Don’t mind your own business

After yet another celebrity suicide, I’ve seen my twitter feed light up with people looking out for each other. With people saying “don’t wait for people in distress to reach out – reach out to them!” With people pointing out that grief, depression, and trauma all make reaching out difficult, if not impossible.

For all the bad stuff we hear about twitter, it can also be an extraordinarily supportive and positive place.

At the same time I’ve been thinking about everything that’s happened over the last few years, and how tough it’s been. What has kept me going?

There have been times when things got so bad I lost the capacity to reach out. I was just hunkered down, breathing, coping with putting one foot in front of the other, and navigating each day.

In all that time, something happened.

People checked in with me.

One dear friend messaged me on Mothers’ day, knowing how much emotional complexity that day holds for me. He wanted to be sure I was doing ok, and that I knew he was there for me. He made me cry, but in a good way.

I got messages from my former students, telling me I had made a difference.

I got unsolicited, unprompted messages from friends telling me that they had no doubt I would change the world.

New friends championed my cause. Old friends rallied around me.

My bestie picked me up off the floor a hundred times, and lifted me high, even though we don’t live in the same state.

Each message was a small thing. But all of those small things made a web that held me. A safety net that stopped me falling. A collective hug that held me upright through the toughest times. It’s easy to focus on the negatives – the bullies, the nay sayers, the people who don’t believe you’re really up to this.

But reaching out to others has an extraordinary impact. Telling people when they’ve done a good job. Noticing the person who tries that little bit harder. Checking in with someone on days you know they’ll find tough. That stuff matters.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the bad stuff. But reaching out to others can change their lives. Today my back muscles were spasming and I was incredibly sooky and miserable. I could easily have spiralled into despair. But an overseas friend offered to help my charity get off the ground. Another friend had ideas about how I could make the message more effective. I reached out to people and they reached back. They had my back. In small ways they reminded me that I mattered.

It’s easy to forget how important it is to connect. But all those people who reach out to me have saved me, lifted me higher, and kept me going more times than I can count. It’s hard to reach out some days. But it’s that web of interconnection that keeps us grounded and holds us together.  Somedays it feels like we are unbearably insignificant. That we don’t matter. That we aren’t important.

One way to be important is to make other people feel important. To be the person who reaches out. To be the single piece of positive feedback someone gets in a day. To reach out. Because reaching out makes people reach back.

Are you feeling insignificant today? Reach out. There’s a universe out there waiting to reach back.

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