What Saved Me

My Friend’s Phone Calls Saved Me.

"When I went away to school it was the first time I had lived away from my friends and parents. A guy friend used to call me on our school pay phone once a week. Even though I was having a good time at school and making friends, he was a little lifeline for me from home. I appreciate that I could depend on him with some regularity. He was a solid rock to me then and we have stayed friends for more than a decade. I don’t know what he saved me from exactly - probably just from feeling alone in a new state and at a new school - but I know he did. Sometimes I wasn’t even there when he called me but remember those marker boards that students used to have on dorm room doors (maybe they still do)? Coming home and seeing a message that he called could make me day. People should never underestimate how much a little attention can mean to someone."

- P.A.

This Verse from Leonard Cohen Saves Us

When times are hard for whatever reason, my wife and I exchange this verse from Leonard Cohen:

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.

We say single lines, sing them, and write them on post-its, in emails, on chalkboards.”

- Rama

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A Random Quote on Twitter Saved Me From Wasting My Time

"A quote on some random guy’s Twitter said, ‘You can’t worry about someone who doesn’t worry about you.’ Reading that quote made all the difference to me. It saved me from wasting any more time on a grown man who acts like a 9th grade boy, who said he loved me and then once he got me he started ignoring me. It made me realize that this man - who is older than me, more experienced than me, should be better at life and relationships than me but pulls a total mind fuck on me all the time - is not worth my time. Since reading that quote, I’ve let him go. I’ve stopped worrying about him and I’m done with him."

- Anonymous

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A Vibrator Saved Me from an Orgasm-Less Sex Life

"Not that zero orgasms is BAD… but zero orgasms is not what I wanted. I wanted orgasms and my ex-boyfriend was terrible at giving oral sex which at the time was the only way that I could get off. Until then I had only used my trusty vibrator alone. I brought it to bed with the ex and he was down with it and away we went - orgasms for all! It was a vibrator that saved me from an orgasm-less sex life." 

- Sara

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YouTube Saves Me From Quitting My Job!

"I have the most boring office job on the planet. I would quit it except I need the money badly. Also, my co-workers suck. Everyone is decades older than me and as a result I have no real friends there. They don’t get me. They treat me like the little college kid, which admittedly is exactly what I am. To survive and be able to keep working and not bail, I watch videos online all of the time. Music videos. Cute kitten videos. Blooper videos. Anything to get through 8 hours three days a week as a receptionist. So yeah. YouTube saves me three days a week from quitting my job. Thanks, YouTube!"

- Diane. 

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Courage Saves Me

I studied aikido for a couple of years. I enjoyed its kindness and simplicity. Practitioners don’t fight their opponents. They walk, dodge, hold and generally stay out of the way. I understood the philosophy as “Use your opponent’s strength against him.” I am just now learning how amateur that understanding was. When a classmate attacked, our sensei warned us not to add our strength to theirs. Don’t toss a person as his punches fly past you. As easy and satisfying as that might be. Without resistance, an attacker might fall down on his own. In my own single real world experience, my opponent just ran out of steam. Waiting for that to happen was stressful though. And scary. I did not resist my urge to push. Ideally though, our sensei said, “Your opponents will not feel you there at all.” 

I struggle with fear. When I get a scary thought in my head, it is hard for me to let it go. As a kid, I learned to deal with this problem by testing it. When I was afraid of a heart attack, I did jumping jacks. When I was afraid of heights, I climbed fire escapes. When I was afraid of girls, I forced myself to ask them out. When a local bully broke into my apartment, I chased him back to his. Nothing terrible ever happened. And I learned to be very brave. It was the psychological version of ‘“Go ahead! I dare you!” I was so aggressively unafraid that, over time, only my closest friends understood how frightened I could be. 

I have since learned that this technique has a name: Habituation. I used to call it courage. I think it’s safe to say that it has been saving me throughout my entire life.

