I cannot keep count of the number of times that people have approached me, or my wife Samantha, and commented on our “strength”. People tell us over and over that what we have done in the wake of our tragic loss is something they themselves could never do given the same situation. My usual response after that comment is “Perspective is a funny thing and you never know what you are capable of until you are in a situation in which you cannot possibly imagine yourself in.” The idea of perspective is something I already wrote about a couple weeks ago, and it was the main idea of the commencement speech I gave on June 21st to my Middle School’s graduating 8th grade class. After I gave the speech countless parents, colleagues, former students and current students sought me out to tell me that I inspire them and that they will try to live their lives by my words. One former student from my school (yet one I never actually taught) took the time to write the following:
“Mr.Specht that speech you delivered today was truly amazing and very inspirational. As i move on to college, graduating high school yesterday, i can now say i never met a teacher like you before. I never got to experience a class with you, but i can still say you were the best teacher i ever had… Mr. Specht you are one strong human being and as i move forward in my life i will forever keep the wise words you spoke in my head…”
I am incredibly humbled by the notion that people listen to me and divine meaning and insight into what I say. It is reassuring to know that because I have “walked the walk”, people will listen to me “talk the talk” . Yet, through all of this – through all of the perception of my apparent strength, there lies a hidden side that no one, not even my wife Samantha, sees. Much like the Moon in which only one side shines resolutely above us most nights, there is a side to me that is cloaked in a perpetual veil and concealed from view. The part of me that everyone sees daily is the side that emanates the strength and resolve. My strength can falter at times and my resolve is not always so steadfast: Yet, much like the moon goes through waxing and waning phases, I have noticed the same holds true for these facets of myself. Regardless of their magnitude, people are still only seeing one side of me through this ordeal and that side belies the inimical half of me.
Strength is a matter of perception and is completely relative. When compared to an ant, a horse is strong, yet relative to the strength of a locomotive it is weak. The strength that people see in me is merely a reflection of the perspective in which they view me and my circumstances. The perception of my strength is further promulgated by the fact that only one side of me is visible to others. No one, not even my wife, is witness to my nightly ritual of walking by Rees’ empty room with my mouth agape as if to bellow the greatest wail possible yet only producing an outward silence. No soul other than my own is privy to the recognition of those times in my mind’s eye when that image of Rees’ that I would rather forget materializes. No one is around to hear my wails in my car when driving by myself. Nighttime is especially difficult, alone with my thoughts and tortured by memories both good and bad. One could not possibly witness these things and perceive them as strength. The picture that people paint of my “strength” is incomplete and lacking half of the narrative.
Interestingly, the “Dark side of the Moon”, is actually a misconception and misnomer. On Earth, from our perspective, the Moon has a side that no one sees and as such we believe it to be dark. What we call the dark side of the Moon, is merely a side of the Moon we never see from our vantage point here on Earth. This obscured side is bathed in as much light from the Sun as the side that faces us – we just lack the frame of reference to see it. The truth is that half of the moon is always in the light of the Sun, we just can’t always see the parts that are and wrongly assume it must be dark. We fear that which we cannot see, and that which we cannot see is often mistaken for darkness. Just because we cannot see the back of the Moon does not mean it is dark. Just because people have witnessed my strength, does not mean I am not also weak.
Perhaps what really matters in all this isn’t my perceived strength, or imperceptible weakness. Perhaps what really matters is that the only time we can see “the dark side of the Moon” is when we change our perspective and look from a place outside of our normal viewpoint. When I stop to think about it, writing in this forum has provided me just such an opportunity to give you a semblance of my perspective. The side you see of me that you may refer to as strength is balanced out by a side you never witness. Both the strength and the weakness are not the truly important thing to focus on. In the end, what truly matters is our perspective. What people perceive as my strength is really just a reflection of what we are all capable of doing. There is no dark side to anything if you change your frame of reference. I have been to my own “Dark Side of the Moon” and what I found there was an unexpected light that has changed my perspective completely…
Rich you are truly a gifted writer. You make us all think a little clearer about what is happening around us. Keeping you all in our thoughts and prayers.
Your gift is in your power with words. That is how change happens. You have connected with many people because of your gift. We assume you to be strong because of what you have accomplished so far, and we chose not to dwell on your weaknesses. One cannot exist without another- to become strong, one needs to be weak at one point in time. The difference between good and great lies in the choices you make. You chose to share your journey with others through your posts, making the connections and therefore affecting change. You could have silently mourned and kept the pain to yourself, and just be a good person. But you went above that. Thank you for changing the world, one piece at a time, even though you are barely held together. That is greatness.
rich, although I have never met you, I feel that, through your writings, I have come to know you. don’t ever feel that you have to remain strong all of the time- those feelings that you have in the middle of the night are the feelings that are shared by everyone that has lost someone that they especially love. there is no right or wrong way to grieve- the important part is to give yourself permission to have those moments of grief, NO ONE can be strong all of the time- and there is no time limit on grief. grief carries us all through our own journey and winds its own path. you and sam have been a wonderful inspiration to all of us in allowing us to take part in that winding path and to witness all that you are doing for others while breaking new ground on your own journey. god bless!