Friday, May 19, 2017


Lately I have been watching many YouTube videos on issues like marriage and divorce, friendship and loneliness. Since I am writing a new self-help book I like to be aware of the latest therapies and psychological treatment orientations . However, I was very surprised to see that many of these videos are not created by licensed clinicians but by coaches on one area of life or the other: social skills, self-esteem, bereavement, etc. This discovery brought about a confirmation of my theory that the profession of psychology is similar to the culinary profession in the sense that both seem easy to carry out but are extremely difficult to do well. I remember one occasion specifically where this hypothesis became very clear to me. At that time I was going through a very rough period in my life and started looking for a therapist for help. Since I am a psychotherapist myself it is very difficult for me to find someone who can satisfy me. So I decided that it would be much easier to join a therapy group where I could listen to others and not have a one to one relationship with the therapist if I thought she could not help me. But when I called a group therapist to make an appointment she told me that she was not running a group at the time but that we could start individual therapy until she could find more patients willing to attend group therapy. I was so distraught at the time that I accepted her suggestion and made an appointment for the following week. When I went to her office I realized immediately that her clinical practice was not what she had advertised in the internet and that her office was so small that she could never fit a group in such a limited space. However, she seemed to be eager to help me and with a very professional attitude towards treatment, so I decided to give it a try. After she asked me the usual questions about family, marriage and children, she inquired what was the specific problem that had brought me to her office. So I told her that I was living alone in an apartment on the ocean but that going to the beach filled me with sorrow. Since I knew I was missing a great way to spend my time on weekends I wanted to overcome my beach phobia and start enjoying life again as soon as possible. My therapist listened to me intently and at the same time took a lot of notes, but said very little. That she did not speak during our first session did not bother me such was my need to talk and talk some more. So when the hour was over and she said to me that we should make another appointment I promptly agreed. The following week I came to session right on time and eager to listen what my therapist had concluded after our first session. As soon as we sat and started the session the therapist told me that she had prepared a treatment plan for me to follow. Somewhat taken aback by her statement I nodded in silence. Treatment plans are usually done by social workers in hospitals for patients who are in need of behavioral treatment, not in depth treatment. It is usually not a therapeutic tool used by clinicians in private practice with patients who need to work on issues like loss and loneliness. I waited for her while she pulled a couple of neatly typed pages from a chart and listened intently while she shared her treatment plan with me.
 “We will start by you going down to the beach ten minutes every day during the first week and then we can gradually increase the time.”
I looked at her hardly believing her words. Did she really think that therapy was that simple?
“I am sorry to say this, but if I were able to do that I would not have come to see you.”
As you probably already guessed that was the end of my therapy with this therapist. My presenting problem had a lot to do with divorce, loss, loneliness and anxiety about the future, feelings that needed hours and more hours of exploring their origin and how to overcome them. Instead my therapist thought that I would solve these existential issues just by going to the beach ten minutes every day. Since she was more of a coach than a therapist she did not understand that the beach was just the tip of the iceberg, and that her job was to uncover all that went on underneath.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Xenia in Ancient Greece was the term used to describe the courtesy and generosity we owe to our guests. This code of behavior was not only a political strategy to preserve order among the culturally diverse cities states, but it also had a religious connotation. As a matter of fact Greeks also believed that a stranger could be a god in disguise who had come to earth to check on mortals and had knocked on their doors. Several years ago, when I was living one of the worst periods of my life, I traveled to my country of origin to seek refuge in the home of a relative. This relative was my same age and during our childhood we had grown practically together. I can say that, despite all our differences, she was the sister I did not have. My flight was arriving at 9.30 am and I had asked my relative (I will call