MetaTalktail Hour: Stories of courage and comfort November 15, 2020 12:27 PM   Subscribe

This week's prompt comes from MonkeyToes: Huron Bob's stories were so often humane and comforting. In his memory, let's have a story MetaTalk? One where we tell a story about something encouraging that's stuck with us over the years, or about someone telling us just the right and comforting thing at a difficult moment, or something to give courage and comfort? This is not meant as a minimizing everyone-must-be-happy way... but it might be a good time to share stories that sustain us.

As always, a conversation starter, not limiter! Tell us what's going on! Hit us up on the contact form if you have ideas for future MetaTalktails!
posted by jessamyn (retired) to MetaFilter-Related at 12:27 PM (29 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

Hey so I just found out I'm a woman and I never imagined I could experience such pride and humility and contentment and ambition and happiness and power just from allowing me to be myself after years of pointless self-hatred. So, if you've ever, for even a second, thought your gender may not be right for you, maybe try believing that this time you may actually be right about yourself!
posted by J.K. Seazer at 1:27 PM on November 15 [98 favorites]


Wowie, happy for you!

I've been dealing with some low level tooth crud for the past few weeks, culminating in a root canal that I was petrified about (I'd had one before which went mostly well but my family was always very jumpy and negative in a Murphy's Law kind of way about these things and my resilience has been worn down over these past few months) which I had on Friday. And while I am not out of the woods entirely, managing residual soreness, I was delighted with my endodontist (not a phrase you hear often), the entire event was painless except for a few shots of novocain, and have been enjoying just getting to chew things with both sides of my mouth which has given me a general appreciation for the things I am able to do that I should or could be more appreciative of.

My mantra over the past few weeks has been "pain isn't suffering" which was actually a helpful story to tell myself. I live in some really dark places in my head sometimes and it's nice to have a dreaded thing go okay. There's a Gahan Wilson comic that I always think about when I'm looking back at potential disasters that weren't. I feel sometimes like my entire life could be summed up in reaction GIFs from his book Nuts.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 2:04 PM on November 15 [20 favorites]


I carry a massive load of social anxiety and trauma-related insecurities. I tried really hard to be the good kid, the one that never upset anyone, and of course I failed miserably. Square pegs and round hole equations just don’t work for dodecahedrons, but I was trying Very Hard to fit in. That’s not a healthy path to be in. I only began to come to terms with this in college, when I was struggling to embrace my creative nature. I was fretting about a certain project. I felt strongly about it, but was afraid it would upset people; I brought this issue to my mentor. He looked me in the eye and told me, “It is not your job to be universally loved.”

It seems so simple, looking back, but that was such a clear view of the conditioning I received as a child. So obvious I had never seen it. The phrase is my mantra now. I suppose I’ll be working on this part of myself forever, but it’s such a great truth to bring myself back to reality with when I start to second-guess myself, worry how people will perceive me, all those other reflexive thoughts.

If you’ve never been told this, and need to hear it, this is for you.

“It is not your job to be universally loved.”
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 2:48 PM on November 15 [47 favorites]


One of the things I love most about travel is how much people along the way want to help you. I have never been to any place where I wasn't able to find at least one person who was willing to help me find directions, give advice, or reassure me that yes, I was going the right way. The bulk of my travel stories are about things like that, even when it was clear that I didn't speak their language and they were trying everything they could to make sure that I understood them (my favorite was the cafe barista in Rome who didn't speak much English, so she used CHARADES to explain that "hot cocoa is a seasonal beverage in this shop"). Or, if they don't help, sometimes they just wanna chat.

