You can’t do this life alone
I was recently asked to write a piece for the National Ataxia Foundation’s website explaining why I founded the Philadelphia Ataxia Support Group.
While writing the piece a thought occurred to me: the world is one big support group.
OK maybe not the entire world, there are some real jerkheads out there, but there are people in your family and local/social community who are here to help. There are more people who empathize with our situation than we often realize.
The other day I drove pass a house that had a hand-painted wooden sign outlined in pink hearts staked in the front lawn that read, “Thank you to all my neighbors for all their love and support.”
I have no idea what this sign is referencing, but I suspect something happened to the family who lives in the house and the neighbors did the neighborly thing and offered support.
Recently I’ve seen the formation of coronavirus support groups, social injustice support groups, home-schooling parents support groups, and parents against screen-time support groups.
If a year ever needed a support group it would be 2020.
It’s clear that right now–we need each other. We need to talk and vent and express our frustrations and worries to each other.
Support groups encourage people to share personal experiences that have changed their life in some way. And in many ways 2020 changed us all. The year forced us to recognize who and what we value.
Support groups create an invisible thread of understanding forms. As people share anger, fear, resentment, triumphs and emotional and physical breakthroughs with the community– the thread strengthens and each member feels they have something and someone to hold on to.
To feel less alone. What a remarkable declaration. But isn’t that our earthly goal–to share our human experiences with others?
Knowing you’re not alone in this life might just be the most empowering human realization.
Beside my Ataxia support group, an unofficial support group I’m a proud member of is Mancation.
Mancation is a 4 day gateway with 9 life-long friends. There is a lot of catching up, joking, music, food, and drinks. It’s simple. Uncomplicated. A fine support group. 10 middle-aged men sharing stories about marriage, fatherhood, careers, gas prices, and hair loss. In the 21 years of Mancation the conversation as never stopped. It just keeps moving from one year to the next. Adding new topics. Referencing inside jokes no other support group in the world would understand. And every year, when I come home, Cindy asks me what we talked about and every year I think for a minute and I say, “I don’t know.” Because in some ways I don’t. We just talked like old friends–easy and uncompromised. It’s delightful therapy.
Support groups help to examine one’s self in an honest light. It’s a place where you’re not afraid of judgments and are receptive to learning new perspectives and new ideas. A support group can show us how misguided our thinking can be, and reflecting on it with others, seeing another’s perspective is a good for the soul.
(Note– while writing the post I googled ‘support groups near me’ and found over 100 in a 25 mile radius. Support groups from mental health support to divorce support to senior citizens to writers to working supermoms)
We often think we have to “do” this life alone. However, we quickly learn life is hard and sharing its burdens makes for lighter travel.
This blog turns 6 year old this July.
When I founded Write on Fight on, I didn’t think this blog would turn into a sort-of-support group. I thought it would be just a blog–a place for me to write and discover my voice. Now it has done those things but as years pass, I heard from people, both near and far, who felt like I felt. Who shared their stories with me– like a good support group. This blog, this remote meeting place, has comforted me and inspired me to embrace challenges, broaden my perspective, and have courage to be vulnerable. And I hope this place has done the same for you.
A support group doesn’t need to have an official title or meet in a church basement. You don’t have to wear name tags and sit in a circle drinking coffee from Styrofoam cups.
A support group is any setting with caring people, no matter how many, who–let you be you. And despite knowing you— still support you.
You can’t do this life alone. We all need help. And surprisingly help is not hard to find.
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4. Hearing his children laugh
5. Hugging his wife
(Bonus points for a dinner with his parents and a beer with his friends)