her Iris) to pick me up at the airport. After going through immigration and customs I walked towards the exit hoping to find her already there waiting for me. To my surprise she wasn’t there so I looked for a place to sit and wait for her to arrive. An hour went by and still no Iris in sight. During the flight I had made friends with a young man who had just graduated from college and had decided to visit Argentina. Since he had told me that he didn’t know anybody in Buenos Aires, I offered to take him to his hotel when Iris came to pick me up. He gladly accepted and patiently waited with me for more than an hour until my host finally appeared. Her excuse: she thought I was flying on another airline and was waiting for me at another airport lobby. Although I had hoped that upon seeing me she would hug me non-stop to comfort me in such a time of need, her welcome was as cold as ice. I immediately understood that I had come to the wrong place at the wrong time, but being too weak to confront the situation right there and then I proceeded to go to her home as planned. During the days that followed it became obvious that Iris was making a huge effort to share her house with me. One night as I came home after having dinner with some friends I found her already in bed. I went to say hello and tell her about my night out but her reaction was one of deep anger. She accused me of leaving her alone at home while I was having a good time with my friends. I was flabbergasted at her reaction because it was the first time in our life together that she had reacted with such an angry outburst. It is true that often in the past I had sensed in Iris a degree of hostility towards me probably based on the fact that my life had always been more organized and purposeful than hers. However and despite her extreme moods I had always managed to get along and share with her many of my most pressing problems and she had always being there to help. But that night her angry reaction was a clear sign that she had decided for our long time relationship to end. What really hurt me about how things turned out was that she had chosen one of the worst moments in my life to carry out her decision: when I was most vulnerable. The days that followed were as dark and lonely as a minefield. I could not move out to a hotel because I had already planned to see some cousins at Iris’ home and I did not want to tell them that I was moving out. So as soon as I woke up every morning I got dressed and went to the corner cafetería to have breakfast and read the daily newspapers. After breakfast I took to the streets of Buenos Aires trying to find one more time the aroma of my childhood and adolescence that had ended so many years ago. I went by my parents’ home and although my relationship with them had also been stormy, it had endured all the bad times and had remained solid till the end. My heart was broken by my circumstances and I deeply missed their protection. After a couple of days of not talking to each other I decided to ask Iris why she had reacted the way she had. Her answer was that she could not live with me under the same roof. I proposed that we go see her therapist for a family session but she declined. The idea of having a session with two therapists was obviously more than she could handle. So we decided that after the visit of our cousins that day I would move to a hotel for the rest of my stay. This sad circumstance took place many years ago but I still remember the anguish I felt at being treated so poorly in a country that was not my country anymore and at a house that was not my home. It was then that I understood how important it is to show respect and comfort to those who come to our door asking for refuge. As in many other areas of knowledge the Greeks were correct: when someone knocks on our door our responsibility is to make her feel at home.

Monday, April 10, 2017


Xenia en la Antigua Grecia era el término que se utilizaba para describir la cortesía y la generosidad que les debemos a nuestros huéspedes. Este código de conducta no era solamente una estrategia política para preservar el orden entre las culturalmente distintas ciudades estados, sino que además tenía una connotación religiosa. Los griegos creían que un extranjero podía ser un dios disfrazado que había venido a la tierra a espiar a los mortales y que por eso les tocaba la puerta. Hace varios años, cuando estaba viviendo una de las peores epocas de mi vida, viajé a mi país de origen buscando refugio en la casa de una pariente. Dicha pariente tenía mi misma edad y durante muestra infancia habíamos crecido prácticamente juntas. Podría decir que, a pesar de nuestras diferencias, ella había sido la hermana que no tuve. Mi vuelo llegaba a las 9.30 de la mañana y le había pedido a mi pariente – la llamaré Iris-- que me buscara en el aeropuerto. Después de pasar por inmigraciones y aduana me encaminé hacia una de las salidas esperando verla allí esperando por mí. Ante mi sorpresa no estaba así que busqué un lugar en el que sentarme y esperar a que llegara. Una