I’m hurtling headlong towards the fifth anniversary of my best friend’s death, which was premature and totally avoidable. Some people would class it as self-inflicted, I’m sure, though they’d be advised not to do so in my presence. He’s dead, though, and I’m alive, and that’s not a situation I’m happy with.
It could have very easily gone the other way. When things went to shit for him, I knew he was having issues, because he’d told me. He’d neglected to tell me the extent of the issues, though. Under normal circumstances I would have taken that as a given, because that’s how we roll, and acted accordingly. Unfortunately, those weren’t normal circumstances. At the time, I happened to be rather busy trying not to kill myself due to life happening at me in excessive amounts, so I wasn’t at peak performance. As a result, I completely failed to do anything remotely useful. From one point of view, I put my oxygen mask on first, which is The Right Thing To Do. Had I not taken care of myself first, we could both be dead, and that wouldn’t have been much of a result. From another point of view, though, I sat there and let my best friend die. That will never be ok with me.
I don’t want that to be ok. I don’t want to get over it. I don’t want to get to a point in my life when I can normalise, justify, rationalise, or in any way accept what I did. I don’t want to be forgiven, and I don’t want to forgive myself. It’s not that I’m a masochist; I just don’t want to live in a world where it’s remotely ok for me to do that kind of thing. So I turned his death into a caltrop, and jammed it in my heart, and every time it doesn’t hurt enough I give it a wiggle and jam it in a little bit harder.
(Ironically, I know exactly what he would say on the subject. I can hear it in his words and in his voice if I shut up long enough to pay attention. And no, he would not be impressed. But I’ve been able to take many a wrong turn despite his good advice before, so at least I’m being consistent. I don’t think he’d expect otherwise, and I know he’d put up with it.)
I’m ok with all of the above; for the now, anyway. It does make me wonder, though, about some of the advice people give people who’re hurting.
One of the most common statements that are thrown around is that in order to get over whatever it is that’s hurting you, you have to accept it. Only then you’ll be able to move the hell on with your life. Whoopty doo. It’s as easy as that. Occasionally someone will insert some bits of Wisdom® to support their assertion. The specific brands of Wisdom® vary, but it matters not a jot, because it’s always used in the same way. Remember that god works everything for good; work through the stages of grief; meditate on form and emptiness; whatever it takes, get your lazy ass over that hurdle, and accept the Thing. Just fucking accept it, and get on with your life.
I have not the least intention to disagree with any of that; I can’t, so I won’t. I think it’s absolutely true that acceptance is an essential part of moving on from things. I think that an important aspect if this issue is too often ignored, though: what exactly it is that we’re asking some people to accept.
Some people go through events that completely change their world, and not for the better. The extent of these changes can vary hugely. Those who’ve only experienced minor versions of these changes may have no idea at all about what it actually means to go through a major one. There’s quite a bit of difference between accepting that “sometimes you may piss off the wrong person, lose a fight you started, and that hurts” and “some parents think it’s ok to rape their children, and the other parent won’t do anything to protect them, and neither will the rest of the family, and if the kids kick up too much of a fuss chances are they’ll get it in the neck for it, and even if they go to the police they may not be allowed to take their rapist to court if the prosecutors believe that they’re too broken to withstand trial.” Yes, they’re both paradigm shifts, but I think it’d be fairly ridiculous to treat them as equivalent. Yet people who’ve only experienced the former often think they’re qualified to push and cajole someone through the latter, sometimes not that gently.
Sometimes people take a long time to get over stuff; sometimes that delay is self-inflicted (as in my case, yeah, I’m aware, thank you), and sometimes it’s just that it takes longer to swallow an elephant than a bug. It’s very easy to talk about acceptance of events that don’t affect us, the import of which has no impact on our lives, and the magnitude of which we can’t even comprehend. But it’s also facile, and privileged, and kinda shitty.