Yesterday morning, as I prepared to walk my dog in the crisp Vermont morning under a tentative sun, I felt a tug. Not a physical one – that would have been Loki’s leash. No, this was entirely visceral; or perhaps spiritual. Perhaps it is intuition. But I can say this has happened a handful of times in my life.
The urgency that moves me to do something that had not been on my conscious radar. The first time it happened I named it ‘grace’ — the knowing that made me create an escape plan ‘just in case’ from a doomed marriage. In fact, he returned and early unannounced from vacation filled with self-righteous accusations I later learned to be the MO of someone on the offensive to cover his own tracks.
The second time, I traveled the distance from New England to Texas to visit my aging parents – somewhat spontaneously. We spent the late November week bringing me up to speed on their financial matters and end-of-life plans. Not a month later, my mother (the business manager of the two) suffered a stroke that left her with expressive aphasia and me with multiple year-end financial transactions to complete. Absent that earlier trip, I would have been utterly clueless. I still can only name that ‘luck.’
But yesterday it was something else. For the first time in the 18 months since we left our old condo, I felt an urgency to visit the one neighbor there I had come to know well and care for deeply. She responded to my knock hesitantly. At the first glance I knew Something Was Wrong. We spent the next hour-plus perched on her front steps while she talked. Poured out her heart. Shared the truly unimaginable layers of loss and pain that had just been dumped on her. I listened, held her hand, and listened more. Loki licked her face and lay quietly between us.
When she had drained herself for the moment, she said, “Comfort in, dump out.” I had never heard that phrase before. It describes a relational way to interact in extreme grief or other difficult interpersonal situations. But of course! When you are in the same crisis with someone, you need to bolster one another up. Only by turning to someone further removed from the pain can you just dump everything you can no longer carry. She was so grateful that I ‘got’ this – and many other things she shared during our sitting-in-January-snow-and-sun connecting.
After I left I pondered what had just transpired. Not close friends, we nonetheless share some deeper connection beyond words or labels. And what went between us was, in my view, a ‘comfort dump.’ It was so patently clear the comfort she needed, and received, from my simple presence, my listening heart. And what a comfort it was to me, having arrived on her doorstep at the precise moment she so needed it.