hora transcurrió sin señales de Iris. Durante el viaje había conocido a un joven que se acababa de graduar y que había decidido viajar a Argentina. Como me había dicho que no conocía a nadie en Buenos Aires me ofrecí en llevarlo hasta su hotel cuando Iris me buscara. Aceptó encantado así que se dispuso a esperar conmigo pacientemente por más de una hora hasta que por fin mi pariente hizo su aparición. Su excusa: pensó que yo viajaba en otra aerolínea y estaba esperando en otro salón del aeropuerto. A pesar de tener la esperanza de que, al verme llegar, me abrazaría con fuerza para consolarme en un momento tan desesperado, su bienvenida fue fría como el hielo. No tardé en comprender que mi llegada no era oportuna, pero como estaba tan débil para enfrentarme con la situación en ese momento me dejé llevar hasta su casa como planeado. En los días que siguieron resultó obvio que Iris estaba haciendo un enorme esfuerzo para compartir su casa conmigo. Una noche cuando volví a casa después de haber cenado con amigos la encontré acostada. Fui entonces hasta su cuarto para desearle las buenas noches y contarle de mi salida pero reaccionó con mucha ira. Me acusó de haberla dejado sola en casa mientras yo la pasaba bien con mis amigos. Su reacción me sorprendió de sobremanera porque era la primera vez en nuestra relación que Iris había reaccionado con tanta rabia. Es cierto que en el pasado yo había percibido en ella un cierto grado de hostilidad hacia mí basado probablemente en el hecho de que mi vida siempre había sido más organizada y coherente que la suya. Sin embargo, y a pesar de sus estados de ánimo extremos, yo siempre había encontrado la manera de llevarme bien con ella y de contarle mis problemas más íntimos. Y ella siempre había estado presente. Pero esa noche su airada reacción fue una clara señal de que, por alguna razón, Iris había decidido terminar con nuestra larga relación. Lo que más me dolió de cómo las cosas habían cambiado fue que ella hubiese elegido uno de los peores momentos de mi vida para llevar a cabo su decisión: estando yo más vulnerable. Los días que siguieron a este intercambio de palabras fueron días negros y solitarios como un suelo minado. Yo no podía irme a un hotel porque había quedado con unos primos en encontrarnos en lo de Iris y no quería que supieran que me iba a ir de allí. Así que apenas me levantaba por la mañana y después de vestirme me encaminaba hacia la cafetería de la esquina para el desayuno y leer los diarios del día. Acabado el desayuno entraba a caminar por las calles de Buenos Aires tratando de recuperar el aroma de mi infancia y de mi adolescencia que habían acabado hacía tantos años. Fui hacia la que había sido la casa de mis padres y, a pesar de que mi relación con ellos también había sido compleja, había aguantado las tormentas siendo sólida hasta el final. Tenía el corazón tan roto por las circunstancias que extrañé la protección de ellos. Después de unos días de no hablar con Iris decidí proponerle ir a su psicoterapeuta para una sesión de familia pero se negó. La idea de ir a una sesión con dos terapeutas le pareció seguramente demasiado desafío. Así que decidimos que, después de la visita de nuestros primos ese día, yo me mudaría a un hotel para el resto de mi estadía. Esta triste circunstancia tuvo lugar hace varios años, pero aún recuerdo la angustia que sentí al serme tratada tan pobremente en un país que ya no era el mío y en una casa extraña. Fue entonces que comprendí cuán importante es mostrar respeto y consuelo a los que tocan nuestra puerta buscando refugio. Como en muchas otras áreas del conocimiento los griegos aquí también acertaron: cuando alguien nos toca la puerta es nuestra responsabilidad hacerlos sentir como en su casa.

Thursday, March 9, 2017


I once wrote a blog called Beware of Triangulation, a psychological paradigm that is so common that I will expand on the idea again today. Triangulation is one of the psychological games we all make use of when we wish to make someone the receptacle of negative feelings that we experience towards another person. Such was the case brought to me by Clarissa, a patient I had seen in the past for problems she had had with her adult children. The therapy at that time had been relatively easy going because she was an insightful and clever patient. This time, however, the issue that concerned her had more to do with her relationship with other adults, especially her intimate friends. Thus she told me the story of her friend Rachel, a professional older woman she had met several years ago and that attracted her attention by her intelligence and extended knowledge of many subjects. After Clarissa’s divorce she spent many hours with Rachel talking about her feelings of frustration and her anger about having lost her husband of thirty years to a younger woman. They also spoke about the many traps intimate relationships with men and women had and the difficulty of making and maintaining friends in the third stage of life. Both agreed with Erikson’s eight stage of development in which we can either