The purpose of this blog post is to urge all Smartypants to organize a support system in case of emergency.
During my social work education, one of the first things we learned was how to develop support systems for our clients. When my family and I relocated a few years ago, I leaned on these skills to build a support system of my very own. Looking back on all of the books that have been written on the importance of such a system, I have got to say, none have come even close to illustrating the sheer magnitude of help and relief our support system has afforded my family.
Two weeks ago, the value of having such a support system in place proved itself when what initially seemed like a small procedure turned into an all day event followed by a week of helplessness and pain. Of course I’m not looking for sympathy. Debbie Downers aren’t good for anybody. My point is to highlight the extent to which I needed help with just about everything for the next several days as my body recovered. I have an amazing spouse, but he works and I did not want him to take too many days of leave during a very stressful time in the office. Having absolutely no family in the area, a mom in a similar situation would have been sunk. This was when my support system was crucial to the function and overall wellbeing of my family. Yes, I do realize that there are services designed to aid in such an emergency but I much prefer not to have strangers in and out of my family’s life, especially when I’m under the weather. Being able to lean on a support system of individuals who are invested in providing all the love and nurturance my family required while I recovered was an amazing blessing. So much so, in fact, that I urge every Smartypants to not go another day without developing one such support system of their very own.
How does a Smartypants go about developing such a support system? Let’s go through this step-by-step.
Step One: Identify the Unconditionals
What the crap is an unconditional? These are the people in your life on whom you can rely regardless of circumstance. They are the very nearest and dearest loved ones in your life. These people will never stop loving you no matter what. They are the people in your support system who can provide you with ongoing support throughout life’s bumpy road. Unconditionals could live next door or on the next continent. It’s their proximity to your heart that matters. These are the people you can call at any hour when you are sad and the first people you will call to share your greatest joys. They will not judge you for the mistakes or detours you are bound to make on life’s journey and they will keep your heart full of the love you will need to make it all the way down your intended path.
Step Two: Locate the Ole Reliables
Ole reliables may not be the people with whom you would share your deepest, darkest fears but they could definitely be considered the close friends and family whom you have in your life most of the time. Ole reliables are also the friends who will visit you in the hospital when you are sick, they are the people you want to have come over regularly as well as holidays and they are most definitely people you can call on to help you out when you’re in a bind. Ole reliables are the people on whom you can rely because your relationship dictates that when the tables are turned, they can also rely on you.
Step Three: Pinpoint the Sociables
Being a Smartypants of the social nature, I am under the impression that we can never have too many friends. Because of this, I believe in adding a whole additional layer of friends to the support system. “Sociables” are the individuals with whom you are friendly in your day-to-day life, be that at work, the gym, your neighborhood, etc. You invite sociables along to share your life’s happenings. You might invite them to celebrate birthdays or you may have them over frequently for barbeques, a day of shopping, or a night on the town. Sociables are friends you would call on for kicks and giggles, but you could also rely on them to bring in your mail when you travel or to give you a lift somewhere on occasion.
Step Four: Community Cunning
A true Smartypants will use savvy to utilize all of the resources that a given community has to offer. Begin using that savvy by identifying local health and wellness resources BEFORE you have an issue. Next, learn where community resources are located, what types of services they have to offer and how to go about utilizing those resources. For example, you can find carpools for commuting to and from work, car-share programs if you don’t have your own vehicle, dog-walking services for that four-legged unconditional in your life, places of worship to fill spiritual needs, the list goes on and on.
To show true community cunning, you must first invest your time and efforts into your community. For instance, you could donate or volunteer at any number of charitable organizations; go to art shows and book readings, join a performing arts troop, visit local parks, join or start a running club, see what your local library has to offer, or attend community events. Chances are, when you do these things, you’re likely to meet people who will quickly become a part of your support system.
Taking a Constructive Look
Now that you have read through all of the steps in making a support system, I am curious to see how successful you were in identifying individuals and groups to fit into each category. One thing you may have noticed is that I did not identify specifically who in your life should go where. For some readers, biological family would definitely be considered “unconditional” while others might leave family out of the support system altogether. Identifying who is closest to you and who belongs in your support system is completely up to you.
The individuals in our support systems help us meet the needs of our lives but also make our lives full of the meaningful relationships we all need. If you are finding that you don’t have many people to fit into your support system, you may need to ask yourself why that is. I would challenge you that this may be because you are not putting in the necessary work to become an integral part of someone else’s support system. If you find your support system needing work, use the information gleaned from this post to declare a case of emergency.
To address this emergency, go back through the above steps and work at putting yourself out into society enough to begin completing these steps by forming genuine relationships. You can begin with Step Four, and use your “community cunning” to meet people and then work on those relationships until they are meaningful enough to be considered the “unconditionals” described in Step One. Obviously everyone you meet will not someday become an unconditional, but think of the meaningful relationships you will have and of what a full support system you will acquire if you look at every person you meet as a potential “unconditional”.
Note: The above list of steps to forming a support system is not exhaustive. Use the information included in this post as merely a springboard. Feel free to tailor it to suit your needs in creating a support system that is unique to your life. Once you have done so, comment back to me on this post. I’d love to hear what you’ve come up with!