So the world for me is now a collection of stories of people who've helped me. Rome is home to that barista, and also the lovely shopkeeper who gave directions to a public toilet by pointing down a street and assured me to "walk on down that way, with faith, and it's within 2 blocks"). Paris has the market stall owner who patiently corrected some of my French, and then chatted with me about how he learned English from listening to Beatles records (and as we chatted, I noticed his English had a bit of a Liverpool-meats-France accent). Paris is also home to the shop where I spoke in French the whole time I was there, one New Year's Eve, and didn't even let slip I was American until I was paying for my purchase - the shopkeeper complimented my French, and then, as she was saying goodbye, very carefully said "Happy New Year!" in English. (And it's also home to the slightly drunk guy in a snooty night club who was running around after midnight and grandly shouting "BONNE ANNEE!" at everyone, including me.) New Orleans is full of all the people who wished me a Happy Birthday this past year when I went out sporting a dollar bill on my shirt, on Mardi Gras. Florence is home to the guy who low-level teased me when he saw me dodging from walking under a ladder and called out, "Ah, malo fortuna, eh?" Kansas is home to the two waitresses and a trucker in a chicken restaurant who saw me fighting off a meltdown when I was lost, and first let me vent and then sorted me out and gave me a pep talk. And the Yosemite area is home to the whole team of strangers who helped get me back on my feet after all my luggage was stolen - and in particular it's home to a pizza delivery guy who found half my stuff on the side of the road and turned it into police so they could get it back to me.

I meet people like this everywhere I go, and it reassures me that the world is ultimately a friendly place.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:50 PM on November 15 [42 favorites]


jessamyn, I have that Gahan Wilson book!, and it's one of my very favorites. One of the best was about Halloween being a holiday that adults didn't understand, "and, for once, left it alone", illustrated by the kids happily shopping for rubber masks and great fake daggers. I've felt sad about that for years now, what with sexy halloween costume this and cocktails that and kids not being allowed to trick or treat except in daylight, while the grown ups party in their ironic meme costumes.
This year was great. I built an epic candy delivery chute and it was a big hit; I wrapped candy up in little clear bags the week before and we gave out something like 200+ bags. One family had 4 various sized Marios in it! Somewhere some doofusses just had to party (so yah here go our rates again) but for the most part people seemed to want to just make it nice for the kids.
posted by winesong at 3:15 PM on November 15 [8 favorites]


It’s been a shitstorm of a year for me. Laid off at the end of Feb, then in May, right after my birthday, my left breast swelled to nearly 3 times its normal size, and a week later I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer. I had a very extreme reaction to some of the chemo, and ended up being trundled off to the hospital on the verge of multiple organ failure. Eight days later I was released, but had to re-learn how to stand up without assistance, walk, etc.
The journey has continued - but what has helped more (SO much more) than I ever imagined are the cards that friends have sent (and flowers! So cheery!). Whenever I feel a little down, I just re-read the cards and feel a warm hug of love from so many people.
Also worth noting are several friends (some of whom happen to be neighbors) who have stepped up to “babysit” me (I was pretty frail and couldn’t be left alone for a while), one woman made multiple phone calls on my behalf to get home health care going for me (PT andOT in-home). Others ran errands, picked up prescriptions, and made/brought food.
It feels like I have support of my whole community - something that is humbling and rare.

So, if you ever have a friend who goes through a health crisis, know this: cards are wonderful, and the sentiment doesn’t have to be “perfect”. Before this, I never knew what to say, and now I know - anything, so long as it’s heartfelt.
posted by dbmcd at 5:29 PM on November 15 [39 favorites]


Greetings from the red zone.

Since late june I've been maitre'd in our outdoor dining space, now we have moved inside and cases are up al over, even here, and I have to be more careful. I'm quietly hoping Gov Baker shuts down indoor dining because I can't police all that indoor space. I caught people with nips two nights ago. People are acting like there is no virus and get a few beers in themselves and forget everything.
posted by vrakatar at 5:59 PM on November 15 [8 favorites]


It's funny, but the most weirdly helpful thing for me was just someone being bluntly honest.

At 30, I'd been diagnosed with a serious, progressive medical condition leading to organ failure, and for years, everyone I met would insist on giving me aggressively cheerful feedback about it. The doctors would all say, It might be years before this affects you! We have treatment! Medicine is advancing all the time! And family and friends would say, You can do this! It won't be so bad! They have treatment! Medicine is advancing all the time!

I've always been an optimist, but I could never really put my finger on why the responses always felt so hollow. And meanwhile, I was feeling worse and worse both mentally and physically, and increasingly isolated and othered. Until one day, when the new PA at my doctor's office reviewed my records with me, and she looked me straight in the eye and said, "That really sucks. It's a sucky situation, and it sucks that this is happening to you."