feel integrity or despair depending on the life we have lived. Despite her divorce Clarissa was satisfied with her life. She had been married for more than thirty years, had had a career, she had helped her husband build his and, most of all, she had raised a good son. On the other hand Rachel had many skeletons in her closet that had made her an aggressive and controlling person when things did not go her way. Although in the beginning of their relationship Rachel had treated Clarissa with politeness, as months went by and the relationship became more intimate Rachel showed a definite lack of boundaries in their interaction. What this meant was that Rachel was sometimes very controlling and expected Clarissa to do as she told her. One of these situations took place once when Clarissa had gone to her friend’s house for dinner and had arrived 15’ earlier. She did not think twice about ringing the bell because in more than one occasion Rachel had told her that she disliked people who were late and that she was always on time. But when Clarissa rang the bell the person who came to open the door was an angry and upset Rachel who told her that she was still cooking and that she had not had the time to dress. Although flabbergasted at such a reception, Clarissa stood calm preferring to put up with her friend’s impoliteness for the time being. However that night, before going to sleep, she realized that her friendship with Rachel had to be revisited. One of the things that had always called her attention was a relationship Rachel had with a very old friend of hers who treated her very badly but that Rachel seemed unable to refrain. Many times she had confided in Clarissa the anger she felt against this friend, but despite the verbal abuse Rachel was unable to put an end to a relationship that had started many years ago. What was even more surprising to Clarissa is how Rachel bent over backwards with this friend while being very hostile to others and to her. What brought Clarissa to my office was something that had happened in an exchange of messages between them and other friends in which Rachel had put her down. After I listened to what my patient had to say I told her that very few people knew how to deal with intimacy and that most show a very distinct lack of boundaries and respect towards others. This situation is most common in marriage where like they say familiarity breeds contempt. However, in this case the intimacy that Clarissa had allowed to flourish between her and Rachel had provided the latter with an open door to triangulate her and dump on her the anger she felt against the friend who abused her. How had Clarissa become a trash can in this situation? By always showing politeness and composure she had been triangulated with ease by her friend who was obviously unable to filter her impulses. It was now time to change the rules of the relationship with Rachel by letting her know what was not allowed between them. After our session together Clarissa called Rachel to let her know that embarrassing her in public or in private was not proper and had to be stopped. Rachel replied that their sense of humor was different and that she would not make jokes any more. It was a good way to reframe the situation. What she did not understand was that in reality the jokes were just a mask for the anger she felt inside and that the only way to get rid of it would be to change the rules of her relationship with the friend who abused her.


En una ocasión escribí un blog titulado Cuidado con la Triangulación, un paradigma psicológico tan común que decidí volver a hablar del tema nuevamente hoy. La triangulación es uno de los juegos psicológicos que utilizamos cuando queremos que alguien se convierta en el receptáculo de los sentimientos negativos que sentimos hacia otra persona. Tal fue el caso que trajo a mi oficina a Clarisa, una paciente que yo había tratado en el pasado por dificultades en la relación con sus hijos adultos. La terapia en ese momento había sido relativamente sencilla ya que se trataba de una paciente con insight e inteligencia. Esta vez, en cambio, el tema que la preocupaba tenía más que ver con su relación con otros adultos, especialmente sus amigas más íntimas. Así fue como me contó la historia de su amiga Raquel, una mujer mayor profesional que había conocido hacía varios años y que había atraído su atención por su inteligencia y conocimiento de varios temas. Después de su divorcio Clarisa había pasado muchas horas charlando con Raquel de sus sentimientos de frustración y de su ira de haber perdido a su marido por una mujer más joven. También hablaron de las muchas trampas que escondían las relaciones con hombres y con mujeres y de la dificultad en hacer y mantener amistades en esa etapa de la vida. Ambas estuvieron de acuerdo con la clasificación de las etapas de la vida de Erikson según la cual en la octava etapa el ser humano siente integridad o desesperación según cómo vivió su vida. Clarisa había estado casada por más de treinta años, se había forjado una carrera, había ayudado a su