Saturday, May 2, 2015

What Does This Say About Me?

I remember when I was a young twenty-something, there was an older woman who was a mentor to me, whom I loved, and who I wanted to emulate. Then suddenly, she became hospitalized for anxiety, and I found myself frozen. Mutual friends would say how much a visit from me would mean, but I was too afraid of what her hospitalization said about me. And I knew my reaction was irrational, but I just hoped she would get better so I could see her soon. What I did know is where I'd seen this before: in training films on alcoholism recovery. When someone in the family decides to get sober, other family members will often rebel, and even try to persuade the alcoholic to start drinking again, because of the fear they have about what that person's decision says about them. Here's someone they love, who they see a lot of themselves in, and they've chosen to put down something they know they enjoy, and they wonder, "What does this say about me?!

The answer is:
Absolutely nothing.

We may see ourselves in others, but that does not mean we are others. Just because they make a decision to change their lives does not mean there's anything you need to do except continue to be their friend. And I know that this is an instinct that is almost unavoidable when we're close enough to someone. But that doesn't mean we can't overcome it. I was able to send condolances to my friend and tell here that I was too scared, and I hoped she forgave me. If nothing else, we were always honest with our feelings. And she did get better, and was able to paint the town red, and I couldn't be more proud of her.

The reason why I liked her was she was a powerful woman and a force to be reckoned with. That didn't mean that sometimes she didn't need help too— we all do. The more important point was that she was responsible with herself and her life, and she was able to guide so many young women on to true self-esteem. I still have her signiture in my favorite book in a bookcase not too far from me. We eventually lost contact after I moved to the PacNW, but she has had a lasting impact on my life, and I credit her with a lot of my maturity. She taught me how to own my mistakes with humility and not humiliation, when I had not know there was a difference.

And I know that's the reason why many healthy people don't deal well with people with chronic illness. We just want our friend to get better so we can hang out with them like we used to, and we hope to God that we don't have anything chonic that may be lurking in us. Somewhere in the back of our minds we wonder if this is how growing old starts, or bad luck starts, and then we shake our heads, wonder why we're allowing ourselves to think so irrationally, but we still can't shake the feeling of impending doom, headed towards us all.

It's human to be scared. It's also human to overcome our fear and realize, our friend is our friend, and we all stumble on the road of life. It's worthwhile to reach out to others even if they haven't reached out to us, and not wait until they're better to seek their company. We can let them know their company is missed, even if we can't talk to them directly. (Although this is now the age of cellphones and SMS text messages, so really, you have no excuse ;) Know that even just a word of encouragement and appreciation can help so much.

And remember: What does this say about you? Nothing you need be ashamd about. You're human, just like the rest of us.

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