No one had ever said that to me before. No one, not even the people closest to me, especially them, had ever really stared into the reality of the situation and ALLOWED ME TO CREATE THE SPACE to acknowledge and accept it for what it was, instead of just trying to drown everything in a flood of sunshine because the topic made them feel nervous or uncomfortable or they feared saying something negative. It was like someone gave me a stepladder so I could finally reach the level where it felt comfortable and natural to access optimism on my own and begin to deal with things in more positive terms.

So I'm grateful to that PA for saying the brave unspoken thing, because it really turned things around for me.
posted by mochapickle at 7:59 PM on November 15 [62 favorites]


Oh, and I also want to call out danabanana, who has been incredibly kind and supportive by sending me thoughtful, newsy letters. We've never met in person but she's been a constant source of joy and friendship and every communique from her feels like a stroke of good luck.
posted by mochapickle at 8:13 PM on November 15 [13 favorites]


I'm afraid I already shared the one that immediately comes to mind. I hope both of those cops get more satisfying and well-paid city jobs once we abolish the police. I also miss riding buses. But, that's not entirely happy. Everything that street medics and NLG do at protests aren't exactly happy either. But, they are definitely kind. They make unhappy things better than they would be otherwise.

Seeing a local bike-advocacy org give out free lights to those who don't have them, stopping people randomly on the street to give them life-saving things, is definitely comforting. I think they've given out many hundreds now.

My dragonfruit plants in the window have grown so much they've hit the ceiling and are now bending over and crawling across the ceiling. That's unambiguously happy.
posted by eotvos at 8:36 PM on November 15 [7 favorites]


(I fear I've violated the no politics rule. Sorry!)
posted by eotvos at 8:54 PM on November 15 [3 favorites]


When I was in my early 20s, someone broke my heart and I was briefly flattened by sadness. I had just planted tomatoes in my house's little garden, and the plants were stricken with an aphid infestation. One morning, I miserably dragged myself outside, planning to pull up the plants or murder the aphids - and found that a loveliness of ladybugs* had come out of nowhere to devour the aphids and save the day. I sat down on the ground and cried, then immediately started feeling better. This was the best ray of hope I've ever been given, and I still think about those ladybugs in sad times.

* this is what a group of ladybugs is called, I looked it up just for this comment. How, er, lovely.
posted by centrifugal at 10:30 PM on November 15 [48 favorites]


The thing that comes to mind for me is from my grandfather - we always butted heads with each other (too much alike, probably).

It was right after I'd graduated college, and moved back into Atlanta. I wanted to host Thanksgiving at my house, which I had never done before. My grandparents agreed, and so we set up a long table, and I cooked the meal. (Normally they hosted.)

My grandfather sat down and took a couple of bites, and then looked up at me in surprise, and said "This is actually good. I thought it was going to be awful."

It made me realize that even though he didn't think I could cook, and figured the meal would be bad, he was still willing to come over and let me try to cook Thanksgiving anyway, and just grin and bear it to make me happy. It is one of the sweetest, nicest things that I remember about him. - I'm sure he did a million other things, but this is the one that stuck - my first adult realization of who he was, I think.
posted by needlegrrl at 9:57 AM on November 16 [11 favorites]


Something very hard happened to me once. My mind was shattered. Not like a broken arm that will heal, but like a television that’s been thrown out a third-story window. My mom came to visit me and when she saw the state I was in, she insisted that I come home with her. Once we got seated on the plane and they started closing the doors, I began what felt like an actual panic attack and stood up feeling like all of this couldn’t be happening and I had to get out of there now. My beautiful mother took my arms in her hands and with the terrifying power of maternal love locked her watery hazel eyes with mine, started modeling deep breathing, and said, slowly and forcefully, “You’re going to come home with me, and I’m going to take care of you, and I’m going to make you okay.” Not “you’re going to be okay,” which I wouldn’t have believed. No, my mom was going to make me okay. It’s not the kind of thing you’re supposed to say, you’re responsible for your own happiness etc. But it was the right and loving thing to say in that circumstance, a brilliantly intuitive response, and one of the most moving experiences of my life.
posted by HotToddy at 11:39 AM on November 16 [38 favorites]


I think a lot about my grandmother who died a few years ago. She didn't like to need help and be vulnerable but eventually it was undeniable and she gave in with an unusual grace.

