Today is my friend’s memorial service. Two years after being diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer, she is gone. We worked together in caring for teen moms for over a decade, and she was an amazing mentor, guide and spiritual support. I grieve her passing.
The memorial service is over two hours away – a five hour round trip for me. I would be there for 2 hours with a large crowd of people, consoling, remembering, crying, laughing, talking. I know the service will be lovely and I know people will appreciate that I was there.
I don’t want to go.
I’ve thought about the reasons why I don’t want to go. Today is a big work day for me. I am leaving town in a week for ten days and I am backlogged and need to finish projects before I go. I am in the middle of heavy counseling – talking about my past with a great therapist. Ninety minutes last week and two hours scheduled for this week. Talking about my past, the abuse, the trauma, the abandonment and loss – I feel that my soul is reliving it again at some level. I know that healing is happening, but I have little reserve.
I just want to go to work and get things done and not be so behind in everything. I want space. I know that if I make the long drive – I will have over two hours both ways to be quiet and alone. And yet, I know that the time spent at the memorial will be exhausting. I will go for others, not for me.
Can I be selfish?
If I go, it will be for a community I lived in and loved, who loved me, for almost a quarter of a century. For friends and coworkers, for former bosses and ministry partners, for the past and, in some ways, perhaps, for the future. I will not go for me. I will go to people-please, to not disappoint others, to not be in trouble or thought of badly.
In some ways, going means that Susie is truly dead. I really don’t want her to be dead, to be gone, to be eaten up by cancer and no longer here. I want her alive, giggling, laughing, loving, nurturing – a presence, a force, for love. I want her here for safety, to prove that cancer doesn’t kill, to make a statement that miracles happen. I want her here.
So, what do I choose? To go for others, to miss a day of work and all that it means, to come home exhausted and hit the ground running tomorrow, behind and frazzled? Or to stay here for me? To work quietly, to conserve my energy, to trust that the people who need to be there will be there, for Susie’s family and close friends? Either way, I will be sad. Either way, I will not feel I have done the right thing.
It’s hard for me not to people please. It’s hard for me to know that I could just get in the car, push myself, go, make people happy, comfort and console, and come home again to this challenging life I live. It’s hard for me to care about me. To say no, I am choosing to stay here, even though it’s hard and it feels like I am disappointing everyone. It’s hard to care that I get work done, that I eat well, that I rest, that I love me. It’s hard.
Staying won’t make Susie any more alive or dead than she already is. Going won’t make the pain go away or ease the loss I feel.
People-pleasing has been the death of my soul many times. Pushing myself out of obligation or a sense of duty, has caused more pain than life. Can I let go of that – of people pleasing and pushing myself? No matter how guilty I feel about caring about me? No matter what people say? No matter what it might mean about me?
If I am selfish to stay here, then I am selfish. If I am wise to assess my own reserves, responsibilities, and resources, then I am wise. If I am sad no matter what I choose, then I am sad.
I will not go to Susie’s memorial. I will risk making a big mistake, being missed, being thought less of. I will risk it. I will risk it.