Debbie Downer or Reflective Rhonda? Gratitude Experiment: Day 20

My niece and I, as well as a few close friends of mine, often joke that we are a little too dark and twisted for most regular crowds.  So we have to be careful and somewhat regulated, depending on the crowd.  (Usually we are already around fellow dark and twisteds who we have selectively chosen to be around, so this is only in certain situations.)

Because I have lived through the deaths and sicknesses of various friends and loved ones, I have become quite comfortable with death and dying.   Yes, I said it.  Death. Death. Death.  It freaks a lot of people out. And Alzheimer’s.  Alzheimer’s, Alzheimer’s. NOT pronounced Oldtimers or Altzheimer’s for God’s sake.  No really, some actually pronounce it that way without the blink of an eye. I kid you not.

Given the choice, I’d rather be comfortable enough to talk about death and honor loved ones on a regular basis than the alternative.   Life would be damn boring and superficial otherwise.  And I really don’t think I’d be able to readily appreciate so much of life if I didn’t have first hand experience of how short it can be.  And remind myself often.

But I’ve learned that the majority of people don’t like to think that much about complicated things, especially death.  And I don’t blame them sometimes.

However, my kindred spirits and I all joke that we know the best way to end the festive vibe at a dinner party or bar scene gathering if we want to.  Sometimes conversations naturally can lead to questions about siblings or mothers or fathers. (Where do your folks live? How old are they? How many siblings do you have?  Are you close with your siblings?) It’s at that moment we have to decide whether to dodge that bullet or grab it honestly.

If we choose the latter, in comes awkward silence……..  Then often the subject changes more quickly than you can imagine.  The mood sometimes shifts to a strange awkwardness and if not revived properly by a party trick or something, this can throw a wrench into the social mechanics of an evening. Luckily I have many good party tricks.

But it’s really kind of sad.  Why does this have to instantly make someone a Debbie Downer (or Donald Downer)?  Thank goodness it doesn’t always, but it depends on the crowd.

I know there is a time and a place. But more often than not, I avoid the subjects unless I know who I am dealing with.  Seems a little unfair really and puts a little knot in my stomach. People get to talk about their shopping trips and manicures with their moms, or even bitch about their parents or siblings.  And rarely can I talk about my sister or mom without bringing the room down a notch.  And frankly, it’s on days like that when even walking by the sister card section in Hallmark just plain pisses me off.

Why as a society are we so uncomfortable with death and dying?  It’s part of the process.

I think many people feel that there is a certain time span after someone loses a loved one, and then they are over it.  Or maybe people just forget.  But the truth is that the grieving process has no magical end. It ebbs and flows and may change, but it never ends.  And thank goodness for that, for this is partly how we honor those we have lost and keep them with us.  By remembering them for what they gave us and the world during their time with us.

So if you know someone who has lost a loved one, ask them about that person sometime.  It certainly doesn’t have to be in the middle of a party Debbie Downer style, but it doesn’t have to be taboo either. And it’s actually a wonderful thing that a friend can do for another.  Examples you could ask:  What were they like?  Tell me what you remember most about them?  Were you close?  Can you tell me what happened?  What do you miss most about them?

Myself, I am no Debbie Downer. Not in the least.  And for those who might think so, it’s best I know upfront before any time is wasted getting to know each other. Life is too short to be around people who do anything but make you feel good.  That’s one of the best lessons I have ever learned.

I see myself as more of a Real and Reflective Rhonda and I know it helps people.  I’ve seen its magic.  Perhaps that’s why so many strangers tell me their life story.  This warms my heart.   And for that I am grateful.

9 thoughts on “Debbie Downer or Reflective Rhonda? Gratitude Experiment: Day 20

  1. I remember attending your sister’s funeral service and yet never once have I asked you anything about her. Your post is a much-needed reminder that is not only OK — but also important — to ask.

  2. I was fortunate or maybe not fortunate to have only recently experienced the depth of grief that occurs when you lose someone close to you. I knew I would not be ready and I fear the loss of a parent or sibling. I thought I knew loss and grief, but now as I am rounding the one year corner myself I cannot believe the unexpected ups, downs and sudden moments of intense grief. Those moments are very lonely. This year has left me dehydrated. I did always think there would be a day when the loss of my Aunt would be less painful, a magical its all OK day when only happy thoughts fill my mind. I want that day, but do I? I think it is an honor when someone trusts me enough to really share these feelings. And, my magical its OK day seems further away today than a year ago. Thanks Rhonda!

  3. I agree with Ann! Those conversations may not be all sunshine and puppy dogs and rainbows, but they are deep and meaningful and memorable. Also, I hear you on the alternate Alzheimer’s pronunciations. Aaarrgh! Apparently no one cares how dumb they sound anymore.

    As usual, nice post. The world needs more people willing to have those dark, twisted conversations.

  4. It sounds weird, but one of the most memorable conversations I ever had was about a co-worker’s parents dying. I’ll never forget: we stumbled on the topic at lunch at a convention of all places and we were both so moved we had tears streaming down our faces, with other people in the cafe looking at us like we were crazy. But she taught me a lot that day, and for that conversation I’m grateful!

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