Asking The Right Question 

Spoiler Alert – This is NOT a beer post.

What I’ve discovered in the last year or so about my personal blogging motivation has kind of intensified in the last 6 months. It’s about triggers. Emotional triggers. To me, now, blogging is about an immediate transfer of thought to page. Not planned journalism.

This necessity for triggers applies to the beer posts as much as those about the grief process. I even have a part written post about music – in particular, my Top 10 albums and 3 Funeral Songs. And that one was prompted too.

I used to plan. I used to think, “OK. I’ve got all this beer. I’ll do a couple of bottle posts”, but I got bored with planning. I haven’t written a review post for 9 months. Each thing I write needs a stimulus. A purpose. And this post had the strangest, yet most obvious of prompts.

It would appear to be one of life’s truisms that I have little or no connection to Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer (read “Boss”) of Facebook. A bit of an obvious statement is that. Or it was, until I read an interview with her in this morning’s Observer by Decca Aitkenhead (I actually read it via the Guardian website – you can read it here), not about her role in running one of the world’s most valuable businesses, but about the sudden loss of her husband. And how she copes.

The first thing that struck me – and drew me in to reading the entire article – was about people asking you how you are feeling. The right question to ask. Trust me, it’s a fucking emotional minefield for the person asking. I previously dealt with that here. Or thought that I had. Then I read the following extract…

The classic inquiry, “How are you?” also turned out to be unhelpful. “Well, my husband just died on the floor of a gym. Like, how am I?” The more meaningful question, she learned, is “How are you today?”

And that’s precisely it. THE question. The one which you can answer honestly without emotionally eviscerating the questioner. The one that you can answer without reference to my current stock response ‘Yeah OK. Walking, breathing, you know. Every morning’s a bonus…..’

She talks about the husband she lost. That thing of which I’m constantly reminded is incredibly important. To have those remarkable memories. The things that make you smile and laugh. That simple act of walking into The Brink – and looking up at the signage – is a smile/chuckle trigger in itself. (Those who know what I’m talking about will chuckle too)

Sheryl (get ME on first name terms….) goes on to talk about a post she put on FB a week or so after returning to work (we differ here. She only took 10 days off. Me? Over 5 months.) after dealing with people standing off. A little bit like I pre-emptively did here. And the amazing personal response she got – as I did, with people opening up.

She talks of allowing those moments of joy – and not to be ashamed of them. Those moments where the sun (in a linguistic slip, I initially – appropriately – spelt that ‘son’) almost peeps through the emotionally dense clouds.

Initially, I felt some guilt about those moments of joy. I remember vividly being out with those lovely Liverpudlians Les & Julie O’Grady in Manchester some time after ISBF3. Conversation was light and I was chuckling. Then I noticed – across the venue – there was someone I knew. And he was looking almost askance. As if to say “How? How can you be chuckling….?”

As Sandberg goes on to say, there are choices in how you respond to grief, to loss.  Option A & Option B. And if Option A doesn’t work, you “kick the shit out of Option B”. Option B being the title of the book…..

As a kind of self-help therapy, I’ll be buying the book. I’ll leave you with a direct quote (You’ll forgive me Sheryl….)

Back soon. J.

Whether you see joy as a discipline, an act of defiance, a luxury or a necessity, it is something everyone deserves. Even when we’re in great distress, joy can still be found. Cooking. Dancing. Hiking. Praying. Driving. Singing Billy Joel songs off-key. And when these moments add up, we find that they give us more than happiness; they also give us strength.”