Today is my sweet Griffen’s birthday. He would have been thirty-four years old.
This picture is his fourteenth birthday, and it stands out because it has been fourteen years since we last celebrated a birthday with him. We went and ate at the Japanese Steakhouse and then came back home for cake.
I love the innocence on his sweet face, and I still miss that beautiful smile.
In so many ways, I can see how he lived in this world, but it was as if he was not of it.
I’m happy to report that fourteen years later, the pain of loss no longer overwhelms me. I smile, knowing that Griffen has moved beyond the constraints of time and space. His sweet Soul now lives in the place some humans call Heaven. We are taught that Heaven is out there somewhere, but I have come to see it differently. Heaven is inside of us, too — ingrained in the very DNA of our Souls. Like a patchwork quilt, everything is truly and completely intertwined — with really no separation regardless of how much we think there may be.
When I think of my sweet little brother, I think of the many lessons he taught me — on this earth and beyond. Although my grief and loss feelings have faded, I still feel sad that the people he loved and called his friends were really unable to be that for him.
Time has confirmed for me that we do the best we can in the moment. Hopefully, with time when we know better, we do better, as Maya Angelou famously said.
Life is a lifelong learning process. One of the things my brother never learned but awakened me to is how important it is to surround ourselves with people who truly love us. His passing showed me so painfully how the people we call our friends can be the difference between life and death. Unhealthy relationships will also slowly drain life from us.
I’ve never been one to have a large circle of friends because I have never felt completely comfortable being with other people in intimate circumstances. Sure, I love encounters with other people. Still, I’m most comfortable in super small settings surrounded by people who see more than what their eyes show them, hear more than what their ears can hear, and are seeking to know themselves and others beyond the superficial cloaks of human skin they wear. I’ve learned that those kinds of relationships are a rarity, and we should treasure them; we are blessed to have them.
Several months back, Mary, my therapist, and I, were chatting and she told me that relationships should not just be one-sided. They should enrich both people. As I reflected on what she said, I could see that I had lived a lifetime of not expecting that and not really understanding what healthy relationships meant.
In our conversation, Mary told me that I had lived a life accepting crumbs instead of cake when it came to my relationships. What did that mean? Well, it meant that I had been trained to take the crumbs and not expect to get the cake. Do you ever do that? It was true in every sense for me. How many relationships had I been involved in where I felt like I was giving everything I had and then some and the other person still found it not enough? Quite a few.
I accepted what people gave me and didn’t have the tools or self to recognize what was healthy and what was not. I had a lifelong pattern of staying in unhealthy and abusive relationships — not knowing how to break away. I was taught to look out for others first and felt that it would make me a selfish person if I thought of myself in any circumstance.
So, I began to ask myself some questions about every person in my life.
Did I enrich that person, and did I feel enriched by being in a relationship with them?
Was there a give and take by both parties?
Did we have a mutual reverence and love for one another?
I started to see that I had more crumbs than cake. With Mary’s help and guidance, I began the process of breaking away from the people who could only give me crumbs.
Our therapy often consists of affirmations, and this one stood out to me:
“It is okay to end relationships with people who harm me whether through intention or carelessness.” — Mary.
How many times had I stayed in a relationship with another who was harming me through intention or carelessness? How many times have you? I had never looked at my relationships as harmful, but I could see that was the case when I sat with the thought.
It was not as uncomfortable as I had imagined when I began to confront my feelings and share with the folks in my life. As a matter of fact, it felt quite empowering.
I soon discovered that certain people couldn’t accept me if I spoke truth to power and said how I really felt…that I wanted cake, not crumbs. That I was tired of being the only one giving. My circle got even smaller, but now I know that the folks who are left are cake relationships.
My heart feels happier, and I’m not wondering who has my best interest at heart. I know. I wish I could have learned that so much earlier and taught it to my sweet boy. He settled for
I’m sorry my sweet Griffen wasn’t able to have a lot of cake. He settled for the crumbs too. I know that where he resides, there is nothing but love, and he knows just how special he was here and how special he is there!
I hope that you find the cake and not the crumbs.
With much love,