[This was my post for Week 8 of Blogger Idol. The assignment was to get on our soapboxes and write about something we feel passionately about. The original post was shared over 160 times on Facebook, received hundreds of views and received a perfect judges’ score.
Enjoy the post.]
Two-thirds of my immediate family live in another state. Three-fifths of my mom’s immediate family are deceased. I have a few friends, but most of us have moved to different towns. So when I do need help, it feels like asking too much of the few people who would be in a position to offer it, and that’s only if I suck up my pride long enough to consider asking for it. I wrote a post on this subject a few months ago called Where’s My Village?. I admitted to more than I really wanted to in that post, but for me it was worth it.
But why is that? Am I afraid of appearing weak or incapable? Why should I have so much pride? I know I’m not alone in this kind of behavior. We don’t want to be the runt of the litter, we don’t want to burden others, people have their own lives to worry about, etc.
Wait, did I really just say that? Their “own lives”? This is part of the problem. As a society, we have become increasingly independent and proud, but independence can turn into isolation. We want to be seen as strong, like we’ve “got our shit together,” but people sometimes lose their shit. And, usually, no one even sees it coming.
I’ve read two articles in the past handful of days about parents of kids with special needs killing their child. Murdered. And I wasn’t seeking out these articles. They just came across my desk, as it were. The first one, which I talked about in Tragedy in Maryland, was a murder-suicide. This psychiatrist and single parent to a boy with ASD couldn’t handle life anymore and decided to spare her son the trauma of losing his mother to suicide. The second article I read was about a man who decided just a few days ago to decapitate his 7-year-old son who had cerebral palsy, then left is dismembered body at the curb for garbage pick-up.
I have felt so sick and angry this past week because of these two articles, especially as a dad to a 7-year-old boy with special needs. My personal malaise anguish is partially due to how disturbing it all is, obviously. But I am equally–if not more–disturbed by the fact that these tragedies could have been avoided. Someone should have seen something. Parents–people in general–who are so mired in desperation that murder/suicide appears to be their only rational/remaining option can’t usually even see that they need help, let alone ask for it.
On the flip side, it’s possible that someone did see something, and simply didn’t do anything about it. You may have heard of this woman, Kitty Genovese, who was attacked and murdered in the 1960s by a man who was later found to be necrophiliac. At least a dozen people witnessed the attack, and not one person called the police. Not. One. Since then, people have come up with theories about why this sort of thing happens, calling it the Bystander Effect, talking about diffusion of responsibility (“surely someone else has already called the police”), etc. Listen, so what if someone else “might” already be doing something about it? The more the merrier, and safer.
I’m fed up with avoidable tragedies. It’s up to us, folks. You and me. Yes, I have my own issues, and I don’t always know when to ask for help. But it’s the same for a lot of people: your family, your friends, people you work with. Someone you know needs help and doesn’t want–or know how–to ask for it. Are we so disconnected from one another that we make ourselves oblivious to the lives of others? Is it apathy? Is it a self-serving mentality? Because, I’ll tell you, nothing is more self-serving than helping someone else.
Let me put that another way. Connecting with and helping others is one of the most uplifting acts we can engage in. Compassion. Empathy. Living with purpose and integrity. They all lead to increased happiness. And here’s another little not-so-secret: when you help others, it’s usually reciprocated. You need help? Help someone. You want love? Love somebody. You need to vent? Lend an ear. We’ll call this Step One: Invest in Relationships.
Step Two, then, is Be Proactive. Find ways to feel connected. You might not want to run out and pay a Psychiatrist $50/15 minutes or sign up for a support group at your local church or library (although, that’s not a bad idea), but you can start with things like Facebook. Social networking has never been easier. For example, I’m not specifically a mom, but I am a parent, and I love the Moms Who Drink and Swear page and group. I have the occasional moment when the complaining seems like too much. But here’s the thing: Nikki started that page because she’d rather commiserate and laugh than feel alone and lose her sanity. She’s obviously not alone. Her page currently has almost 172,000 “likes.” Sure, you don’t want to dwell on the negative, but it’s really OK to bitch once in a while.
Step Three: Be a Friend, Goddammit. Once you get your shit together and you’re feeling good about the way things are going in your life, make an effort to connect with people. Ask your neighbor how they’re doing, and actually be interested in what they have to say. Listen to them and listen to your gut. If it feels like they could use a little help, offer it. I wouldn’t go around signing blank checks or anything, but you know what you’re able to offer, so do it. If they don’t need your help, they’ll let you know. You’re not going to offend someone if you’re coming from a place of empathy.
The bottom line: Connections. Connect with your family, your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers, the old lady at the grocery store, the kid on his skateboard. Connect with yourself. “Who, me?” “Nah, your Aunt Tilly. Yeah, you!” Know where you stand at any given time. And most importantly…
Let’s get together and feel alright. One Love.
~ Chris, from the bungalow (https://fromthebungalow.wordpress.com/)
“I really liked this post! I can feel what you are writing. It breaks my heart when people give up and give in to the “easy” way out. It really is an important thing to seek out others. I ejoyed reading that you had ways to help people. I like how you added the song too! Amazing post! 🙂 ”
Erica, from Good Job Momma
“Wow, this is a powerful post. You can feel the passion that you have in this post and for someone that was removed from this topic in the past it makes me compelled to learn more. I have heard the song that you added here in the past and I have to say that it was a perfect choice. Great post! ”
Chris, From Dad of Divas
“Okay, I don’t even know where to start with this…lol. First, I am crying right now. This hits home in SO MANY ways at this very moment. It is impossible to emphasize how important it is to have a good network of support. When I first started reading this post, one of the things that popped into my head was after I had Willow. I was a crying, sobbing, emotional mess. We had saved my placenta to encapsulate it, but hadn’t done it yet. Arick knew that the placenta pills were supposed to help ward off post-partum depression, so he took it upon himself to encapsulate them, and make sure I took them. But right now, as a family, we have an issue that is on a much larger scale, and we are in a hole that I don’t see a way out of. But I’m sure that having a bigger network would make it a heck of a lot easier. I could go on and on about this…. forever…. ‘All you need is love”… blah blah blah….’Imagine’…. you get the point, I’m sure… This was an amazing post. Thank you. ”
Heather, from My Husband Ate All My Ice Cream