My therapist made a comment this week. She said,
Abigail, you like to be able to make a difference in other people’s lives. Even if it’s something small. If someone is helping you with something big, it makes you happy if you can somehow make their life a little bit better or a little bit easier.
It’s definitely true. Three things happened this week that demonstrate this.
Elora came with me to a specialist’s appointment. Last time I took Milton with me, but I decided that this time it might be nice to actually have a live person there. So she came with me, sat through the entire exam, listened to the doctor, and even treated me to tea afterward.
What prompted the therapist’s comment was this. I didn’t know this beforehand, but Elora confessed to me that she’s terrified of these types of exams. She’s never had one herself. She’s only seen other people have them. After the doctor examined me and answered all my questions, he pulled out one of his cards and gave it to me in case I had future questions. Then he left. Elora looked at me and said, He was really good. I liked him. If I ever (for some reason) need this kind of specialist, I’m going to come to him. And she put one of his cards in her pocket.
It was really rewarding for me to be part of that, to know that it made a difference for her that she was there and could witness the whole exam without being the guinea pig. While I’m certainly not ready for the whole world to be in any exam of mine, I’m happy that I could make her feel a little more comfortable in a doctor’s office.
I met Aaron at a coffee shop this week. He asked me what was new in my life and I just said, Nothing really. I just came from counseling. It was fine. Nice, safe, generic answer that conveys no information, right? That’s when the rest of this conversation surprised me, and I realized how much he might have needed me there at that moment.
He responded: Oh. [pause] Do you find counseling helpful? I mean, do you like counseling?
Me: Yes. It’s definitely helpful.
Aaron: [pause] Oh. I’m glad you find it helpful. [pause] ‘Cause I don’t. I mean, not really. When I have had counseling. You know?
Me: [Huh? Did I miss something?] [pause] It’s helpful to me to articulate things, to speak things that are bothering me and to talk through them. Then I can move on. [pause] I’ve been in counseling for over three years now. It definitely took me at least a year before I really felt comfortable talking about stuff. It does get easier.
Aaron: Oh. Good. I mean, that’s nice for you.
We talked about a few other random things. At least half the time no one was saying anything. Even though I initially came there because my life is a nightmare and I need support, this time became a time to reach out to him, to say that things will get easier, things will change even if some time needs to pass.
It was an interesting encounter for me. I don’t really know what to make out of it. I don’t really know what he’s going through; I’m not really in a position to help him or to give him advice. But in the moment, I felt like it made a big difference that I met him for ten minutes at the coffee shop. It mattered to someone that I was alive. And that made me really happy.
Gretchen’s classmate Rachel came over for dinner. Gretchen has been really concerned about Rachel because she suffers from severe anxiety. She’s been trying to reach out to her as much as possible.
We had dinner together and just had a blast sharing stories about the ridiculous things that have happened in our lives. Rachel and I got to swap stories about working at our undergrad universities in post-grad positions and how much of a let-down that turned out to be.
It was just a lot of fun. I laughed a lot. Rachel laughed a lot. Gretchen was so happy to facilitate this happiness.
At the end of the night, Rachel said that she had an amazing time and really hopes to come again very soon.
That fulfilling feeling came back to me; by eating dinner (!! for the girl with anorexia) I made two people really happy. And that was really special. It was special to support Gretchen in her own endeavors. And it was special to make a difference in Rachel’s life, especially since she’d been struggling with life so much.
The therapist’s observation is really true: I like to make other people’s days. It’s what makes me the kind of friend that I am (and the kind of teacher, student, daughter, classmate, parishioner, patient, client, etc, etc that I am.)