esposo a forjar la suya y, lo más importante, había criado a un buen hijo. Raquel, en cambio, tenía muchos esqueletos en el ropero que la habían transformado en una persona controladora y agresiva cuando no se hacía lo que ella quería. A pesar de que, en el comienzo de la relación, Raquel había tratado a Clarisa con educación, a medida que pasaban los meses y la amistad se volvía más íntima Raquel empezó a mostrar una evidente falta de límites. Lo que esto significó es que Raquel se volvió muy controladora y esperaba que Clarisa hiciera exactamente lo que ella le pedía. En una ocasión Clarisa había ido a cenar a lo de Raquel con un grupo de amigos y había llegado 15 minutos. Al llegar no vaciló en tocar el timbre porque en más de una ocasión Raquel le había confiado que detestaba a aquellos que llegaban tarde. Pero esa vez la persona que abrió la puerta fue una airada Raquel quien le enrostró que aún estaba cocinando y no había tenido tiempo de vestirse. A pesar de la sorpresa que le causó semejante recepción Clarisa reaccionó con calma y serenidad, prefiriendo pasar por alto por el momento la mala educación de su amiga. Sin embargo esa noche antes de dormir Clarisa llegó a la conclusión de que su amistad con Raquel necesitaba una revisión. Una de las cosas que siempre le había llamado la atención era la relación que Raquel tenía con una vieja amiga suya que la trataba muy mal pero a la que Raquel no podía enfrentar. En varias ocasiones le había comentado a Clarisa que sentía una profunda ira por esa amiga, pero a pesar del abuso verbal del que era víctima Raquel no lograba poner fin a una amistad que tenía varios años de vida. Y lo que era aún más sorprendente era como Raquel se doblaba en dos para con esta amiga mientras que con algunos de sus otros amigos no dudaba en ser hostil y a veces hasta agresiva. Lo que trajo a Clarisa a mi oficina fue un hecho ocurrido durante un intercambio de mensajes entre ellas y otros amigos en los cuales Raquel la había puesto en ridículo. Después de escuchar lo que Clarisa tenía que decir le contesté que muy poca gente tiene la capacidad de manejar la intimidad con el otro y que la mayoría demuestra una significativa falta de límites y respeto hacia los demás. Esta situación es más común en el matrimonio donde, como dicen, la familiaridad genera desprecio. Sin embargo, en este caso la intimidad que Clarisa había permitido florecer entre Raquel y ella había permitido que esta última la convirtiese en el receptáculo de la ira que sentía por la amiga que la abusaba. ҁCómo se había convertido Clarisa en un receptáculo de desechos en esta situación? Al comportarse siempre con ecuanimidad y cortesía había permitido ser triangulada fácilmente por una amiga que obviamente no podía filtrar sus impulsos. Ahora había llegado la hora de cambiar las reglas de su relación con Raquel dejándole saber lo que estaba permitido y lo que no estaba permitido entre ellas. Después de finalizada nuestra sesión Clarisa llamó a Raquel para informarle que su tendencia a ponerla en ridículo en público o en privado no era apropiada y debía terminar. Raquel contestó que su sentido del humor era distinto al de Clarisa y que no le gastaría más bromas. Fue una buena manera de redefinir la situación. Lo que ella no comprendió fue que, en realidad, las bromas eran tan sólo una máscara de la ira que ella sentía y que la única manera de librarse de ella sería cambiar las reglas de su relación con la amiga que abusaba de ella.

Friday, February 3, 2017


Without a doubt loss is the most difficult thing we all have to face during our life on this earth. Those of us who are compassionate enough not only suffer for their losses but also for the losses of others. However, different people react differently to loss: while some are able to cope with life with dignity, others wallow in anger and despair. The other day I was peacefully reading a book on the beach when I was approached by a smiling middle aged woman from South America. Since the book I was reading was written in Spanish, when she asked me if I lived nearby she did it in Spanish. An interesting conversation ensued in which she told me that she was born in a South American country and that she had been working and living in the United States for many years. When it was her turn to ask me about my life, I told her that I was a psychotherapist who had also been born in South America but that I had studied and worked for many years in Florida. Then the time came for me to leave. I told her that I needed to go because I had an appointment for lunch with my son. Suddenly her look became somber as she stood silent and forlorn in front of me. I was flabbergasted not knowing exactly what was going on, so I waited in silence for my new acquaintance to say something. “My only son died when he was 19. It was an accident”, she said. I froze. If there is one thing that can generate a deep anxiety in my heart is the death of an only child. I also have one son and the idea that he can go forever fills me with terror. I stood there motionless, not knowing if I could leave her after such a confession and enjoy lunch with my son. “There are no words I can say to you that are appropriate for this terrible loss,” I said to her. “I know -she answered.