The Yin-Yang of Friendship

I feel sad today, though I shouldn’t. The weather is lovely — cool with wonderfully clear azure skies. I had a delicious lunch with a friend and afterward we sat beneath a tree by the shores of a lake (human-made, but still a lake) and enjoyed a quiet interlude.

If the sadness isn’t a belated response to my four-and-a-half-year anniversary of grief, and if it isn’t simply a general malaise stemming from the change of seasons, then it could be due to an ongoing disagreement I am having with another friend. This other friend periodically accuses me of being contrary or negative when I resist being taken for granted, and I never know how to yinyanghandle the accusations, so I often make the situation worse by trying to explain my position. This time, I’m not explaining, and perhaps that’s what’s making me sad — I value my friends and I don’t like passing up an opportunity to put things right.

Last year, another friend accused me of being negative. (When most people look at me, they don’t see someone negative but a smiling woman who is doing the best she can with what life throws at her.) I told her I was sorry she felt that way, and that’s pretty much how we left it. We reconnected recently, and she apologized for her behavior, saying I wasn’t negative and she had no idea why she accused me of being so.

I don’t know why she said it, either. To be honest, I don’t know why anyone would accuse a person of being negative. I can’t think of a single instance where I accused someone of being negative, perhaps because I don’t put much faith in being positive. I’m one of those people who don’t care whether the glass is half-full or half-empty. I simply drink what’s there and refill the glass if possible, which could be why I have no idea how to deal with the infrequent person who calls me negative.

The truth is, negativity isn’t necessarily negative. Negativity is simply yin to positivity’s yang. Everything is a duality — complementary forces that interact to form a dynamic whole. Light and dark. Male and female. Hot and cold. Fire and water. Good and bad. Positive and negative. In Taoism, there is no real distinction between these forces that we in the west see as opposites. Since negativity is a matter of perception, the problem lies with the person who perceives me in such a light. And so it goes, the yin-yang of friendship.

Now if the friend had accused me of over thinking everything, I’d have to agree with that. If nothing else, this post is an exercise in over thinking. But I had fun writing this bloggerie and now don’t feel quite so sad — I even have a small smile on my face.

I hope you do too.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Negativity Is in the Ear of the Beholder

People who tell me I’m negative make me feel . . . well, they make me feel negative, and for no good reason. I might not be a sunny person, always looking on the bright side, and I might not be one of those who believe you fake it until you make it, but I’m not negative. I’m pragmatic. A thinker. A truth seeker. And the truth is, people who call others negative often want things their own way and are peeved if the others don’t like it.

For example, a friend invited me to go to lunch, so I arranged my schedule around the time she chose. An hour before we were to meet, she called and changed the time. The new time would interfere with my plans for later in the afternoon, so I told her I wasn’t sure I could make it. She called me negative.

Another friend often emails me and asks if I’m available at such and such a time so we can talk, and many times I wait for a call that never materializes. If I express my disappointment or say I’d appreciate being informed of a change of plans, I get called negative.

The other day I mentioned I couldn’t do something, and a person I’d met a scant hour earlier, said, “I hate negativity. Don’t ever say you can’t do something in my presence again.” Huh? I couldn’t do it. That didn’t mean I wouldn’t try to do it or wouldn’t try to learn to do it. Nor was I being negative. It was a simple statement of fact. Being positive and saying I could do it would be a falsehood — a negativity — which is anathema to a truth seeker.

During those horrendous first days, weeks, months, after the death of my life mate/soul mate, grief would so overwhelm me at times that I would scream to the heavens, “I can’t do this!” And at that very moment, I couldn’t. Sometimes it took everything I had to simply breathe, let alone attempt one of the myriad end-of-life chores. Sometimes the pain of grief would well up, obliterating everything but raw agony and angst. But . . . I did what I needed to do. I used the heat of my anger and despair as fuel to accomplish such impossible tasks as clearing out his “effects” or boxing our things to be stored.

Two months after he died, I got up early, cleaned out the few remaining items I’d been using, packed my car ready for the trip to my nonagenarian father’s house so I could look after him. I walked through our rooms, remembering with what hope my mate and I had moved there, remembering the good times, remembering the more frequent bad times. Remembering his last hug, his last kiss. His death.

As I was shutting the front door, I thought of all that lay ahead of me. Pain welled up in me, and I cried out, “I can’t do this.” Then, it dawned on me: Yes. I can. Because I did. I got out my camera, and went through the house one last time, taking photos of the empty rooms to prove to myself that all those things I thought I couldn’t do, I did.

I still have times of screaming “I can’t do this” when life overwhelms me, but it’s not a sign of negativity. It’s merely an expression of the moment. And if someone doesn’t like my saying I can’t do something without finding out why I think so, it’s too bad. I can’t live my life to suit those who call me negative.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.