Friday, November 22, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

There is a great saying that you never know who your friends are until you find yourself in a foxhole and look around and see who is in it with you. Or, along the same lines, as a friend of mine jokes, until you look around the jail cell and see who is next to you.

In my case, it was when I looked on my Facebook wall recently after having dropped off Facebook for a while, and saw how many people commented or sent me messages worried about me... Hadn't really occurred to me that any one would notice, or necessarily care. In fact, figured folks might be relieved not to have me "blowing up" their newsfeed considering how much time I spent aimlessly surfing and posting! Funny that, here I was treading water, and apparently a lot of the life preserver rings were being thrown by Facebook friends.

Wow. A comfort and an honor and a privilege.

I have previously defended Facebook (read here), and -- karma? something? -- brought that right back to me in spades. As those messages of support and concern were a huge boon to me during a difficult time. Made me realize how much the little things matter, that I wasn't alone, and that, as Genesis, pointed out, "It's Gonna Get Better."

Of course, funny how karma also works, or, as I always like to say, how God loves to laugh at us. No surprise to me, as this often seems my luck, but I had barely begun to think the treading had stopped, and that I was crawling my way out of that dark hole, when suddenly a torrential rain fell making the walls nothing but slippery mud....


A rainfall in the guise of a bad reaction to an anesthetic laced with epinephrine. Nothing like thinking you actually might be dying when you're getting over contemplating it! As nothing like feeling like your heart is stopping repeatedly, trying to gasp breaths, and then having your heart race to restart. Seriously, thank god for a doctor friend who talked me through it and was able to reassure me I was not, in fact, dying or crazy.

Well..... There might be some debate on the latter point.

While I would like to say it was a wake up call, it is more like it threw me for a loop. Perhaps even a loop de loop. As really, if you're supposed to call a spade a spade, then why not call a roller coaster a roller coaster? Still the end result is the same: it made me realize how much of a debt of gratitude I owed to the kindness of strangers.

As I definitely got through the last month or so thanks to the concern, care, and humor of people I didn't know at all, or didn't know very well, or knew well in a distant -- that is, Facebook only -- way. Many of whom may not know that I saw their notes and their concern and their worry even though I did not respond or acknowledge.

Instead, I took lots of hikes, did my best to keep my head out of my ass, cuddled lots with my dog, even shot guns for the first time, and saved what energy I had for the friends who pestered me for daily proof of life.

But a very public acknowledgment now to all of those who have no idea how much their outreach meant to me. A very public thanks for it and a huge smile for the laughs they gave me. Especially for the laughs.  You know who you are!

As I mentioned above, apparently I was correct to defend Facebook a while back.... As for me, it's never been about the seemingly "perfect lives" that so many seem to project. Perhaps I spent too long working in PR type jobs to have anything but cynicism for that. It's all just selective posturing to me, an understanding that everyone -- every single person on this earth -- has issues, problems, stories. They just may not post them on Facebook. After all, not every one posts every single thing going on in their life like me. Instead, for me, Facebook is about making connections ...

And wow. Touched and humbled by those connections now.

So, thank you all -- strangers, friends, bosom buddies, acquaintances, random trollers, loved ones -- one and all. I am a better person for knowing you -- and only hope I can return the favor some day.