack. Thankfully my friend appreciated my support. However, this was a storm that she had to battle on her own, but at least she knew that I cared.
When the waves of uncertainty crash, threatening to sink our boat during the storms of life, it can be difficult to know how to anchor ourselves. It can be even more challenging to know how to steady a friend’s boat when our own is being rocked by the waves. We must first anchor ourselves in faith and in what we know to be true. When our friends are going through a storm, the best thing we can do is to take care of ourselves so that we have the energy and compassion to offer to them. When attempting to steady our friend’s boat, we need to listen to and respect their needs, even if it means silently stepping back, letting them know we love them, and supporting them through faith and prayer. What kind of flashbacks do you want your friend to have regarding you during their storm? We tend to remember how people treated us during our most difficult moments, and that can have lasting impacts, like how past betrayals impacted me. During our friends’ stormy moments, we need to make sure that they are reassured of our support. Love, compassion, trust, and faith are our guiding light as we make our way through the storms of uncertainty.
Through our friendship my friend has taught me many things, and has helped me heal from my mother loss. Unknowingly, in her temporary absence, she has also helped me heal from those painful betrayals in my past by forcing me to address it. She has shown me that just because those painful things happened to me, doesn’t mean that those same things are set in stone for my future. I am a different person now. I am older and wiser, no longer a hurt and lost kid, and now I have good, trustworthy people in my life. The storms of life can either bring people closer together or push them farther out to sea. The waves have been choppy lately, but I trust that someday my friend and I will sail smoothly and gracefully alongside each other once again.