Light in my life

JohnSo there I am: shaven headed, about 8 stone, arm covered in bandages and sipping coffee in the coffee shop where I would sit for hours, literally. Now in my 40s, I was completely resigned to the fact that nobody listened then, nobody listens now and nobody would in the future. I now had it all nicely planned with even a location in mind: I was so very tired and ready to leave.

The door of the coffee shop opens and in walks M. I couldn't really see her face, but I felt something. Somthing ‘other’ is the only way I can describe the feeling. I thought how nice it would be to say hello, but why bother - I wasn't planning on sticking around for much longer. So I drank my coffee and got up to leave. I had the habit of always taking my cup back to the counter and as I did I passed M.

She simply asked, ‘Would you like some company?’

I said that I would and I sat down with her.

She then asked something amazingly powerful: ‘Tell me about yourself.’

I told this stranger everything

I couldn't believe it! Someone making eye contact and genuinely asking me about, well, me! I thought that since I had nothing to lose, I would tell this stranger everything, and I did for the next hour or so! She listened, never interrupting and towards the end of the tale of my life she simply smiled and gently touched a scar on my arm and asked, ‘what’s that?’ The question did not feel intrusive and so I told her. She smiled and carried on listening. Once I had finished, M told me her tale and neither of us could quite believe the similarity of our stories.

We met up again that evening for ‘dinner’. I wasn't eating at this point, so I had literally two dolly-mixtures: one for my lunch, one for my dinner. We walked and talked and she asked about the normal things, hobbies, books, music etc. Wow, normality for a brief second. I walked M home that night and then telephoned my mother.

We were married in 2009

Me: ‘I’m in love!’

Mother: ‘What?, who? don't be silly? What are getting involved with now? What?’

We were married in 2009.

The point of this is simple: non-judgment, listening and empathy are amazingly powerful tools of transformation in any situation; whether personally or on a global scale. M never once try to fix me, or cure me or heal me. However, the comfort of simply having someone listen and genuinely care is staggering.

Of course, I was still not eating at the beginning of our journey and one day M invited me over to where she was living for lunch. I walked into a full spread of Middle Eastern meze and broke down sobbing! The overwhelming sense of wanting to help without judging or even saying anything literally floored me. It's a running joke that her cooking made me cry; but in a good way!

It’s a huge shame in many ways that I found M late on in life. Who knows what my life would have been like if I had received that kind of support early on, and I mean from family, friends and of course the medical profession.

I'm not advocating love at first sight as a cure

Knowing each others’ conditions, we never had rocky times between us as a couple. Though we did individually experience, and still do, a lot of dark moments. With the empathy forged from experience we were/are both there for each other in amazing ways. Mostly through listening, letting it pass and then moving on to the ‘normality’ of cooking, listening to music, going for a walk and so on.

I’m not advocating love at first sight as a cure all but I do advocate three simple, yet powerful tools:

  • non-judgment,
  • listening,
  • empathy.

If you can offer these, then it’s amazing who you can help. If you receive these, then I hope their power touches you in ways you never thought possible.

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You can read John's poetry here:


Thank you for sharing

What a wonderful tale of friendship and love. And coming at a time when you felt so low is very uplifting to hear for me, as at the moment I feel pretty bad and am convinced that no one could 'possibly' want the mess that I am. I too am in my 40's and feel very alone. I have had bouts of depression since my teenage years with plenty of low self esteem when the depression isn't around. So thank you John for sharing it was uplifting and gave me a little hope for my own circumstances.

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