In a right place

I experienced my first Facebook bereavement the other week.  It was quite shocking.  A man who had written some interesting comments on posts – not just mine – had been quiet for a few weeks, and I suddenly felt prompted to look at his page.  I felt a little foolish wondering, even worrying about his absence.  Probably he was on holiday.  He lived in Belgium and I knew he had family in the US.  It was a very strange experience making my way backwards on his Timeline.  First there were comments from friends and family which sounded like he might be away or travelling.  Then there were just some ‘x’s and ‘o’s.  And then there were some poignant comments, from memory they went like this – ‘I went into your flat and I saw your shoes waiting for you by the door’.  ‘I went through your papers today, I know you wouldn’t have liked that intrusion into your privacy but I had to and it made me feel closer to you.’  ‘I miss you….’

I experienced a dawning feeling of horror as I scrolled down the page through comments of shock and sadness from others, and then finally reaching confirmation of the by now obvious news.  I felt peculiarly unsettled by this experience, and almost like an intruder, as I had never met this man.  I hardly knew him.  And yet his death was also a loss to me – admittedly not a huge loss but one just the same.  When I pause to think about it, why shouldn’t there be deaths and losses on Facebook as in any walk of life?  And why should they be less important or impactful, or even less real?   We trivialise our internet connections as part of the whole social pressure to ‘not take things too seriously’. 

Although I had never met this man face to face, I respected his comments.  He felt that people used Facebook in the most banal ways.  He introduced a different type of comment onto his page which was thoughtful and well-received.  He prized courtesy and good manners – not as unthinking rituals  but as signs of care and respect – and he re-posted an article another friend of mine had shared about how the ‘niceties’, saying ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re welcome’, were falling into disuse.  (The article wasn’t all gloom and doom though as it talked about how new conventions for showing gratitude and making connections, were emerging.) He was a role model who did his best in small but important ways to make a positive contribution.  He had a faith in being human.

So I missed him.  I got over it – faster than if he’d been someone I knew in a more complete sense.  But I do think about him and the little glimpse I had of his character and life.  And somehow it made me feel all over again that whatever and however the connections we make – whether face-to-face or on Facebook -, they are meaningful and an important part of the fabrics of our lives, even if they are slight or passing.

A curious relationship

I had another more direct  encounter with death a few days later.  I went on a a familiar walk which requires me to cross a field that is sometimes occupied by grazing cattle or sheep.  On this particular day when I got to the entrance, a large group of cattle, maybe 30, were huddled near the gate.  I had a bad feeling, but they all legged it to the other end of the path so I thought I’d go in as turning around would have added a half hour I didn’t have to my already moderately long walk.  They were down near the cattle grid that I needed to cross so I decided to give them a wide berth to give them time to move on.  The opposite happened, and the next thing I knew all 30 were racing towards me.  I shouted and clapped but this only seemed to excite them further, so I sized up the situation and realised if I didn’t turn and run to leap over a fence, I might regret it.  They chased me and I just managed to hurl myself over the fence before they were there.  They raced past me to another far end of the field.

Having a fear of heights, I couldn’t get back over the fence without the adrenalin rush.  And I needed to re-enter it to get back on track.  So I rolled under the fence with the cows a good distance away and – I couldn’t believe it – they raced at me again!  I ran over the cattle grid as they pounded past me on the other side, and made my way home.

I felt shocked but strangely triumphant, which seems a strange response.  I still can’t help but focus on the achievement of hurling myself over a fence that I can’t climb, rather than the fact that I came this close to being seriously injured if not trampled.

At another time I might have focused on the darker potential outcome.  But right now, I am feeling in a right place.  It is a feeling I can summon just by thinking about it at this moment.  The incredible lightness of being – you really feel it as you throw yourself over a fence!  I guess it’s a feeling that is always there, but for some reason it is more available at this time.  I don’t know why.

 

I sat in a spring garden just coming to life last weekend, in between two wonderful performances of 18th century dance tunes by Boldwood, and thought:

Three times in three weeks I have been at talks and conferences and I have felt in the wrong place.  That has felt really good!  Feeling in the wrong place has been accompanied by a feeling that I am really in a right place even as I am indifferent to what is taking place around me.   A lot of things have just fallen away, and it is confirming to hear these people talking around me, and think no, this doesn’t mean anything to me right now, it is a space- and time- and life-filler. 

This feeling of satisfaction or contentment, holding the germ of excitement (nothing like complacency), is unlikely to last.  Maybe it’s spring, or a new financial year, or the fact that at last there is rain, or a line that has been drawn, or the fruit of a practice – I can’t say.  Just a feeling of balanced clarity and a happiness at having shed some of the load. 