- I know that I have two options: to live or to die. But I have no courage to kill myself. So I go on the best I can”. Although I had only known her for three hours I hugged her and told her that, if she wished, we could meet during the week to eat and talk some more. She readily agreed. In the months that followed a relationship developed basically meeting on Sundays on the beach to chat or to have lunch and a glass of wine. Despite her terrible confession on the first day I had met her, whenever I saw my new friend she was surprisingly upbeat and able to enjoy what life had to offer. She had told me that she did not have the courage to kill herself, but what she didn’t realize was that living her life with the loss she had suffered took a lot more courage. I admired this woman from deep down in my heart. To me she had the endurance of a goddess. Then one evening some neighbors from my building invited me to a gathering with family and friends. I immediately accepted because since I live alone my neighbors are a great source of comfort to me. One of the guests was a friend of my neighbors’ who lost his wife two years ago. He was a tall and handsome man in his mid sixties who looked somber and uncomfortable, and who never smiled. Since the host had already told me about this friend, I knew that he had been very attached to his wife, that she had been sick for a long time and that she had finally lost her battle with cancer. Those who knew him were very concerned about him because, although two years had elapsed, this man was not even able to smile. Since my work is based on motivating people to talk to me, I approached my neighbor’s friend totally convinced that I would be able to help him feel a little better, at least for a while. Or at least help him understand that living life in the past was not conducive to serenity. So I started a conversation by asking him about his work and his family. His attitude towards me was so cold and indifferent that I felt that I was bothering him. Since I usually get a very different response when I talk to people I felt totally out of place. I looked around me not knowing if I should move on to the next group of people near me or if I should stay and try some more to engage him. But as I was about to leave the man, probably aware that he had been impolite, said that he still worked and that he had a married son and a grandchild. While I listened to his brief answer, I started considering what could be my next question so as to keep the conversation going. So I asked the man about his social life. “I have none”, was his unsmiling one sentence response. That was it. The conversation was over. I had rarely felt so uneasy and so discarded. After letting him know that I was going to get a glass of wine I left. Although I did not speak with him again, during the whole evening I watched him from afar. He rarely spoke, and if he did it was with his friend the host. He never smiled and his gaze was filled with anger. While observing his behavior I asked myself why on earth had he come to the party, and then I understood: to make others feel sorry for him. When I came home that night I sat on the balcony to enjoy for a few more moments the wonderful Miami night. The weather was warm, the sea was calm, and my soul was grateful for all the things that life has given me. I have been lucky enough not to suffer the loss of the woman I met on the beach, but I have unfortunately gone through the breakup of a long marriage. Those times have surely been tough, but I quickly understood that my only way out of the swamp was to reach out to all those people willing to give me a hand. Years went by and I finally saw light at the end of the tunnel, so I was able to move on. Of the two people I mentioned on this blog, the only one who will see the light is my friend from the beach. We can only pray for the other one.


Sin duda alguna las pérdidas son lo más difícil que debemos enfrentar durante nuestra vida en la tierra, y aquellos de nosotros lo suficientemente compasivos no solamente sufrimos por nuestras pérdidas sino también por las pérdidas de los demás. Sin embargo, cada uno reacciona de manera diferente ante las pérdidas de la vida: mientras que algunos de nosotros podemos enfrentarnos a la vida con dignidad, otros nos ahogamos en la ira y la desesperación. El otro día estaba leyendo tranquilamente un libro en la playa cuando una sonriente mujer de mediana edad se me acercó. Dado que el libro estaba en español cuando me preguntó si vivía cerca lo hizo en castellano. Lo que siguió fue una interesante conversación en la que ella me contó que era originaria de un país sudamericano pero que había estado viviendo y trabajando en los Estados Unidos por muchos años. Cuando le tocó a ella preguntarme sobre mi vida, le dije que era psicoterapeuta, también nacida en América del Sur pero que había