Build Your Support Base

Life can give you a lot of lemons.  Lemon crops tend to harvest themselves sometimes in one season.  I think we refer to this often as Murphy’s Law.  When the lemons come, and the proverbial lemonade does not follow, life becomes a little more bearable if you have a strong support system – people around you who will pick you up, dust off your hurt feelings, and urge you to keep going.  This personalized system can be an organization, your family, your spiritual home, your friends – when tough times arrive, your base needs to be in place.  You will survive it stronger and with more compassion if you have taken the earlier steps to make sure you have that system and there are people on which you can rely.

I am blessed with much when it comes to people who step up and support me.  This support exists because I have taken the role of being a non-judgmental friend, family member, wife, sister, daughter, and participant.  I have two sisters who step up for me and offer me ideas, suggestions, and compassionate perspective any time I ask.  I have spent a lot of time and effort (good effort) on being there for my older sister.  I have not done as good a job with the younger, a situation I am working on changing. I have two brothers who can say the kindest things to me.   I have three close friends who have been part of my life for many years, and we have taken turns being there for each other when life distresses with parents and children have almost torn us apart.  I have a new group of girlfriends I intentionally created to have an even stronger net and to be part of their net.  I have become involved with my fellowship in order to be a giver to those who need immediate care including a hot meal and a few words of comfort.  I have a spouse who listens and supports, an experienced and kind therapist who offers me objective advice when I feel that those who love me might not be so objective.  I have a minister/friend who loves us all through thick and thin, and understands that his flock does the best that they can in almost all circumstances.

“To those who are given much, much is expected.”  I think that one is often credited to Rose Kennedy.  I have been given much, and I do my daily best to return it in kind.  This does take conscious effort on my part.  Not everyone has the time or the resources to complete this kind of action.  Not everyone wants to.  I do this not out of altruism – I do wish it was.  I do it because I need the love and support from those in my circle of influence who have been through so much themselves, and who are willing to get my back when I feel that the troubles of my life are pulling me under.

I offer this blog to you because you, too, can create such a support system.  It begins with one person at a time.  One written card at a time.  One phone call at a time.  One shared meal at a time.  Build your community to be there to offer you love and compassion when you most need it.  Do it intentionally.  Live your life intentionally.  Love your friends and family intentionally.  The return on investment will make it so worthwhile.

The Shock of the Aware

A friend of mine was in an abusive relationship.  Permit me to say that this woman considers herself an independent and emotionally aware woman.  The relationship crept up on her.  In the beginning, she believed that this man was very good for her.  A supporter and an ally, someone who believed that she could do all that she set her heart on.  He was a knight in shining armor.  A man who was here to save her from herself, and her mistakes.  That perhaps should have been the first red flag.  I attempted conversations with her, but the words fell on deaf ears.  She was nowhere close to being able to hear the truth.  I wanted her to see what I saw.  My eyes were not hers.  Oh yeah – this man was married.

Gradually, this man with all his support encouraged her to pull away from her best friends.  They would lead her into bad choices.  She couldn’t spend time with them because that would mean other men would be there.  That wasn’t true.  I suggested that if he had so little trust, perhaps he should not be a part of this relationship.  My eyes still belonged only to me.  I love her deeply, and I didn’t want to lose the relationship.

Gradually, her world became consumed by him.  She was isolated emotionally from everyone else who could have been part of her growth.  She accepted that.  Slowly, his anger outbursts changed.  There were regular accusations of unfaithfulness.  Of contacting men on the internet.  Of taking responsibility for those who contacted her, which eventually ended.

She began telling me of unreasonable attacks, and his refusal to take any responsibility for his behavior.  Anger and leaving threats became part of the regular themes of conversations.  Sexual out-there behavior was a regular expectation.  Something finally triggered her response.  After several years of this, her mind and body decided they wanted out.  The abuse had to stop.

Now that she realizes the situation, she is stunned that she accepted this type of behavior.  I would be stunned too, but I know that it can happen to anyone.  She is not the kind of woman who any of us would expect would tolerate such abuse.  But it can happen to anyone.  It is the “dumbing down” theory.  The most important part of this is that she is out.  She is recovering with lots of pain and fear, but she is recovering.

If you think that a friend of your is in an abusive relationship, gently suggest ideas.  You may want to begin here:  https://wsr.byu.edu/content/warning-signs-emotional-abuse.  Or here: http://www.mvwcs.com/redflag.html.  Or even here:  http://www.projecthorizon.org/domestic-violence.php.  Therapy is a must in some capacity.  The best thing you can do for a friend whom you suspect is experiencing abuse – be it emotional, mental, or physical – is be there for them.  Let her (or him) know that this can happen to anyone.  It is a creeping up effect.  But it doesn’t have to last.  You or your friend can change this and recover.