Bad News Good News

Bad News Good News
by Marjorie Saiser

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I was at a camp in the country,
you were home in the city,
and bad news had come to you.

You texted me as I sat
with others around a campfire.
It had been a test you and I

hadn’t taken seriously,
hadn’t worried about.
You texted the bad news word

cancer. I read it in that circle
around the fire. There was
singing and laughter to my right and left

and there was that word on the screen.
I tried to text back but,
as often happened in that county,

my reply would not send, so I went to higher ground.
I stood on a hill above the river and sent you
the most beautiful words I could manage,

put them together, each following each. Under
Ursa Major, Polaris, Cassiopeia, a space station flashing,
I said what had been said

many times, important times, foolish times:
those words soft-bodied humans say when the news is bad.
The I love you we wrap around our

need and hurl at the cosmos: Take this, you heartless
nothing and everything, take this.
I chose words to fling into the dark toward you

while the gray-robed coyote came out of hiding
and the badger wandered the unlit hill
and the lark rested herself in tall grasses;

I sent the most necessary syllables
we have, after all this time the ones we want to hear:
I said Home, I said Love, I said Tomorrow.
“Bad News Good News” by Marjorie Saiser from I Have Nothing to Say About Fire. © The Backwaters Press, 2016.

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what is grief

There’s a lot of grief going on in lives all around me. People are losing their parents, their spouses, their loved ones; people are grieving the loss of relationships, romantic and otherwise; people are sometimes just having a hard time getting to sleep enough for each new day. Expand out and out, and there’s only more, and more, and more grief. It’s endless and insurmountable. That’s the deal we’ve got in this life.

Binge-listening to TTFA hasn’t been helping with this revelation. But also, has been helping. It’s a podcast where Nora McInerny talks to people about real, really sad, sadly raw answers to the question, “How are you?”

People go through some TERRIBLE things — and they’re sharing their stories. About loss, about sickness, about infertility, about mental illness. Mundane and awe-inspiring all at once. And all of this makes me weep in the traffic, weep in my car, weep in my bed as I listen and listen and listen and scroll through pages and pages and pages of social media that I don’t even have log-ins for, just to read the back stories.

And I feel grateful again, for the first time in a long time, for all of this WONDER I’ve been unacknowledging in my life as of late. All the NORMAL, PERFECT, BANAL, WONDROUS-WONDERFUL things.

Also I feel hopeful again, cause humans are resilient and beautiful in their empathy for other humans in suffering.

All of this is strangely comforting — all these suffering stories remind me that my suffering needn’t feel so lonely. Sometimes, all you have to do is acknowledge the sadness and share about it. You might be surprised by how your community responds. And who your community is made of. And how many others have tasted your bitterness and can stand with you, show you the way out of the tunnel.

 

Grief may look different on each person’s face, but it affects everyone’s insides in similar kinds of ways. But I so easily forget that everyone is a person, like I am a person — especially when they infringe on my comfort or convenience. And it’s hard to empathize with a person whose humanity you are overlooking.

We were talking about elevators at work one day, and L shared a story about hitting the Close Door button just to avoid waiting for the far-away person walking toward the metal doors. About how she’s been finding herself doing that more and more often these days.

And then K responded that she’d actually been doing the opposite, because she’d read somewhere that small acts of kindness connect us to our community — in these tiny, imperceptible ways that build up in layers over time — and remind us of the humanity inside every other human. Causing you to become more compassionate, in turn. (Maybe even inspiring others to be so.)

[Okay full disclosure: that whole paragraph^ after “K responded that she’d actually been doing the opposite” was my abstraction-ing from her actual words. But are you feeling me!?]

Why are the most basic human lessons the easiest to forget? Why do they fall out of my head the fastest, the slippiest?

Today, in the bathroom, I took some extra time to ask LL about her cough. She’s had it for a while, I think, and I could tell that she wished to be home instead.

After we had both finished washing our hands, I still stuck around and listened, and finally told her that I hoped she would feel better soon. Such a simple, simple thing.

But she paused and spoke these words, straight to my heart:

“Thank you, that actually helps a lot. Compassion.”

*throat squeeze*

Everyone needs compassion. Whether it’s a big grief or a small one or medium-sized, there’s a little part in most everyone that could use compassion from someone else, at any given moment. So why not me?

Compassion.

Everyone needs it. You haz it.

Share it.