Once upon a time (last week, if you want to get particular about it), I wasn’t in the best mood. I’d slept poorly, so I was very tired, and I’d just gotten my flu shot, so my arm hurt, and I’d been feeling socially disconnected and it didn’t seem to be getting any better, so I was grumpy.
I was perusing Facebook that afternoon, and I saw a friend’s status message. It was obvious she was feeling as disconnected as I was, and that she was dealing with a lot of hard emotions. I made a comment about my own desire for a tribe and left it at that.
Later that evening, she made a long, clarifying comment on the thread. It was a pretty long thread at this point, with many of her friends offering love, support, Skype time, etc. And I thought, she still sounds pretty upset. Maybe I should call her.
I immediately thought of lots of good reasons why calling her was a terrible idea. It was almost ten p.m., and I’d be putting her on the spot, and I hadn’t phoned her up in years (mostly seeing her at group events), and some people hate talking on the phone, and I was tired, and it might be weird, and she obviously had all these friends from this thread who were offering support, so she didn’t need mine. Who did I think I was, anyway?
But then I thought of Emma Watson’s UN speech on feminism, which I had watched earlier in the week. She’d talked about how she questioned why it was her standing up in front of the UN talking about feminism. And then she’d asked herself these two questions:
If not me, who? If not now, when?
Those two questions echoed in my mind. They aren’t particularly original, perhaps, but more importantly, they are pertinent and simple. If I wasn’t willing to reach out to my friend in need, who would? And what did that say about me? And did I really think some vague Facebook comment was sufficient support?
I was afraid of looking stupid and awkward. But was that fear really what was important? I didn’t think so. And I picked up the phone and called her.
I was the only friend that day who did so.
If not me, who? No one, that’s who.
I hope the conversation we had helped my friend, but it ended up being exactly what I needed. It got me out of my head loop and back into reality.
Here’s what I learned or was reminded of:
- Appearances can be deceiving. Just because a person looks like they have a million and one friends does not mean they’re getting the support they need. Just because a person looks happy does not mean they’re doing great.
- Active reaching out matters. When we’re in a state of overwhelm or emotional overload, sometimes even picking up the phone and deciding who to call or text can be really hard. Making an offer to support a friend is great, but following it up with something concrete is better. (Especially something concrete that can be easily refused, like with a phone call that the person doesn’t have to answer.)
- Sometimes helping someone else is the best way to help yourself.
- Connection takes courage. I’ve been feeling unsafe in some of my usual social spaces. And it’s so easy to allow that feeling to leach into feeling unsafe in general. And feeling unsafe is such a deeply icky experience. But at some point, I needed to open myself up to the possibility that not all connections will lead to a lack of safety, and to trust in my own ability to deal with inappropriate circumstances should they arise.
- Conversation is a give and take. My friend really wanted to hear about similar problems I have been experiencing. Me being willing to be open and vulnerable with her helped her to do the same with me, and vice versa.
- Connection starts with me. I can’t expect meaningful connection in my life if I’m not willing to take a risk and give what I wish to receive.
- Connection is a state of mind. That phone conversation cracked me wide open, and then I could more easily appreciate all the connections I’m so happy to have in my life.
- If not me, who? If not now, when?