I'm wondering how to live well
I pictured myself, unable to speak in a hospital bed but still consciously processing, hearing someone kindly speaking those questions / statements over me and now I’m crying. Thank you Mari - I will be sitting with this for a while. I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship too so I look forward to whatever you have to share with us 💌
I’ve thought so much over the past few years about the concept of witness, the wonder of it. Midway into the pandemic and living alone, I realized that the term for what I was experiencing in my isolation was a loss of witness. All the ways I used to be seen and to see myself seen — in communities of friendship, creativity, faith — had been lopped off, leaving only work (I’m a real estate agent and I took on a new role in the early pandemic — when we reopened after lockdown it was nonstop). I remember saying in December 2020 that I was desperate to see my family because my family wouldn’t see me as my job, and I’ve never experienced such intense loneliness or anxiety as I did when, despite much more interaction than most with people in the outside world, I was subsisting on such a limited reflection of who I am. Building back into friendships and relationships with a fresh appreciation of what it means to witness to one another’s fullness has filled me with gratitude — as reading this did today. Thank you Mari. ❤️
This is just spectacular. Thank you.
What a beautiful, insightful, feeling-everything essay. Thankyou for this.
This is beautiful and brings tears to my eyes. Everyone should read this. Thank you, Mari.
I’m sitting in my car weeping. This is beautiful, thank you for sharing.
So much food for thought and feelings to sit with. Thank you, Mari 🙏🏻
Mari, this one made me cry several times. Thank you for this beautiful piece and for sharing these thoughts and experiences. All 5 of these ideas ring so true to me, and they've all shown up so big in their own ways in my life as of late. A year and a half ago or so, I left my job and moved back to the city I grew up near - I have friends and some family here, but of course, things have changed greatly in the decades I've been away and it's been a real process of rediscovery and trying to create community. I'm single as an adult, and living truly alone, without a roommate or a partner (although I do have a grumpy beloved cat I of course talk to out loud - obviously), for the first time ever, and navigating big uncertain professional change - the themes of witnessing and sitting with suffering, uncertainty, and fear, and the importance of love outside of the bounds of a primary romantic relationship have all been so big. Very different, of course, than the patients you visited with, but there nonetheless - the important things about existence. One thing that's been amazing to find is my ability or capacity to witness myself - when no one else is with me, when I'm not going to receive any professional recognition for my work, when no one will know what I do - I am still here, still doing the work or the play or exploring or cooking or tasting or experiencing or being and it still counts. It counts to me, for me. It's a warm and rich, boundless, feeling to give that to myself.
When my father suffered a heart attack, he spent 12 days in the cardiac ICU before passing, just before Christmas. My sisters and I were only allowed to visit one at a time but we pasted pictures of him all over his room so the nurses and doctors could see the life they were fighting so hard to save. It meant a lot to share that side of him, the moments of his life beyond the puffy body with a thousand wires attached.
I spent almost four years working as a nurse in the ICU. It can be a dehumanizing job for the staff as well as the patient. Every second of dignity added to the experience on both sides makes a￼ world of difference. The day my father passed away, the doctors made an exception and let my two sisters and I all in the room so we could witness his transition together. A small offering of grace I’ll forever be grateful for.
Thank you for sharing your life with us, Mari. I’m grateful to be one of many witnesses to your love.
"It feels so necessary to be witnessed, as though the desire for a bystander is baked into human DNA. We want to be seen, heard, felt, smelled, tasted, touched, and we find all sorts of ways to do that." - So beautifully put. Wow. This entire newsletter gave me chills, but this particular line was just so resonant to me right now!
Working as a chaplain for twelve years changed who I am and informed everything I know about myself. At the very beginning of my training, someone explained that "the chaplain has no agenda" and that alone made it possible for me to do the work. I remember especially being called to the ER in my first week to sit with a woman in her fifties whose husband had died in a skiing accident. I will always be grateful for the inner guidance that told me not to speak and I didn't say a word.
Hi Mari! I’m Flora and I run the internal communications for Lenox Hill Hospital. This is such an amazing piece and I would love to connect and share your beautiful essay with our community! Would you mind reaching out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org? Looking forward to hearing from you!
That was so beautiful! I just lost my husband this October and your words resonated with me. It is so what I needed today — thank you my dear for being you and sharing your perspective on life.
Gosh. This brought me to tears. Where do you put the grief indeed. Where do you put the regret of not keeping in touch more with a friend who passed on too soon? I feel seen.
Mari, time and again, you weave magic with your words, give words to my feelings. Thank you.
The last seven years have felt like a perpetual cycle of loss and grief for my family. Slowly watching loved ones decay and die has definetly taken a toll on us. Your accounts brought much needed perspective to all this. Thank you so much! XO from Brazil.
True Kismet. Last week, my mom was rushed to the ER and up to ICU with dire complications from Paxlovid after getting Covid. She just returned home last night, thank the U, but all I can think about is: 1. The others I saw hooked up to all the tubes in the Covid wing (one room was dark with at least a dozen family members surrounding a bed with a drawn curtain and I feel like I know what that meant.) And 2. How my mom was emotionally devastated by the ordeal and now I know it's because of your observation of close friends vs. no close friends. You are absolutely right about this. Meanwhile, her ICU nurse has texted with her and wants to get together when she's feeling better. I guess they had a deep heart-to-heart up there in the Covid wing. Perhaps, oddly enough, she found herself a new friend after all this? In any case, this piece couldn't have come at a better time as I process the past week. Thank you for your chaplaincy and your deep work to understand us complicated (and yet so simple) human creatures. ❤️