Teachers know there’s an often unpleasant side effect of being the one to stand at the front of the class, to lead discussions and impart some knowledge that if not greater, is at least unknown. In my last turn at college I think I made a real bother of myself to the program coordinator by randomly showing up at her office, not to discuss a lecture or my grades or a project, but to simply sit and talk because I often had difficulty because of my age, and the struggles with the after-effects of the workplace injury you’re probably tired of me mentioning. It was nice to sit quietly with someone who, though not particularly of my generation, was in a position of authority and respect and who took the time, no matter what she may have been doing, to humour me.
In retrospect, I can imagine her thoughts at the moment. I was disrupting her routine, but she was kind enough, and understood enough, to push back from the desk and smile when I’d show up. I would also use the teacher’s lounge instead of the student cafeteria not just because they had better food on proper plates with metal cutlery, but because there was far less noise and the people there were far less likely to be glancing sideways at me, all judgy and shit.
Michelle, I am ever so grateful, thank you.
In a wider scope, teachers are looked on as safe people in safe places who get it, whatever it happens to be at the moment. Standing in the light as it were, and though it may certainly not be their first ambition, they present themselves as beacons of understanding and stability in an awkward, anxious environment. It can be that way for life in general if you’ll allow me the latitude to stretch the metaphor that far. There are people who have the light turned on themselves, through purposeful action or circumstance, and some of us become drawn to them in the same way. Doctors, psychologists, police constables, and other professionals like them; The folks who have it shone on them by nature of their social standing, beliefs, or activism. Politicians can be the light for any number of reasons, but we don’t talk about them here.
There’s a woman I know who has been advocating for PTSD injured people for a few years now, quite strongly and with some notable successes. For a long while she was the loudest voice around, and the quiet sufferers, the ones like me sitting in their nests startled by every noise, frightened of every interaction, became the moths to her flame. To her credit, she tried to be there for everyone, would visit people in hospitals and spend long hours counselling as best she could individuals who would reach out to her. It ate her alive. Many people forgot, or simply ignored, that she had her own demons to fight. She was screaming so loud about the issues surrounding post-traumatic stress disorder because it was a gaping wound she had, too. Since then, she has pulled back, allowed others to carry that torch she lit, and limited herself for her own sake.
Since I’ve been openly sharing myself, my thoughts, my explorations, and my journey such as it is, and certainly not by deliberate action but still with the knowledge it would happen, there’s been a wee bit of light on me. Before you guys who’ve reached out to me begin whipping yourselves for it (as people like us are prone to do), it’s cool, I get it, and it’s okay. It’s validating to me and I’m perfectly willing to admit that I like being validated. Through personal life experience, hard-fought for tools healthier than those I was using before, or simple reignited intellectual curiosity, I’ve got some expertise I’m happy to share, and an understanding ear you don’t have to explain things to.
Still, I am nobody’s Buddha. I have limitations that although pushing them when I can still exist and I am aware of them. Hospitals trigger the crap out of me, so I probably won’t visit you. Telephones do as well, so don’t expect a voice chat anytime soon. If you tell me you’re going to kill yourself, I will get all paramedic on your ass and do my best to get your immediate needs taken care of even if you don’t know what they really are or you wind up hating me for it.
I remember once walking out of my kitchen with a fresh drink to see an ambulance pull in front of my house because of a self-destructive text message I’d sent someone, and you know what? It was the right thing to do, even if it interrupted my plans to get stinking drunk.
So, no Guru here, but no walls, either. No stage on which I stand guarded by big guys in black ready to drag adoring fans away (you are adoring, right? Right??). I’ve felt incredible pride at being able to pull some people back to Earth, often despite my tiny bit of panic at being asked to and with nothing more than a couple of solid bits of perspective and a few witty quips. Sometimes it’s even been enough just to be there and hold the string for a bit while they climb down themselves.
There are some good and fine people standing full in the spotlight while I’ve only got my toe sticking out for now, and I’m learning from their experience how to do it properly without it burning my skin, and this too is part of the journey. I’m not quite at the point where I’ll let random strangers come up and rub my belly for luck, though, but maybe one day, with full awareness, I might be.
I don’t mind people reaching out, so never feel you can’t. By the same token, please don’t feel offended if I just cannot be there or give you the help you think you need at the time, because I know what I can and cannot do, and when.
And please do not come up to me and begin rubbing my belly. Ever.