In the past few weeks I have been struggling more physically with a lot of pain, exhaustion and several viruses one after the other not helping. I’m learning slowly to not get frustrated or panicked when there are things I just can’t do at the moment. This is a very slow process of learning about what I can do – it’s been over 15 years now since my physical health conditions started. It still makes me feel very useless when I compare myself with other people and see how much less I seem to manage to achieve day to day than they do and comments that bring it home, deliberate or not, hurt.
However the hardest part is feeling that I can’t be there for other people (friends, family, people I work for, and so on) in the way I would like to. At the moment I manage to work part time. Usually after work I am exhausted and dealing with too much pain to do anything else. I get behind on simple things like housework. I’m behind on replying to comments and messages on here – I’m really sorry all the more because I am grateful for the time you take to stop by and read and comment and you are all far more supportive to me than I manage to be to you. I had to stop most of the voluntary work I used to do and I feel I’m not there for my friends or family in the way I’d like to be. Most live a long way away and the journey can usually be too much, plus I can’t even write or telephone as I’d like to when I’m very low physically or mentally.
I really feel like I’m selfish and should push harder (though I know I can’t) and that I’m really failing in friendship. Even in my dreams – which have been really disturbing lately – there seems to be a theme of not being able to help people or watching bad things happen to people and screaming out but not being able to stop it and the not being able to stop it comes with a sense of horror and judgment on myself that lasts quite some time after waking.
I try to take courage from remembering that it’s not grand accomplishments that are necessary and even little actions done with love and care can be meaningful even if we don’t see how they are at the time. I don’t have a high powered or even full time job but in the work I do I can still do it with dedication and care and going that bit further to help those I’m serving (literally, since I work in a shop!).
But when it comes to not being able to be present in the way I should be for others in relationships – I’m not giving the time or the help I should in practical ways – I feel I’m failing. However much I care for someone, if I can’t do the practical things (visiting, writing, helping and being there when they need it) then aren’t I really failing, from their point of view?
I know we don’t earn a genuine friendship any more than we earn God’s love. We aren’t loved by God because of what we do or because we have earned it or made ourselves successful or good enough. We are loved, still in our weakness, because His nature is loving. The more we admit our need for Him the more He fills us with His love. The good we do is the work of His love through us and every little act and prayer we offer is this love, gives this love to other people and gives love back to Him. “We love because He loved us first.” He even says it is by this love we will be known – people will say, “see these Christians, how they love one another.” In their work with the poorest people, Mother Teresa’s nuns made it their aim not to begin by preaching but by care, love and selflessness in their actions. If someone asked them why they acted as they did, then they would speak about the Love that led them to it.
Actions aren’t what make us good or acceptable people, though I can certainly tend to feel that. They are the fruit of being loved and wanting to love. But what if I can’t do the things that are needed and expected in friendship, that bring care and support to the other person and show to them that I care? In the past I’ve even ended relationships because I’ve felt so strongly that I’m not a real friend because I can’t be there as the other person needs. Recent ways relationships (one or two in particular) have gone wrong because (I think) the other person doesn’t find anything good in the relationship and thinks I need too much, make me think this even more.
Perhaps it’s something to discuss in therapy group.