My cousin and I visited once, this was after her teeth had been removed and she wore dentures. Even when she had teeth, they weren't very nice & she would always cover her mouth. But I guess after 90 she decided to let go of that little insecurity. My cousin & I were sitting on the couch chatting, most had gone to bed. My grandma came in in her nightgown, no teeth, big smile and looking so very old. She told us how glad she was that we came to visit and how nice it was to see "you girls".

A few years later, she was dying in the nursing home. She couldn't speak, eat or sit up, just squeeze our hands and sigh. Some aides came in to change her clothes and all of her daughters left the room to give her privacy. I stayed and held her hands, and she tried to look at me and held so tight to my hands I knew I was right to stay.

After all of her years of being a strong mother & farmer, while she could still enjoy it she let go of trying to look or be a certain way and was simply happy giving and receiving love, right until the end.
posted by Emmy Rae at 9:05 PM on November 16 [11 favorites]


It's still this:

I was walking down a one-way street near my house (a couple weeks after the 2016 election) and there was a guy I thought might be homeless pulling a granny cart up the middle of the street. As he approached me he said, "do you need a hug?" I wavered for a second but yeah I really did need a fucking hug. He came over to the sidewalk and gave me the most fantastic hug I've ever had. He smelled a little like pee but I was so happy for the rest of that day.
posted by bendy at 9:09 PM on November 16 [11 favorites]


This sounds really trivial but I was so down about...everything a couple weeks ago and said something to the effect that all the ‘nice’ had drained from the world. My teacher, with conviction, told me: ‘Listen, the nice things are still nice’. I’m not one to meditate or react well to the pep talks about ‘gratitude’ we’re constantly exposed to but that turn of the phrase really stuck with me.

As a matter of fact I’m not doing any better, and can hardly perceive anything ‘nice’, but still, I can acknowledge fact that it’s there, somewhere, out there.
posted by The Toad at 9:43 PM on November 16 [11 favorites]


Once upon a time I did something humiliating in public. Afterwards, still in public, was trying to sort of gather myself and not cry.

A total stranger brought me a (new, cold from the store fridge) bottle of water. He also said like a one sentence comforting something, I don't remember what.

I think about that bottle of water a lot. He had to cross the street to buy it and then come back, it wasn't just a single impulse but a multi-step decision he made and acted on. He didn't need to do it (no one else interacted with me at all). I honestly didn't need a bottle of water, but the concreteness of the gesture really moved me (and I did drink it, and the coldness did ground me). And it was so kind.

It transformed The Day Of The Public Humiliation to The Day of the Stranger's Water Bottle...
posted by Cozybee at 10:53 PM on November 16 [17 favorites]


Love to you The Toad. This might be nice. My mom lives in a house gifted to her by her grad-school advisor and the advisor lives in the apartment over the garage. A couple days ago, advisor who is 91 and cantankerous as hell fell and hurt her arm. My mom took her to the doctor who did X-Rays, told her to wear this sling and to take Tylenol.

Neither advisor or my mom can figure out the velcro of the sling and advisor may not be taking the Tylenol. Advisor is again, cantankerous as hell, but she's still in pain and my mom called the doctor again and made another appointment. She'll take advisor to her appointment, listen to the advice and again try to get advisor to follow it.

But my mom and I talked today - we know that advisor is a strong woman who lives her life the way she wants to, and we rejoiced together about getting old and being able to live as you'd like to. But my mom feels advisor's pain and I feel it with her. The only comfort we have is that she's old and cantankerous and living the life she wants to.

This started out as an attempt at a positive story - I have to give props to my mom for taking care of her friend who doesn't have anyone else.

