My new theory is that everyone who lives long enough will at some point go through a period of The Hard. I believe The Hard is necessary. It makes us stronger. It strips away dross.
My theory is based on a recent trip back to New Jersey for a memorial to honor the parents of a friend of mine. His parents had started the Middletown Township Folk Festival, they were well-known and much loved. My friend’s father had passed away in January, his mother in February, and his older brother the preceding December. My friend was in The Hard. I could tell him what his parents had meant to me—and I did—but I couldn’t stop The Hard.
The memorial service was scheduled to be in the park where the Folk Festival had been held. Due to heat the service was moved inside, to a church. People still brought their instruments and sang their songs. It was crowded and the air conditioning strained against the hot and muggy. The music was good. There was a group of us who hadn’t been together since 1974 and we slipped into a side room to talk.
As we caught up on our lives, I was surprised to learn that three of my friends were in The Hard, dealing with the kinds of things that don’t get posted on Facebook:
- A daughter with severe mental illness
- A sister with Alzheimer’s and cancer
- A spine that is crumbling
Two of us were not in The Hard—we had faced our Hard a few years ago. Maybe we were evidence to our friends that it is possible to go through The Hard and come out the other side, yes with loss but also with greater strength. I don’t know. All I know is that when someone is in The Hard, two things help:
- Being listened to
- Being hugged
I listened to my friend who had lost his parents and his big brother. We hugged. We were sweaty and stinky and in that moment, in that hug, there was at least one thing right in the world.
Laura Munson, New York Times best-selling author, leads the Haven Writing retreats. Normally her September retreats sell out by June, but because Laura has a new book coming out, she has been more focused on polishing the book than on marketing the retreats. There are open seats and Laura is offering a discount. More info from Laura is here. A 2017 selfie-video endorsement from me is here.
Chewing the Cud of Good
Today I am thankful for the good work of not-for-profit organizations and in particular, ArtWorks. Downtown Cincinnati has a lot of visible vertical landscape, most commonly the sides of buildings next to parking lots. ArtWorks turns a negative into a positive that creates a more vibrant community.