SCINAS | Support

November 21, 2014

[SCINAS = Self Care is Not About Smoothies, wherein I try to figure out what self care IS for me. You can read more about it here.]

Dana Nelson, Executive Director of GiveMN, spoke on a panel at Giant Steps this year. The topic of the panel was work/life balance, and she was talking about the importance of friendship and support: "Everyone needs at least three people they can lose their shit with on the phone."

I immediately zoned out of what she was saying and started counting. I am lucky to have lots of friends-- even a few handfuls of really close friends. But I would rarely think to call these people in times of crisis. At least, not until after I have the crisis semi-figured out, because what are they going to do? 

And this last statement gives away my real problem: I am a fixer, have been since childhood, and supporting and fixing are not the same thing. Support is about empathy, saying "hey, me too" or "yikes, that sucks" and "I really love you." It's not about providing a handbook for improvement; it's about being together in this awesome but messy life. I know from personal experience that this is not a burden-- it's an honor to know that my friends trust me enough to see them in a vulnerable space. 

I think that sometimes there's a confusion between social media spewing and asking for help: genuinely reaching out to another person. Social media is great in black and white situations that people can easily wrap their heads around: the loss of a loved one, advice on doctors and plumbers, directions to polling locations. Approach Facebook on a day where your depression is flaring up or that rejection notice has triggered your worst feelings of inadequacy or the holidays are bringing up all your family baggage, and expect to be disappointed. These things are more challenging for Joe Shmoe to wrap his head around -- go directly to a real live human. 

I believe that the thing that often prevents us from the reaching out is a feeling that we should really have our shit together. I know that when my life gets messy, it sometimes feels personal -- maybe I did something to cause the mess (even in times when the circumstances are entirely out of my hands). I deeply admire the people who own their challenging experiences (and feelings) with a sense of pride, as just a part of their story. They recognize that they are not alone in going through crappy times, and use these times to connect to other people.  

Like many, I've been deeply moved reading the writing of Minneapolis local Nora Purmort, recounting her husband Aaron's experience with cancer. I admire them for finding the good in the shitty, for owning with grace what's happening to them, and for reaching out-- they are so very connected to this community. Aaron has moved to hospice care, and they are fundraising to support this and their medical expenses (not to mention the toddler they are raising). If you can give them some dollars, I know they'd be appreciated. You can find out more here

Meanwhile, let's find support. Let's not wait for brain tumors or death. Let's rally around the daily things, too, and resign ourselves to not having our shit completely together. 


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