I have been supporting a friend through some very hard times the last few months. It’s a terrible situation she finds herself trapped in, and there is no simple choice-based solution that will relieve the pain and pressure she is experiencing.
My decision to stand by and be her friend, cheerleader, confidant is not made lightly or with some unconscious self-serving desire attached. She is someone I liked immediately when we met, and as the months and now years of our friendship have passed our common ground far exceeds any/all generational, socioeconomic, and personality preference differences we may possess.
Sometimes family and close friends going through tough times is exhausting to the point of issues fatigue or burnout. I do not know if i am tougher than that or have a lot more patience with and tolerance for those who are working hard at helping themselves. Whatever the reason, she has my complete sympathy for her circumstances and present experiences. I am enormously proud of her for proactively seeking professional help and doing the work prescribed to get better. It is hard to do, to stay disciplined and focused and head in the game for extended periods.
I know this from personal experience with similar emotional trauma drama. I know it takes time to heal. I know most people, even if they knew the precise things she is enduring while trying to find peaceful reconciliation and acceptance, would not understand. I know how easy it becomes to feel isolated, alone, and utterly defeated when faced with the tsunami of pain.
Suffering is oppressive and sucks the entirety of life from our lives. Suicide, the most drastic and irreversible choice available, begins to look attractive. Such feelings left unchecked, it becomes the only sensible solution.
I never want anyone to see that as their only option, especially not someone I love.
With that background, one of the ways I support her is to seek out positive messages on pinterest and other sites to send her every day. It’s a little thing. We joke it’s corny and silly and part of the social media culture that surrounds us. But I do it anyway, and I am honest and transparent that I do it for me. To feel like I am doing something to help her keep going. I know what she is doing is not work I can do for her; this is not like moving where an extra body and pair of hands has a direct impact on the task. So I search for memes or pins to share that relate to something we have talked about in our limited interactions.
My heart and intentions are in the right place. She forgives the use of the cliches I find or the canned platitudes we both hate in other aspects of our life.
Saturday she replied in kind with a complimentary pin. I am very touched by the sentiment, yet vaguely embarrassed by her gratitude. I want her to be better, get back to her baseline normal, where she feels good and happy and the drive of her own life’s pursuits. I am not doing this for glory or recognition.
It is a habit of my lifetime to be uncomfortable with praise.
To be kind to others is in my view a pillar of civil society. Like everyone else, I have bad days. I snap at others with impatience or disdain when it is inappropriate, because of something in my immediate universe. Still, I am nice to those around me because it is my nature and costs me nothing in nearly all cases.
I suppose my struggle in acceptance of praise is partly humility and partly disbelief that I have earned praise. It is not that I do not enjoy it – I am really very human in this regard – yet it always leaves me vaguely uncomfortable. Especially when it is from someone in my immediate tribe of family and friends that I admire and respect.
It seems my own ambivalence about self value and worth continue. I console myself that my life and emotions are a work-in-progress, and my mileage in self-improvement, or perhaps more accurately – self-enhancement, varies year to year.
I can continue to live well with that.