estudiado y trabajado durante muchos años en la Florida. Luego llegó el momento de irme. Le expliqué que me iba porque tenía una cita para almorzar con mi hijo. De pronto su mirada se tornó sombría y la mujer se quedó en silencio delante de mí. Como no entendía lo que pasaba, me sentí desorientada, sin saber qué hacer. Así que decidí esperar un instante antes de recoger mis cosas. “Mi hijo murió en un accidente cuando tenía diecinueve años. Era mi único hijo”, dijo. Me quedé de una pieza. Si hay algo que puede causarme una profunda ansiedad es la muerte de un hijo único. Yo también tengo un solo hijo y la sola idea de que se vaya para siempre me llena de terror. Me quedé allí parada, no sabiendo si podía dejar a mi nueva amiga sola para ir a almorzar alegremente con mi hijo. “No hay palabras que yo pueda decirte que resulten apropiadas para una pérdida tan terrible,” le dije. “Ya lo sé -me contestó.- Sé que tengo dos opciones: vivir o morir. Pero no tengo valentía para suicidarme, así que sigo delante lo mejor que puedo”. A pesar de haberla conocido hacía sólo unas horas la abracé y le propuse que, si así lo deseaba, podríamos encontrarnos para almorzar y charlar durante la semana. Accedió de inmediato. En los meses que siguieron adoptamos la costumbre de encontrarnos en la playa para charlar y tomar un vaso de vino debajo de la sombrilla. A pesar de la terrible confesión que tuvo lugar el primer día que la conocí, cada vez que me encontraba con mi nueva amiga ella parecía estar sorprendentemente alegre y deseosa de gozar de lo que la vida tenía para ofrecerle. Ella me había dicho que no tenía el coraje para suicidarse. Lo que no sabía era que se necesita mucha más valentía para vivir con la pérdida de un hijo todos los días. Admiraba a esta mujer desde el fondo de mi corazón. A mis ojos tenía el temperamento de una diosa. Luego, una noche, vecinos de mi edificio me invitaron a una reunión de familia y amigos. Acepté de inmediato porque, como vivo sola, mis vecinos son para mí un gran sostén. Uno de los invitados era un amigo de mis vecinos que había perdido a su esposa hacía dos años. Era un hombre alto y buen mozo que rondaba los sesenta y cinco con una actitud sombría y distante y que no sonreía nunca. Dado que el dueño de casa ya me había contado la historia de su amigo, yo sabía que éste había estado muy apegado a su mujer, que ella había estado enferma durante mucho tiempo y que, finalmente, había sucumbido al cáncer. Aquellos que lo conocían estaban muy preocupados por él ya que, a pesar de que ya habían pasado dos años, este hombre ni siquiera podía sonreir. Como mi trabajo se basa en motivar a la gente a hablar, me acerqué al amigo de mi vecino totalmente convencida de que podría ayudarlo a sentirse un poco mejor, por lo menos por un rato. O por lo menos a hacerle entender que la vida vivida en el pasado no conduce a la serenidad. Así que di comienzo a la conversación preguntándole por su trabajo y su familia. Su actitud hacia mí fue tan fría e indiferente que tuve la sensación de que lo estaba molestando. Dado que en general recibo una respuesta muy diferente cuando hablo con la gente, me sentí totalmente fuera de lugar. Miré a mi alrededor no sabiendo si debía pasarme a otro grupo de gente cerca de mí o si debía tratar de persuadir a mi interlocutor a que se abriera conmigo. Pero justo cuando lo estaba por dejar, probablemente consciente de que había sido descortés el hombre me dijo que tenía un hijo y que aún trabajaba. Mientras escuchaba su breve respuesta empecé a elucubrar cuál sería mi próxima pregunta de manera tal a mantener la conversación andando. Así que le pregunté acerca de su vida social. “No tengo”, me dijo sin sonreir. Y eso fue todo. La charla había llegado a su fin. Rara vez me había sentido tan incómoda y tan descartable. Después de informarle que me iba al bar a buscar un vaso de vino me alejé. A pesar de que no volví a hablar con él, durante toda la velada lo observé desde lejos. Rara vez le dirigió la palabra a alguien, y cuando lo hizo fue con el dueño de casa. No sonrió ni una vez y su mirada despedía ira. Mientras observaba su comportamiento me pregunté por qué había venido a la reunión, y luego comprendí: para inspirarnos lástima. Cuando volví a casa esa noche me senté en el balcón a fin de gozar de un último momento de esa maravillosa noche de Miami. El tiempo era cálido, el mar estaba calmo, y mi alma se sentía agradecida por todas las cosas que la vida me había proporcionado. Fui lo suficientemente afortunada de no sufrir una pérdida como la de mi amiga de la playa, pero sin embargo tuve que afrontar el final de un largo matrimonio. Esos fueron sin duda tiempos de mucho sufrimiento, pero comprendí rápidamente que la única manera de salir del pantano era acercarme a aquellos que estaban dispuestos a darme una mano. Fueron pasando los años y finalmente vi la luz a la salida del túnel, lo que me permitió empezar a andar. De las dos personas que menciono en este blog, la única que verá la luz es mi amiga de la playa. En cuanto al amigo de mi vecino le deseo lo mejor.