On Community

img_4595

NaBloPoMo 2016, Letters to Patients, Day 10

To Patients Who Feel Alone Sometimes:

Who holds you up?

Day 2 post-election, it is still positively surreal.  Monday night I saw Facebook friends post passionate, emotional, sometimes desperate pleas, urging their friends to vote one way or another.  I also saw friends acknowledging the long, strange trip, looking forward to the next chapter, expressing both relief and trepidation.  A cloud of separation hung over my heart as I read some of my friends’ words then. 

Something inside urged me to contact a high school classmate.  We did not know each other well back then, and we didn’t always like each other.  But I always felt a mutual respect.  She does not post about politics; I do…a lot.  I know we differ in many of our positions and views.  I also know her to be thoughtful, kind, ethical, and just.  I know she has a lot going on in her life right now.  Our Facebook friendship has grown the past few years, and more and more I feel a cosmic connection.  I am meant to know this person again and better, in this later phase of life.  So I messaged her privately, just to tell her I was thinking of her.  I sent hope, and wishes that we could sit down over tea, somewhere cozy, and share our lives—slowly, thoughtfully, kindly, lovingly.  Turns out my little message helped hold her up yesterday.  On this day of anxiety and tension, hope and uncertainty, this long-distance connection gives me strength and peace.  It reminds me of a recent article by the Dalai Lama on our need to be needed.

I’ve said and written so often that I’m so grateful for my tribe(s), the communities that surround and support me in everything I do.  When I see patients, I make it a point to ask about emotional support networks. They don’t have to be vast or deep.  They just need to be strong and reliable.  No matter what our station, our illness, our cultural origin, or our political leaning, we live longer, healthier, happier, and easier when we connect with others.  It can be many, often, and deep.  It can be few and intermittent.  It just has to be meaningful and enough.

Lastly, supportive relationships function best when they are also reciprocal.  I don’t mean quid pro quo.  I mean mutual, shared, communal, uncalculated support.  I ask patients, “Do you have enough people you know you can turn to, people who will be there for you, in times of personal crisis?”  I want so much for you to answer without hesitation, “Yes, definitely, no question.”  Then I can relax about your health.  You (all) got this.