I’ve been thinking a lot about support. I’ve looked at some of the ways I give support, the ways I ask (or don’t ask) for support, and about the kind of support I need. I’d like to think I’m aware of how much support I am given in my daily life. I am grateful for that support.
I see more and more posting on social media in judgement of support. Things like, “If you don’t march you can’t say you support the cause.” or “Marching doesn’t do anything, if you really want to support change….” My feed is full of articles about what it means to be an ally, and what it doesn’t. I am watching a heated and emotional battle that demands choosing sides. Once you’ve chosen a side ANY sympathy, compassion, or points given to the other side is a betrayal. There is no room for exploring nuance in that kind of “debate.”
I have often been offered support that really wasn’t very supportive. There are a lot of reasons that happens. Sometimes I’m just not ready to accept support. Sometimes I’m not willing to be vulnerable enough to need support from that particular person. Sometimes it’s help for something I’m quite capable of doing myself (as long as I don’t need to do that other thing I really can’t do alone.) I have been offered support that makes demands of me. I have been offered support that is well intentioned but not in my best interest.
Most of the time I still find a way to be grateful for the intention. However, I have also been known to explode and shut my “supporters” down. Over the years I’ve come to recognize that most people offer support based on their experience. They offer the kind of comfort they would like. They offer the kind of hands on labor they are comfortable with, or skilled at. They present things they have been told worked for other people they know in “the same” shape.
Sometimes people offer support to feed their own egos. Sometimes people are sure they know best, and they won’t listen. But most people are willing and able to have a conversation about support, and what that might look like in any particular situation. The problem is, often when support is necessary the conversation itself becomes too much for the person in need to handle.
Sometimes one of the best ways to be supportive is to be willing to intervene and educate the well intentioned but misguided supporters. I’ve done that. This week I’ve seen that done for me. It doesn’t always help, but it is very much appreciated.
I had the opportunity this weekend to participate in a rescue mission. That’s not as dramatic as it sounds. My daughter, Karina, has quite the extended family given the divorces, the friends, the steps, and all the variations on “you are family to me.”
One of these family members has been in a difficult intimate relationship for some time. There is a history of isolation, abuse, and attempts to leave the relationship. After a conversation with Karina where she heard, “I want to come home” she went into action.
She arranged for transportation (costs covered), housing, a potential job opportunity and alerted the built-in support system of family and friends. There will be a bus card, people willing to help with transportation in town, bedding and toiletries and probably anything else as it comes up. When another call came, “I need to leave NOW”, Karina went into high gear and hopped in the car.
I went along, not only because it’s a long drive but also because she wanted back-up for anything she might find when she arrived. I have family in the area where we were headed. I called ahead. Without knowing ANY of the actual players, they stepped in as well.
My family members met us at the home of the person we picked up. We were taken out for dinner. We were offered any additional support we might need along the way. I got the bonus of being able to see family I haven’t been in contact with (outside of Facebook) for years.
Karina’s family member will be fine. They are overwhelmed, not only by making such a dramatic change but also by the outpouring of support. We also talked on the way home about how much of a difference THIS family member could be in supporting other of Karina’s extended family members who are struggling. We made it clear that even when you may be needy, you can also be needed.
Very few of us expect to have real support when we are desperate. Asking for one small thing is hard. Asking for planning, organization, execution and a lifeline is humbling at best.
I think we all have moments in our lives when this is exactly the kind of help we need. I know I have. I have been fortunate, awed, and overwhelmed on the occasions when my friends and family have swept in and just taken care of business.
When I had cancer last year my women’s group stepped up and made sure that I had the post surgery support I needed. They came by to check up on me, made sure I had food in the house, ran errands, and washed dishes. One of them brought me home from the hospital. Another took me out when I was going stir crazy. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I had no idea what I was going to do, but they clearly did.
The last time I had work done on my house, to increase accessibility for Orion, we needed to move out for 6 weeks. Cleaning and packing was beyond me. Again, I had friends come in and just do it. There was no judgement, no need for instruction or supervision, just support. I could focus on what I needed to take with me to the hotel, they took care of everything else. I knew I needed help, but never expected that level of support.
I am grateful that I have been able to count on my friends when I truly need help. I am grateful that I have learned to accept help when it is given. I’m grateful for compassion that has no judgement, simply does what needs to be done. I’m grateful for the opportunity to give back a small bit of what I have been given.
It’s been a challenging week. I took on the role of being a supportive friend. This week my community lost an old friend of mine to metastatic pancreatic cancer. He went quickly, having just announced his diagnosis a month ago.
Many people in my circles were still coming to terms with his diagnosis when he passed away. There is a lot of shock, and grief. There is also a coming together of kindness and support as stories, memories, are shared.
This community pulled together to support my friend in his passing and to provide him with the send off he desired. There is documentation and journaling and a promise of a resource guide. Those who participated in that process are all posting “I want to go like this” on their Facebook pages.
I have stayed in the background, offering quiet support to those I am closer to. I have mostly listened and acknowledged that this man’s passing is a great loss to the community at large. I have encouraged people to check in on each other. I have passed on the news to folks who knew this man, but are outside of our community.
I have another friend who is building a career as an entertainer. She had a set at a comedy club as part of a contest. So I went to the club to be supportive. She didn’t move ahead in the contest, but I had a great time.
Laughter is often the best medicine when dealing with stress, grief, anger and other difficult emotions. Our bodies need the release, and so do our souls. It seemed odd being at a comedy club when so many of my friends were looking to join in toasting the life of this man. Still, for me, it was the better choice.
I got to support another friend. I got a night out (which my regular readers know is a big treat). I got to laugh, which was good for me.