What if the great love of your life was friendship?

What if the great love of your life was friendship?

Finding comfort after loss.

“Inside our words and actions, the people we love live on through us.”

-Lissa Soep, Other People’s Words

What makes us… well us? What makes our ideas our own? I learned when I grew up that I was a unique person and the origins of my ideas were somewhere in my mind. They came from a “soul” of sorts. These ideas and words were ownable by me. Whatever I did and said it came from this place, this soul that somehow was shaped by forces that I didn’t understand and yet still very much present.


A very unstatisfactory understanding that comes from psycologists is: the mind. The things that we call ideas are electrical impulses connecting the dots from information storied in the brain.

I felt upset when people “took” my ideas as their own. Not offering them the grace that they were also entitled to feel and think what their brains/bodies came up with. I remember so many conversations about the “theft” of an idea or word as being stolen or a violation of sorts. That ideas and words were like paintings or any unique physical object, they could be sold and traded. That there was indeed a physical form to each.

However, as I age, my understanding of where ideas come from and how identities form has shifted from static and innate in origin to something learned through mirroring and exposure.

In her book, Other People’s Words, Lissa Soep (who I loved almost at, “hello”) grapples with the loss of two good friends. She revisits the theories of 20th-century Russian linguist and literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin whose idea of how language works offers a life for the people she loves beyond death as we traditionally understand it. Mikhail Bakhtin frees language from a single context - divested from the idea that we possess our speech and creativity becomes anonymous.


“The way in which I create myself is by means of a quest. I go out into the world in order to come back with a self.”
M.M. Bakhtin

Just imagine for a moment that your words, actions, and self are all literally made up of the people you love. Ever catch yourself saying something your mother did without warning? Or using a phrase that someone you admire did? This is how the people we love ripple and echo through us. And how they live on.

Where do you find comfort in loss? (I REALLY WANT TO KNOW!!!)

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In a moment where we are trying to make sense of the grief of losing someone without the guarantee of some afterlife, there is a comfort to be found in how our sense of self is composed by the interactions we have had. That the friends we have spent time with, become a literal part of us because of how language and creativity work inside our brains.

“...Truth is not born nor is it to be found inside the head of an individual person, it is born between people collectively searching for truth, in the process of their dialogic interaction.”
Bakhtin M.M.

In some ways, by talking about our own loss, by using the words we have learned through others, we honor their existence.

The specialness of existence is pretty mind blowing.

Thanks for being here.

Bad At Keeping Secrets, the podcast is Stephanie Tsou and Carissa Potter. Audio by Officially Quigley. Sound editing by Mark McDonald. Mark is helping people start their podcasts, if you have been thinking about starting one, I would highly recommend him. Sign up for a free meeting with him here.

“[Friendship] is a relationship that has no formal shape, there are no rules or obligations or bonds as in marriage or the family, it is held together by neither law nor property nor blood, there is no glue in it but mutual liking. It is therefore rare.”
Wallace Stegner, Crossing to Safety

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