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I See You

I See You

This week I commenced a new journey of healing and participated in session one of a six-week grief recovery workshop.

During our first session we were sharing our stories about what was said to us in our time of grief as we are all so unprepared for dealing with loss and grief.  We speak from our hearts when we wrap ourselves around those who are grieving and yet often the words we utter can fall short.  Things like, “Oh – they’ll out of pain now and are free”, or “Time Heals” are among many words of comfort we share to express our love, condolences, sympathy and empathy.  Yes – I’ve used them too in the belief they’re helpful things to say.

Last year, after the funeral for my Mum, I remember feeling out of my body at the after-function.  There were loads of hugs, tears and much-welcomed support.  The one question I was asked by nearly everyone was “how are you?”.  I didn’t know how to answer as I honestly didn’t know how I was feeling.  I wasn’t really there, and yet I was there in body, mind and spirit and simultaneously I felt as if I was in unreality.  Two weeks ago at my Uncles’ funeral, I found myself asking the same question, and then self-correcting some of the time.  The same question was asked of me, and each time it was, the love came leaking out in the form of tears. 

In the many communication trainings and workshops I’ve facilitated, we’ve talked about this question which we are habituated into asking.  The diversity of participants in a workshop is always interesting, providing rich information about how others walk in this world and see life through different lenses.  Most of the German and Dutch participants I have had the pleasure to meet are completely confused as to why this question is asked and in some cases have considered it to be rude … “Why does the checkout operator want to know how I am?”  This question is not asked in their country as they simply greet each other with “Hello”.  Full stop.   

When we say, “Hi.  How are you?” do we really want to know?  This is spoken as we pass each other in the street, in the hallway, or as we’re entering an event or function, often without any genuine consideration or regard to listening to the response.  The other side of this conversation is that when someone asks “How are you?” and we really do want to answer, they’ve often disappeared over the horizon before we get to finish our story.  Or when we’ve asked the question ourselves, we find ourselves running 15 minutes late because the person really does need to speak to us about how they are.  In detail.  So once again, what purpose does asking this serve, if we’re not really interested in the response? 

I’m in the habit of asking this question and I think the answer most of us expect is for someone to smile, put on a brave face and say ‘fine’, regardless of what’s happening.  I know when I’ve genuinely asked the question of friends and family, and I’ve received this response, I’ve had to ask again and say, “Really, How are you?  I’m interested to know”, and then the real conversation begins.  Sometimes, in responding to the question openly and honestly we may find the person was not expecting to hear our health or relationship challenges, or what happened to the cat yesterday that has me so upset.  I’ve seen people turn away or switch off.  So what do we do? 

Stop asking!

After sharing my experience of Mum’s funeral, and my Uncles’ funeral on Tuesday night at the workshop, I received a link from my workshop facilitator to this recent article by Mark Nepo, ‘I See You, I am Here’, and it landed deep within me.  And, I remembered these words were uttered in the movie Avatar, which came flooding back to me.  This deep connection with Papatuanuku and each other we all have, can seem so distant in these ‘busy’ times, (there’s another word that warrants a discussion – we’ll save that for another blog), saying “Hi – I see you” is a whole different mindset. I’m going to experiment with this as I go through the uppy-downy bits of embedding a new way of greeting and acknowledging others and enjoy the adventure of how others respond.  How do we respond to this?  We reply by saying ‘I am here’.  Beautiful.  And, I’m really looking forward to some interesting conversations as a result.  I see you!