Every Monday afternoon for the last eleven weeks I’ve been co-facilitating a group at GT House, the organisation I’ve been a participant of since late last year. The group – Creative Therapy – was created to give participants the opportunity to explore and share their life’s journey in a safe, supportive and (hopefully) fun environment via a number of creative activities, writing prompts and lively discussions.
In today’s group we undertook a writing prompt that is inspired by Acceptance and Commitment Therapy; we imagined ourselves listening to a friend/relative deliver our eulogy (or eightieth birthday address, depending on how morbid we felt) and then shared with the group what we would like that person to say about us.
This was my eulogy (which was freewritten between 2:25pm and 2:55pm):
Many people seem to say that ‘all men are simple’, but in my experience, Andrew was anything but. Throughout the time he and I were friends, I saw him face many challenges and road-blocks, yet in spite of a few stumbles along the way, he dealt with each and every one of them with genuine courage and aplomb. He as a man who – despite all the odds – refused to bow down and give up; a quality that I have long admired.
Andrew summed it up best in his book ‘The (Occasionally) Manic Adventures of a Lonely Heart’ when he wrote:
No matter how I’ve approached my life, no-one has been able to better phrase my
philosophy than my dear friend Samantha. Little did she know when she typed those
words, that she’d be giving someone their mantra for life: “It you always worry about
what other people think, you will always be their prisoner,”
For as long as I’ve known him, he has lived true to these words. From the dark days of suicide and depression, from the even darker days of homelessness and hopelessness, Andrew fought against his oppressors to be his own, self-made man. He wouldn’t let anyone hold him back, label him or define him. His actions, not his words, revealed to the world who he was, and that man was an inspiration not just to me, but to many others.
In his passing, Andrew leaves behind a wife and four beautiful children, all of whom he loved beyond measure. He leaves behind a body or writing that has thrilled and inspired millions of readers. He leaves behind a hole in this world that may never be filled.
His passion for life, for humanity, for giving those society deemed as ‘voiceless’ a chance to hold their held up and have their say is a testament to us all.
He is a man who I miss, for I don’t think there will ever again be anyone quite like Andrew.
The exercise is designed for us to look at our values, hopes and aspirations. It is about taking a moment away from negative self talk and being kind to past, present and future selves.
During the discussion after the activity, it was comprehensively concluded that being kind to ourselves felt “wrong”, “un-natural” and “very strange”. There was also much apprehension (from myself included) about not talking ourselves up, with our minds editing our writing so we didn’t come across as too “arrogant” or “full of ourselves”.
The line I picked from my eulogy as an example of this was ‘He leaves behind a hole in this world that may never be filled‘; for however much I’d like to think my passing would leave a hole in someone’s world, to say it out loud to a group did make me feel like I was thinking too highly of myself.
But this is the whole point of the exercise; there is nothing wrong with thinking so highly of ourselves.
In fact, many of us would benefit from doing it much more often than we do.