And god bless cantankerous ladies.
posted by bendy at 11:17 PM on November 16 [7 favorites]


17 years, 8 months ago when my daughter was born with surprise Down syndrome and a stroke, when my spouse and I were trying to get through the morass of feelings that came with that, my best friend from college told me something very simple. He said that he believes that the gene for fundamental human kindness is on the 21st chromosome and that people with Down syndrome tend to get 50% more of it than the rest of us.
It was a nice sentiment that wasn't about our pain our potential as parents but was instead a hopeful eye for the future.
Now with my daughter nearing legal adulthood, we are going through the stage where she argues with us about *everything*, which I figure is just like any other teen.
posted by plinth at 11:49 AM on November 17 [10 favorites]


Cozybee's water bottle story reminded me of something that happened to my mother...

My father developed some complications after a colonoscopy; he forgot to tell the doctor he was taking an immunosuppressant for arthritis, and they had to snip a polyp and it nicked something and he developed sepsis a couple days later. They rushed him to the ER, and he was in a hospital room getting stabilized and Mom was stuck in the waiting room. The doctor periodically came out to give her updates, but she was basically stuck there waiting for confirmation he was gonna be okay, and was fretting (understandably).

Another woman joined her in the waiting room with her own issue. From overhearing the woman's conversation with family and doctors, it sounded like the person she was waiting on had a graver situation, but the woman seemed calm and friendly. So Mom and the other woman smiled at each other when the woman was free and the woman made some small-talk comment like "waiting around sucks, huh?" and they talked about that a bit. At some point, Mom said "the worst part of it is that I'm getting a little thirsty, and I see there's a vending machine just down the hall, but with my luck if I went to go get water, that's when the doctor would come out and want to talk to me!" They both laughed at that a little - and then less than a minute later, the doctor came out to get my mother and say that Dad could see her now. They said she could leave her things where they were, and Mom eagerly got up, she and the woman wished each other good luck, and Mom went in to see Dad.

Mom was in with Dad and the doctor for about ten minutes; Dad was gonna be fine, he just needed to stay in the hospital a couple days for observation. Mom and Dad bonded a bit and then Mom said her "I'll see you tomorrow's" and went back out to the waiting room.

The other woman was gone. But sitting on top of Mom's things was a water bottle from the vending machine - and a cookie.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:10 PM on November 17 [24 favorites]


I've been struggling a lot with my seemingly incessent loneliness and desire for a romantic relationship because I've never had one. I broke down some months ago due to pandemic life and was crying to my mother about so many things but part of it was the fact that I couldn't help but feel guilty for having never given her grandchildren (and at my age, likely never will). I told her how grateful I was that she was not the sort of mother to push relationships onto me or to constantly inquire why I was still single. It's lonely enough as it is to feel so undesired and untouched so not having that particular thing helped. Anyway, she hadn't actually responded about the grandchildren thing in the moment but sometime months later she randomly decided to bring it up and assured me that having grandchildren has never been a priority in her life and that it's totally ok if I never do have kids. She loves children and loves being a mother but being a grandmother has never been important to her. I hope that it's true but even if it weren't, I'm so thankful for that small thing. To know that my own disappointment in my life isn't also causing someone I love that same disappointment. It really gives me some comfort in that regard.
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 1:56 AM on November 18 [12 favorites]


All summer long, and until recently (it finally got too cold) I've had this one fella and his wife in for dinner outdoors 2 or 3 days a week. I'll call him Biff C. Nice guy, sweet coupe in the parking lot, low maintenance guests.

Today we get a text from Biff, asking me to call him. So I call him and he says "Hey vrak did you know I'm an episcopal priest?"

"Nope! That's groovy tho."

"Are you aware I'm involved in the homeless shelter system being set up on the island?"

"Yeah! I read about that."

"Well, we have funding but not a bunch, and I was wondering could your workplace sell us up to 15 fried chicken dinners every Tuesday for 4 months at ten bucks a pop?"

I'll see what we can do! We'd love to make this work."

I spitballed it with my boss and the chef and we can't do it at that price BUT i had an idea and we can probablly do chili (and our chili is very.fucking.good.) for less than 10 bucks. So today, and tomorrow if I can convince Biff to go with chili, I'll be fighting back against the evil with chili. And bread. And I can't wait to get to know Biff better, I'm an armchair cosmologist.
posted by vrakatar at 8:01 PM on November 18 [16 favorites]


Betty Dodson FMS*.

