Thursday, April 21, 2011

Earned Admiration

Free write on someone you admire. How have they inspired you and your activism?

This was a no-brainer for me. My dear friend and source of support (blogging at Learned Happiness) deserves this dedication today.

I have always admired Susan. When we first met in the 4th grade, I admired her for her charming personality and her pretty smile. In 8th grade US History, I learned to admire her for her sense of humor and infectious laughter as we would giggle about the absurdity that was our instructor. That shared sense of humor grew in our G/T humanities class throughout our four years of high school, but there was always a measured distance - as though flute player and choir girl should not be seen together in public.

It wasn't until we went our separate ways and reconnected via email in college that I learned to admire her for the strength of her character, the depth of her compassion, and the thoughtful way she approaches everything.

I always wished I were more like her. I admired her for how mature and collected she always seemed. Little did I know then that she suffered silently from anxiety. She gave such an air of easy, charming grace.

A few years ago, Susan was a pregnant friend who said exactly what I needed to hear when I wasn't allowed to get pregnant because my diabetes wasn't controlled enough and I was resentful. She called from a thousand miles away just to leave a message that her phone line was open and that it was perfectly fine if I needed to ignore her while she was pregnant. She got it. And I ignored her for a little while. But I did it knowing that she understood. She was letting me be selfish and withdrawn. And I was able to breathe a little more easily - knowing she was someone who wouldn't call to go on and on about how we were all getting older, and was I pregnant yet, etc.

But after her daughter was born, her life fell apart suddenly and without her permission. She battled postpartum depression in silence, sought help in desperation, and now - with that grace and charm I envy - she writes candidly about her hell. Her anxiety. Her highs and lows.

I could go on and on about what all I admire in my friend. The immaculate cleanliness of her home. The way she can juggle multiple household tasks while discussing the finer points of puzzles, monkeys, and funny hats with her toddler. How she designed an instructional activity for her elementary school classes based on our high school G/T curriculum. She can do all her grocery shopping for $75 a week, bake delicious muffins, and, if you asked her, she could MacGyveneer a better-than-the-original copy of any piece of artwork/decor/craft item you had your eye on with little more than a piece of ribbon and a hot glue gun.

But how she has inspired my health activism is in her candor and her humor. Like the best storytellers, she has this way of bringing a conversation (or a blog post) full circle. You feel instantly warmer in conversation with her and reading her posts. She draws you in to how her anxiety colors the world around her and, rather than pity her or dismiss her, you laugh and cry with her (and then you scramble to post your own shopping list, reduce your grocery bill, try her apple muffins, and borrow her household organization charts).

In our weekly phone calls, Susan's perspective allows me to focus my own. I stop fooling myself and say the selfish, scary things I don't say to anyone else. And then I get inspired and blog about those feelings to the entire internet (you know, because everyone is reading Sweetly Voiced). She makes me say what I really feel...and fear...out loud. And then I know I can write it down and put it out there.

Love you, dear.

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