I’ve spent most of the last week trying to process news that I could’ve never anticipated:
- I attended a luncheon where Caitlin Jenner was the speaker. She told why she decided not to commit suicide, when in fact, that would’ve been easier than coming out as transgender. She also spoke of the extremes that the paparazzi will go to, extremes she was able to occasionally thwart by wearing the same clothes several days in a row (they can’t sell photos to the tabloids if she looks the same as the day before).
- The horrific attacks in Paris. My daughter studied there for four months earlier this year, arriving just 10 days after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. She also studied in London, traveled around England, Cardiff, Amsterdam, Tuscany, Barcelona and Marrakesh. But the only time I worried was when she was in Paris. Friday was my greatest fear. She’s suffering now, though her friends there are safe, because it feels like her home was attacked.
- This morning, actor Charlie Sheen confirmed he has been HIV+ for four years. He benefits from the medical advances that have allowed him to be undetectable and thus unable to transmit the virus to anyone else. Though he does not want to be the HIV poster boy, he represents a type of person – straight male – who rarely considers themselves to be at risk.
I’ve had dozens of conversations – online, on the phone and in person – on all three of these subjects. I bet you have, too. Some people have very strong opinions and won’t be swayed. Others are genuinely searching for explanations and guidance and something else.
I think that something else is friendship. Any one of these three news stories would’ve been a lot to process. Considering all three in less than a week is…well, like I said, my brain is in a fog. I suspect that everyone is struggling right now. Only someone in deep denial would insist they’re fine.
We turn to our friends when we’re angry, confused, grieving, shocked. We turn to them because we can and because we must. No one can deal with these things on their own. And while we may be reluctant to have these conversations with family members, friends are usually less judgmental.
So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, frightened, confused or just unsettled, reach out to that friend: you know, the one you can talk to about anything. Rant and vent and cry, if you must. But do it. No, it won’t turn back the clock and change anything. But it will help you feel a little less cold, a little less lonely, a little less scared.
And that, as the song reminds us, is what friends are for.