*For masturbation's sake.
posted by bendy at 11:28 PM on November 18 [2 favorites]


About twenty years ago someone talked me into going on a Walk To Emmaus, which is basically a three-day Christian retreat experience which seems to be wonderfully encouraging for people who like their religion a lot sappier and more simplistic than I do. I really shouldn't have agreed to go, and I spent most of the weekend in various degrees of annoyance. However, one of the things your sponsor does (your sponsor is the person who's been on a Walk to Emmaus before and recruits you to go) is arrange for a bunch of people who know you to write you notes and letters. I don't remember how many letters I was given, but I think it was some ridiculous number, like 70 or so. Only one of them sticks with me, which was a letter from a very insightful former pastor who wrote--and I'm pretty sure these are these exact words--"I think you worry a lot about whether you are normal. The truth is, normalcy is too high a bar for any of us to reach."

He was right--I did worry a lot about whether I was normal. That letter gave me permission to stop thinking about it and just realize there wasn't any such thing. Normal's an elusive, impossible goal. Goals like contentment and health are a lot better.

There was probably other good stuff in that letter, but I just remember those two sentences. It's been two decades and I still think about them.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:18 AM on November 19 [8 favorites]


I just found out maybe an hour ago that the biopsy came back following my dad's prostate surgery...and he doesn't have cancer. I don't want to jinx it, but I think 2020 might be looking up just a little bit.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 11:47 AM on November 19 [15 favorites]


Food news everyone! Some other place is doing chili for the homeless shelter system, but we can give them our massive, awesome Shepard's Pie for 9.99$!!! The folks in the shelters on shepard's pie night are going to flip their lids.

Slow night tonight. We've been doing indoor dining and bowling for a couple of weeks, but we are probably suspending those operations soon, before the towns/county/state does it. Buncha people gonna get laid off. Curbside only here we come. Good thing my mother in common law got me a T-shirt that says CURBSIDE PICKUP KING. Thanks Barbara!
posted by vrakatar at 6:38 PM on November 19 [6 favorites]


I donated a chunk of my liver to some kid about a year ago (I like to think of them as 'some kid'. Who did you donate your liver to? Dunno, some kid).

Anyways the surgery is pretty hard and the immediate recovery is rough. It is constant nausea and vomiting over a 7 inch abdominal wound and everything hurts so much and you just feel like you've ruined your body, and for what? Some stranger? Why did I do this?

Anyways on the 2nd night I was up at like 4am in the post-transplant unit, throwing up and crying, as you do, and I had to sneeze, and I knew that it would suck, so I got my pillow and I was bracing and then suddenly I had to throw up and so I just sneezevomited all over my sheets, and my IV lines and cath tubes and everything, it was everywhere, and I made the saddest little pathetic call to the nurses station (haunted whisper: "It's everywhere...")

So this is a hospital and they know what to do, and this cheerful personal support worker dude comes in and sort of takes me in with snot and sadness and tons of vomit just everywhere and starts...chatting. He asks me if I'm a donor or a recipient. He talks to me about other stuff on the ward, how long he's worked there. He tells me that the first few nights seem rough but people get better pretty quick, and he's efficiently giving me a nice little sponge bath and replacing all my linens and gown and stuff.

And at the end I'm clean and not crying so much anymore, and nothing is covered in vomit anymore which is an absolute miracle. He sort of looks at me and he said something like "Don't regret it. It won't feel like this forever. You did a good thing, and this is just tonight".

Lots of people were really nice and kind and patient with me during those 6 core recovery weeks. But that dude did everything he needed to - he found me, looking and feeling worse than I ever have before, and he made it better, and he left me with the most important thing: you did good; this won't be forever.

It wasn't forever. I did do good. He didn't need to be so kind, even just doing his job was a kindness. But he was.
posted by robot-hugs at 7:56 PM on November 20 [17 favorites]


This morning my oldest daughter is on the front page of the paper, decorating for Christmas early to get this year out the door. Just now my youngest called, and she will marry on Wednesday, at the courthouse, just the two of them. What a great morning!
posted by Oyéah at 9:34 AM on November 23 [5 favorites]


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