My True Companion
24 years ago, tomorrow I married the only man I could have gotten through the last 2 ½ years with – My True Companion, Craig Errol Friesen. Amid the stunned emptiness that enveloped the night of Errol’s passing, all 3 of us recognized a fear that Dylan gave voice to. “We can’t let this tear us apart,” he said aloud; a thought I am sure had crossed each of our minds. It is the ultimate challenge of familial relationships to survive the loss of a family member. Craig and I assured Dylan that wouldn’t happen to us, because when faced with pain or adversity, we didn’t pull apart – we drew together. That was true then and is even more true now – but it wasn’t always our reality because it wasn’t my reality.
When the boys were young, I sat with Craig and told him that I didn’t know if I loved him – didn’t know if I had ever been in love with him. These words were not flung in anger, but came from a place of deep personal lostness. Though I had so much to be thankful for, I had come to realize something horrifying – I honestly had no idea who I was. I had never had any patience with people who said that “they needed to find themselves”. How ridiculous! And yet… there I was. I had developed a protective mechanism somewhere along the line that made me really good at being a chameleon – I took on the traits of those around me, I did what was expected of me and became who anyone else wanted me to be – and after years of shifting skin to blend in in order to be accepted – liked – loved… I forgot where I left my true skin. I had lost Colleen.
The first little cry from somewhere deep inside came very early in our relationship, as Craig and I were organizing our combined furniture in our living room. Craig wanted to organize the pieces diagonally and I wanted the more traditional rectangular layout. This minor conflict caused an absolutely raging terror inside me – a terror I couldn’t understand at the time – a terror I buried – a terror that refused to go away, but festered and grew to a dangerous psychological ulcer. The winter before I uttered those cruel yet true and necessary words to Craig, I had so much more yet felt like so much less than I ever had. The person I was then would never have been able to pull together with her family in the face of January 13, 2020.
Though it was brutal on us and devastating on our situation, Craig saw me – loved me – and let me go just enough that I was able to remember and resurrect Colleen. During that time, I realized that when I told Craig that I didn’t know if I loved him – it wasn’t him that I was uncertain about, it was me. I realized that the protective measure of hiding myself to keep myself safe from hurt really only served to cast the mortal wound of Self-sacrifice.
Could I have ‘found myself’ without hurting Craig? I don’t know. I think he would have supported me, but I don’t think our situation back then would have allowed it and more importantly, I wouldn’t have allowed it. It takes a ton of guts to face the world – to face life as our true Selves, but one thing I’ve learned; we aren’t here to try to dodge through life avoiding as much pain as possible. We are here to experience all of life – including the pain – as our unique Selves and to respond to it all – especially the pain with as much love as we can muster.
That is the message I want to share with all of you today: you can make it through the worst of times – but only if you face them fully, honestly and with Love. The fear of exposing our Selves to pain is great, but ultimately, the risk of not being that whole, unique person is worse. A fake; a weak façade or imitation of You would never be able to endure the great pains of life. It will shimmer and break apart like the mirage it is. The fabulous news is, there are people who will love you – the real YOU, but only if you introduce your Self to them. These same people are more than willing to give you the support you need – but you have to let them know what you need. You can’t dodge pain. You can’t hide from it, but you can survive it by accepting it and wrapping love, patience and acceptance around it (your own and that of those around you) until it becomes bearable.
To Craig I want to say thank you for always being my True Companion. While the chameleon who stood at that altar at your side 24 years was not yet your True Companion, your love, courage and support have brought her back to life and now, I, Colleen Friesen – your True Companion, thank you for helping me to become the woman who could face the darkest night of our lives and confidently reassure our son that we would be ok because we pull together and not apart.
In celebration of our anniversary, I want to share our song with you all. You can find a lovely pictorially accompanied version here.