How to get up when you’re down: The beauty of friends

A few whiffs of the heady scent of lilacs took my mind off the pain for awhile.

We will be friends forever, just you wait and see.” — A.A. Milne

May, my birthday month, found me cranky and out of sorts. In this month when I’d wanted to dig into some long overdue projects before the onslaught of summer, I was down with a sore hip muscle.

I’ve heard of the saying being down in the mouth, but here I was being down in the hip, which of course makes you feel down in the mouth: discouraged, sad and depressed.

How do you get up when you’re down, even if you can barely walk? Go out with a friend.

“Friends,” said Helen Keller, “create the world anew each day. Without their loving care, courage would not suffice to keep hearts strong for life.”

My friend Jeanette, whom I’ve known for four decades (where does time go?), invited me to our mid-Michigan Williamston Theatre for my birthday. Old Love was playing. I certainly felt old, as I gingerly twisted my torso to get in and out of the car to drive to meet her.

I didn’t want to cancel, as this was a special arrangement: just her and me, with our husbands at home. While I could hardly walk to the mailbox the day before, somehow with a little extra pain killer and lots of gumption, I got myself to the theatre on that Sunday and even sat for the duration of the production, plus going out for ice cream afterward. It was a long day. But, it was memorable.

I’ll remember the kindness that perked me up and kept me going.

Dr. Arthur Caliandro, author of Simple Steps: Ten Things You Can Do to Create an Exceptional Life, touches on the subject of kindness. When we affirm someone with kindness, we become a blessing he writes. “When you affirm, you are a blessing. You are trying to hold someone up—enhance someone.”

I agree. “You can affirm people, even when you disagree with them or have trouble understanding what they are going through at the time,” says Caliandro. “Affirmation is a wonderful, active way to be kind.”

My friend couldn’t feel what I was going through, just as I couldn’t feel her discomfort from foot injuries in recent times. Perhaps we can’t totally feel the pain, but we can empathize. That’s what friends…and husbands… do.

My husband (who is also my best friend) was empathetic. He did his best to affirm me, as well. He gave me the back brace he uses at times. He brought me some pain killer and advised me to rest. He cut me some lilacs. A few whiffs of their heady scent took my mind off the pain for awhile.

The pain was ferocious. It had been years since I’d gone through anything so distorted in my hip muscles. Memories flooded back, though, of a car accident when our son was about a year old. While traveling on the Wisconsin interstate on the way to Minnesota to my husband’s brother’s home, a drunk driver plowed into the back of our little brown Honda Civic.

The impact pushed me and our son, who was in his car seat, into the front seat. I could not walk. Taken by ambulance to a hospital in Madison, the orthopedic surgeon who examined me, said:

Of course you can’t walk. You’ve bruised your hip muscles and those are the ones that hold you up.

Oh. It’s that simple. I’d forgotten.

That was the situation as I dimly recall it, some 34 years later.

How much I appreciate these muscles now, and the awareness that such a mishap brings of the myriad ways you need these muscles, even to execute the slightest movement.

I have to laugh, as it reminds me of my most common complaint with modern manufacturing. Many times I’ll find myself fuming over a tiny broken plastic part of something. It’s the little things that hold the whole together. And if that tiny little part isn’t of good quality, often your entire contraption will not work.

And I wonder, time and again, why more care isn’t put into the little things.

Guess I’d better start paying attention to the small stuff. As for my hip muscles, that crucial part of my body contraption, I’m of course vowing to never take them for granted again. Well, I’ll try.

My best guess for this inopportune sidelining stems from getting out of shape over the extreme and long winter this year, not getting out exercising and walking as usual, and then overdoing yard work and other spring things, once the weather turned.

So this summer, I need to step up with my walking and stretching and keeping these muscles and joints moving. And, I also need to pay attention to this affirmation effect. I understand what Dr. Caliandro is saying. I’ve always believed that; but putting beliefs into practice, walking my talk…that’s another story.

I also had to laugh at the timeliness of sorting through a box during my non-moving around hours of keeping the pain in check. There was one of those little sermon booklets for positive thinkers. Right on top, the title staring up at me: ‘How to Get Up When You’re Down’ by Dr. Bernard Brunsting.

When you’re sick or down, you usually don’t feel like doing anything, he noted, but the point of the sermon was to reach out even when you don’t feel like it.

“When you are down, as anyone will be from time to time, remember that you don’t need to stay down. Reach out again even though you may not feel like it at the time.”

He also suggested remembering your assets and focusing on those. “When you are under a cloud of some kind you are likely to feel that you don’t have many assets. At such a time it is natural to concentrate on the things you have lost, the things that haven’t gone right, the things that look black. And when you concentrate on them, it’s hard to see anything else. But that is the time to concentrate on the things that remain, the many assets you still have.”

Friends are among the best assets we can have. Reaching out to a friend in distress, or accepting a gift from a friend when we’re in distress, helps us get up when we’re down.

We find solace in both the act of reaching out to others, and in allowing ourselves to receive their reaching out to us. I’m glad for Jeanette, who walks the talk in friendship matters. I’m glad I made the effort to embrace her loving care; my heart is stronger for it.

I appreciate the blessing of this gift of time, knowing it’s a beautiful thing to be forever friends.





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Susan G Parcheta dreamed of being an inspirational writer, even as heading off after college to a teaching job. While teaching was not her passion, words were -- writing many years for Livingston newspapers, especially in the areas of education, health and wellness. The dream continues: to inspire creative, healthy living and to explore new concepts of body, mind, spirit. Her signature theme “All Things Beautiful” invites you to embrace the beauty and imagine the possibilities that life has to offer. She lives in Gregory with her husband, Jerry, and their fluffy, pointy-eared -- and always lovable -- cat, Spock.