As an adult, my fears are far more complex. I can’t dare Los Angeles to shatter my home with an earthquake. How do I challenge my fear of asteroids, tsunamis, nuclear war, terrorism, cancer, pandemics, random violence, brain damage, mental illness, disability, lost work, poverty, a broken family, hurt children, or plain old death? It seems dangerous and stupid to go chasing those things. But they frighten me more than bullies ever did.

So, that’s my struggle.

I am practicing a new kind of habituation now. Being. Just being with my fears. I let them circle me and scream at me… until they run out of steam. I try to notice my fears and to understand them, but I fight my urge to react. I have not mastered this skill. It is uncomfortable and inherently scary. But, the more I do it, the more possible it seems. My fears rattle me less. I find courage with every success. And my sensei’s wisdom begins to make sense. “Ideally,” I tell myself, “My fears will not feel me there at all.”

- Anonymous

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Sex Ed Saved Me from Winding Up Like My Friends

"I grew up in a small town. My school didn’t have anything in the way of sex ed. My parents are more progressive than pretty much anyone and they taught me about sex as a result. They also sent me to a camp one summer and we got lots of sex ed there from health educators who came and talked to us once a week for six weeks. My friends  at home learned nothing about sex except what they got from their parents (usually nothing) and church. You can guess the rest: a lot of my friends got pregnant in high school because they didn’t know anything about birth control or how to avoid getting pregnant. I. Did Not. Get Pregnant. I’m in college. They’re home with babies and toddlers. I want kids one day too but I want them when I want them and have a husband who will want them with me. Sex ed saved me from winding up like my friends. I have my parents and camp people to thank."

- Jenn

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The Book that Saved Me from Myself

I used to be a compulsive thinker. My college roommates complained that much as they loved me, they couldn’t afford to say hello unless they had several hours to spare. There was no “checking in” with me; everything was an in-depth analysis of the nature of God and the universe. I couldn’t make conversation, much less decisions, without psychoanalyzing everything to death.

Moreover, any time I felt an emotion, I would batter it every which way for clues into my psyche. The moment I felt cranky or despondent, I’d sit down to question every facet of my life and identify my roadmap for recovery, usually involving radical changes in my love life, diet, or career plans.

Even happiness wasn’t safe. I had to know, was this reliable? This thing that is bringing me joy, how can I guarantee that I can always keep it and benefit from it?

It got pretty tiresome for everyone, especially me.

One day I ran across 
Susan Nolen-Hoeksema’s Women Who Think Too Much while browsing at a Borders. It was a big, expensive book, still hardcover at the time. I was drawn in by the subtitle: How to Break Free of Overthinking and Reclaim Your Life, but I wasn’t sure if I should blow all that cash or wait for the paperback. I stood there, paralyzed, almost putting it back then jerking upright again, until I finally burst out laughing with self-recognition.

That book was the best purchase I ever made.

It transformed me from a neurotic ball of crazy to a calm and dependable grown-up who proudly engages in superficial chatter. I can experience a broad range of feelings without rushing to rearrange my life. While I still do enjoy hard-core analysis, I can now turn it on and off.

The book’s top three take-homes points were:

1. Ruminating doesn’t work. To solve a problem, you need to get away from it and calm down. Come back when you’ve had some space and aren’t feeling so emotional.
2. Broaden your base of self-esteem. If your whole self-worth is wrapped up in one thing (like your job, child, or body), you’re likely to feel anxious about it all the time. You need other things that you can love and fall back on.
3. Sometimes you feel bad for no reason. It was a huge breakthrough for me to realize that I could feel absolutely rotten and have the feeling just go away on its own. Maybe I was hungry or hormotional or tired. Not every blip on my emotional radar is a sign from God.

I used to hate when people told me, “You think too much.” It felt like an attempt to control me — they didn’t want me to think so they could tell me what to do. Now I know they were right. There is such a thing as overthinking, and it is a major obstacle to a happy life.

- Elisabeth

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"Theatre Kids, Who Were Different Like Me, Saved My Life."