Bird on a wave

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This entry was posted in connections, friendships, internet life, Jung, walking, yoga. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to In a right place

  1. Dody Jane says:

    Oh Karin – this same thing has really gotten to me as well. One of my daughter’s friends died awhile back and his Facebook page was filled with so many sad messages from his friends. It made me wonder … will his Facebook page be there forever? Into internet eternity? Is Facebook a way to achieve some sort of digital immortality? My brother died in 1972, long before FB, but every year, on the anniversary of his death, his girlfriend and some friends put out memorials to him and it makes me wonder if eventually there will be a FB for those who died before FB, sort of a digital mausoleum? It is so fascinating. And I agree with you, I have met so many people who I consider to be really good FB friends, who I have never met! I will probably never meet them. But, I just love their souls. And like high school, there are others I have met that I would delete, but I don’t want to give them a complex. Ah, this digital age.

    I, for one, am so happy to have you on FB. It is a great way to connect with people you are far away from. Sometimes, all my busy daughter can manage is a quick FB hello, and then I know she is alright and I am happy. And, there is my deaf sister, who is not deaf on FB.

    I am glad you wrote this post. FB death is something I ponder. And I am so glad you escaped the thundering cows. That must have been so frightening! XO dody

    • Hi Dody, I like the phrase and idea of a ‘digital mausoleum’. Thank you for sharing so much of your personal experience and I’m also really glad to have you here and on FB.

      What you’ve written has helped me understand my own uncertainty about the whole FB/internet experience. I still have intermittent discomfort sharing thoughts and feelings publicly online, and wonder why I’m doing it! (not least because I have been asked this so often, and often disapprovingly.) Somehow the experience of a person who has died with their FB page still there and being used by others also leaves me feeling uncertain.

      Communicating virtually is already a disembodied experience – in a way we are already communicating with a spirit. And I do have this issue on FB with wondering, is the person there or not? When will they be there again? etc Somehow knowing the person is truly disembodied and won’t be there as we know it ever, is a little strange to me, and I do wonder who the people writing on the deceased person’s page are writing for and to – the dead person, other living people who may read it, themselves? All of these?

      I suspect that when we write on the internet, even on a secure FB page, we are hoping for unknown as well as known connections.

      Take care,
      Karin

  2. Patsy says:

    Hello: As I get older, I never am surprised to be often reflective when hearing stories of people who have died and their cumulative lives. As I do work in the health and mental health field, I have been exposed to the sudden death of past and present patients and clients, colleagues, and relatives. I also have my story of being chased by a badger, and threatened by a mother bear as I was near her cubs. So, I understand the exhilaration of running away and surviving being chased. Like the cows, they did not catch me; and the real fears while being chased will not be forgotten either.
    What I have come to understand is this: the fact that I pay attention to these events grounds me that “I am alive, and should not take my life or others for granted.” It causes me to reflect and ask myself, ” What if this was my last day on earth, and how would I want to spend it?” I do not take anything for granted as I get older now, and am reminded that in these conversations of death, near death experiences and how stories ‘shake our sense of ourselves and our world” remind of us just how fragile our humanity and existence are. Sharing these stories is sharing our vulnerabilities while lending further connections to each other. This is what I believe. Human connection is necessary for survival.
    We are not here forever, and these experiences remind me of that regularly.

    • Thank you, Patsy. Like you, I have experienced the sudden deaths of clients (as well as friends) and have written on this blog about one that really distressed me about a year ago. Every death is symbolic – that one was for me hugely, symbolic of the death of a time as well as an individual – and makes one think of one’s own death, as well as one’s life as you so evocatively write. It is a call to life. I’m glad you’ve made the connection here.

  3. Chris says:

    The experience of death and its balancing positive affirmation of life and the poignancy of comments left suspended in cyberspace are so personal to my situation at present. As I nurse a dear friend of 30+ years standing through her last few weeks of life I see the inevitability of death on a daily basis. And I also experience the balancing affirmation of life. I know that when she is gone I shall strive not to waste what time is left to me. To recognise that it is finite and that one day there will not be a tomorrow for me. And I know that I must face the task of sorting through the thousands of uncatalogued images she has left behind on CDs, DVDs, memory sticks and paper. Not a person to use social networking media she will nevertheless leave a permanent record of her life and interests which must be afforded due attention and respect.

    • Thank you, Chris, for your thoughts, and for taking time out to comment. You know the admiration, respect, empathy and love I have for you, especially in current circumstances. I just hope you are also keeping your own health as a priority. I know that the sifting and cataloguing that lies ahead will be done with the utmost care and rigour because that is how you do everything that comes your way. Take care of yourself.

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