You've Got a Friend
You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I'll come running to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I'll be there yes I will
You’ve got a friend.
It feels good, as do most of Carole King’s songs, especially when she performs them herself. The very sound of her voice feels like Mother Earth is speaking directly to you, soothing you out of your anxiety and loneliness. You feel safe, awash in a child’s blissful cluelessness, the intended result of every earth mother’s intonations. After all:
“A boy’s best friend is his mother.” –Norman Bates, from the movie PSYCHO (1960)
What? Wait. . . that wasn’t where I was going. How about this one:
“I have always relied on the kindness of strangers.” –Blanche DuBois, from the movie A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951)
Getting warmer. Point being that we need special friends to help us feel that we aren’t going crazy (even if some of us actually are—hey, if I wanted bare-faced honesty I’d call my arch enemy from 4th grade). A most special friend that has no personal investment in whether I’m happy or in the throes of mortal anguish. Someone that hears the pain in my words and goes right to the heart of it, knowing exactly what I need to hear and telling me that very thing in the dulcet tones of Carole King.
Like lonely little Amy’s imaginary friend, Irina, her father’s dead first wife in CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE (1944)?
Comfort from online forums
No, no. Now, stop that! The kind of strangers I mean are real people, not foot notes of an article on juvenile imagination in PSYCHOLOGY TODAY. I mean the multitudes of sufferers that flock to health forums such as MultipleSclerosis.net, needing comfort and eagerly giving it as well. I refer not only to the users of health sites but also to the staff who may or may not be sufferers themselves but are adept at counseling, cheerleading, empathy, information-sharing, and good old-fashioned make-chicken-soup-from-scratch mothering.
Hey, let’s not assign gender to traits such as nurturing, compassion, and lullaby-singing, Kim Dolce. Surely you know better than that. (Me, hanging my head in shame.) Blame my generation. As many times as I have discovered (and with great delight) how sensitive and nurturing our brethren can be with the MS population in general, I still fall back on deeply-ingrained skepticism. Despite evidence to the contrary, I still think of sensitive men as being like the Loch Ness monster: I’ve heard about sightings of them from other people but I’ve never actually seen one myself. I’ve dated (and married) a few I thought were being genuine, but their exceptional listening skills and nuanced feedback turned out to be a ploy, a strategy of the chase, and it soon vanished. That said, I’ve also experienced agendas from women whose motives for reaching out to me were more about being controlling and less about genuinely enjoying my company. Any of us can be controlling if we let ourselves.
The value of virtual friends
That is why virtual friends on health sites are so valuable and so utterly reliable no matter what their gender. We have no agenda when we acknowledge the pain of our compatriots except to heal, encourage and support. It costs us very little to be compassionate towards a stranger in pain, but it reaps big dividends for the sufferer who, newly healed and emboldened, can then climb back in the ring and face another round of loving those with whom they share actual physical space.
It takes more than a village to lessen all the suffering out there. But it only takes one person to help you hold on a little longer. One unselfish act and three little words: I hear you.
How many specialists did you see before finding "The One"?