Monday, September 16, 2013

Healing Together, Walking Together

[Ed. note: After I wrote the essay Falling Down, I authored the update below. Please read Falling Down first, if you have time. Thanks!:]

While my wound is healing, it still hurts when I walk or put pressure on my left leg. I did see a doctor, even though it cost me a $25 copay, and I had to pay $15 for the supplies to treat my wounds. That's okay - I know that I have to stay in good health, and can't get an infection.

Speaking of old wounds, I have been feeling some anxiety about my social situation lately, although I suspect my fears are overblown. It's just difficult for me to avoid my apprehensions even when I have good reasons to suspect they're ill-advised.

I can recognize that many of my friends and the groups where I associate are trending in different directions than I am. Once again, tonight I am going on a date instead of spending time at an outing with some of my closest friends. Almost every time, I feel stupid afterward for missing good times with my friends in exchange for an at-best-mediocre date.

So why do I keep making this trade? There are a few reasons: I do feel lonely sometimes, and I very much want a relationship. Also, while I know my friends are close to me now and I cherish them, I feel vulnerable relying so much on the same people for so long. I want to expand the circle of people I know, especially people that I can keep close to me.

Sometimes I worry that my interactions with my friends and people I meet are two one-sided, too focused on myself and my needs. I want to be a better listener, a more generous and more supportive person. I feel inadequate in that effort in part because I realize that I'm not inclined to take initiative. I'm not always a demonstrative person, and I don't tend to go out of my way to connect with people. I have an inkling that I may want to change this feature, but I'm not sold yet, let alone wise enough to decide how to change.

I just feel like I don't know enough about myself, or about other people yet. This sense of ignorance feeds my insecurities, too...and already, we've returned to a focus on *my* issues - when I'm trying to think about others.

Cutting myself some slack, though, part of the reason I have focused more on my own reactions than those of other people, lies in good intentions. There have been times in the past when I've tried to connect with people in counter-productive ways and seen my outreach backfire badly. That is a major influence on my current instincts of deferring to other people or focusing primarily on my own perspective.

Focusing on myself has long felt like the safer and more courteous option. I am tortured by worst-case scenarios; I can't escape the fears I have of repeating the debilitating mistakes I have made in the past.

As Neil DeGrasse Tyson says, every day you can ask yourself two things to become a better person: 1) what have I learned today? 2) what have I done to help other people? Considered through this prism, I feel positively overall about the strides I have made to be a better person towards my fellow human beings.

I want to focus on the positive lessons I have learned, not on the dread or shame of past mistakes. I want to have the comfort level to take risks, and the discretion to take smart risks. That goes back to why I am going on a date tonight instead of spending all my time with the friends I already have: I know I could take the safer option, but how is my life going to improve if I always fall back on what feels safe?

Sometimes, I fall. Sometimes, I fall because I've done something rather stupid. I have wounds that have healed, and wounds that are still mending. Sometimes, old pains flare again, and it takes all my strength just to walk on my own. Yet - sometimes - putting one foot in front of the other makes me feel more powerful, wiser, and bolder with each towering step.

Watching those who are attempting the same journey, I wonder how I can do my best to help others. What does that promise mean? How do I fulfill this commitment? I have no idea. But first I'm going to get up, and I won't be going alone.

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