"I grew up in New York and went to all the plays I could find. My parents enrolled me in various theatre camps and workshops and finding that set of friends, those sets of theatre kid misfits, was a stroke of luck. It was the first time I saw other kids like me and by that I mean gay kids. Some of the older boys were out to their parents. It gave me the courage to finally come out to my family although by the time I came out they had already known or guessed it for years. I didn’t know that though. I only knew I was different. And being around other theatre kids who were different like me saved my life."

- Steve, submitted online

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Chapter Books & Pippi Longstocking

"Chapter books were my salvation, in the same way as Jesus was for other kids. Our family was always broke, but my parents always shelled out our version of a monthly bar bill for Scholastic paperbacks. Thank you, Astrid Lindgren; when you gave us Pippi Longstocking, you gave me life. I read the book like I read the first issue of Ms. magazine 10 years later. The experience was like Helen Keller breaking the code for the word “water.” I wanted to race around spreading the good news. I could breathe again, forever. There was going to be a spot for me in this joint, the earth, after all. It was never going to be a great match for someone as bright and strange as me, but books were going to make it survivable."

- Anne Lamott, The Prayer of an Unconventional Family

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"Having an Affair Saved my Marriage."

"Having an affair saved my marriage. It made me feel young, excited, and horny again. It made me want my husband again after years of not wanting anything to do with him sexually. The affair eventually ran its course and the marriage was helped for it. My husband never found out; if it did it would hurt him immensely. I’ve wondered sometimes if he has ever had an affair. I don’t want to know. If the outcome is that an affair helped him stay with me then I am okay with it. Monogamy isn’t for everyone. It wasn’t always for me even though it is now."

- Anonymous

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My friend, Will, Saved Me.

"2007 was a bad year for me. I had a horrible break-up and for six months I ended up having to work across the hall from a bitter ex who was also part of my social group. 
One night in October our group had gone out drinking to celebrate the end of our season, and I ended up being the DD thanks to forgetting my ID at the bar. After driving a dozen drunks(we had a big van) back to my friends’ house, I decided to “catch up” by playing drinking games and drinking much faster than I normally would. This was a horrible idea. I ended up really wanting to talk to my ex and kept trying to get her attention. Our mutual friend who I had alienated in the course of the messy break-up stepped in and led me outside, scolding me for trying to engage her. After that dressing down, and releasing a six months of frustration, I started crying and screaming her name, along with a healthy dose of expletives. In my drunken stupor I buried my fists and head into the cold dirt outside, and couldn’t stop crying or screaming.

Then came Will. He came outside and grabbed my arms, hugging me and saying “Just look at me and give me a hug. Don’t think about anything else.” He told me to breathe, and that things would be okay again. Together we walked away from that horrible situation. He got me home, shoved me in a cold shower, gave me water, and put me to bed. Because of him I salvaged what was left of my dignity, didn’t hurt anyone or anything except my pride, and was able to look back and really examine what was happening that made me so angry and sad, so I wouldn’t be doomed to repeat it.

Thanks Will. I owe you.”

- Anonymous

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"I Had Social Media - and it Saved Me."

Over the last three years, as a young professional, living far from my family and friends it has been really difficult to instantly find new community to surround myself with. And I am SUCH a people person. But instead of feeling lonely, I had social media - and it saved me. I could chat with my friends, see what everyone was up to, report on the new and challenging things happening in my life. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so far from everyone and everything. And when things got tough, I could focus on the outreach given to me by my virtual community as well as my real community. It’s been one of the greatest blessings I’ve had in maintaining me and my relationships as I go out and explore the world.”

- Liz

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Cute Pet Videos Save Me All the Time

"Whenever I’m sad/depressed I go through YouTube and search for videos of cute kittens and puppies and other people’s pets. I don’t have pets of my own yet because I live in a dorm but seeing other people’s pets makes me smile and has gotten me through the sads. I want everyone out there who posts cute pet videos and pictures to know that the cuteness saves! Cute pet videos save me all the time. I’m grateful to the strangers who keep on posting them. Thank you."

- Anonymous

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