Golden and Rare as Pink Diamonds

Alright folks, it’s time to talk about my friends.

I sometimes talk about the people in my life in a broad sense – partly to avoid violating anyone’s privacy and partly because, frankly, in the years that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve spent a lot of time alone.

Most of that has been due to living with chronic illness, but I recently came across an old piece of homework where a 7 year old me scrawled that my friends were golden and as rare as pink diamonds. So I suppose nothing’s changed in the past 16 years, besides the fact that I’m not nearly as poetic as I used to be.

This week, however, I need to talk about my friends. Because this week has been on the harder side, but every single moment I started to feel overwhelmed, someone stepped in, and turned it around.

Over the past week I received two packages in the mail, from two different individuals who both fall perfectly into my grade one description of being both golden and as rare (and as special, valuable, beautiful and strong) as pink diamonds. They didn’t know I was having a rough week. They put these lovely, thoughtful, perfect gifts and letters in the mail before the week even began. But just when I needed them most, I opened my mailbox and there they were, completely brightening up my day.

So many other gifts came from friends this week in a variety of forms – a compliment when I was feeling inadequate, a reassurance and new perspective when I was feeling trapped, a ticket bought on my behalf when I was rushed, a text saying hi when a migraine was beginning to overtake me, wonderful visits full of patience when I started to ramble in circles, and genuine belief in, and offers to help with, projects that were beginning to feel out of my control.

And while it would paint me as a wonderful, mature human being to say that I received this kindness and support because I was enough of an adult to admit that I was having a bit of a hard time, the reality is that I said nothing. I didn’t communicate effectively, and as a result, had absolutely no expectation of anyone stepping in.

But time and time again over the past week, my friends have unknowingly saved me. So I want to take this space to acknowledge how absolutely golden they are, and to thank them for being the pink diamonds in my life.

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The Things We Say

‘I’m so sorry- thank you so much’

The phrase rolls off my tongue.

I say it every time someone helps lift my walker in and out of a car. Every time someone holds the door open a little longer, to give me the chance to reach it. When people shift their chairs to make a path that my walker can fit through. When someone holds something for me, or guides me to the elevator in a building.

‘I’m so sorry- thank you so much.’

Even typing out the phrase brings a certain feeling of unease, of discomfort. When I speak those words, I speak them with more than a passing degree of desperation – they aren’t simply polite. They are an embarrassed apology and a desperate plea for forgiveness.

When they land on my lips I search for eye contact, for some sort of a connection, and then hastily lower my eyes.

There is nothing perfunctory about the exchange, and yet I say it more often than anything else. And it doesn’t matter whether or not the recipient of my words expresses irritation. There is nothing that they could do, or avoid doing, that would make my shame and desperation disappear. My feelings aren’t correlated to their words.

My feelings come from a lifetime of being told not to be difficult. Difficult, I learned, can mean being assertive, otherwise known as bossy or a know-it-all. Difficult can mean reserved, or reluctant to participate with the proper enthusiasm. Difficult can mean standing out. Difficult can simply mean different.

We are taught as kids to reach for the moon, to shine, to find and follow our passions. But from a very young age we learn how important it is to fit in. So in a sea of blue we might aspire to be the deepest navy or the most delicate periwinkle, but we certainly don’t want to be green.

If we stick out, it needs to happen within a certain framework. So I say sorry. I apologize for being different. I apologize for not fitting in the box the way I should. For requiring people to shift around me as I try to insert myself into their world, because mine doesn’t seem to exist. I apologize for needing others to accommodate my presence.

And I say thank you. I try to express my gratitude fervently enough to break past any resentment or frustration, whether expressed or not. I try to be so appreciative that the task becomes less onerous. That my existence doesn’t detract too much from anyone’s day.

Do I really think that I need to justify myself in this way? Do I really think that my presence is such a disruption that I have to constantly apologize for it, and be endlessly grateful to others for accommodating it? Is taking up space so wrong?

While I want to loudly yell ‘no’, complete with a fist pump, I can’t. Because enough of me believes that the answer is yes.

To me, that’s a problem. I don’t think it’s right or fair and I hate that a part of me thinks that way. I want to change it.

So here goes.

Thank you so much for reading this post. I hope you found something in it that resonated with you. If not, that’s okay. I’m still appreciative that you read it.

I do not apologize for this post. I do not apologize for typing out my words. I do not apologize for the time it took you to read them. I do not apologize for taking up space.

And while that felt uncomfortable to type out, and while I erased and re-typed the words twice, worried that I was coming across too aggressive, too whiny, too much, I think that’s why I need to say it.

A synonym for accommodation is adaptation – to adjust to new conditions.

Life would be pretty boring if there were never any new conditions, and it would be rather alarming if we didn’t try to adjust to them.

None of us are immune to the need for accommodation, and none of us are exempt from providing it both for each other, and for ourselves.

So from now on, I’m going to try to stick to the Canadian version of ‘sorry’ — a polite and versatile exclamation with none of the angst. And I will endeavour to keep my thanks simple, genuine, and devoid of shame.

Thank you.