On Friendship and Fainting


original publishing date: Sunday November 13 2011

Names have been changed, as always, to protect identities. 

Something interesting happened today that made me reflect on friendship in general.

I nearly passed out.

How or why this happened isn’t nearly as important as my not-so-brilliant epiphany that came in the aftermath. But for those of you who like a story, or want to analyse what happened “house-style” here’re the details (grab a pen and a whiteboard, house fans): Basically, I was standing in the staffroom at SSUNS, munching on a bagel, participating in a lively conversation with two other staffers during our lunch break.

The next thing I knew, the edges of my vision started getting that ‘over-exposed photo’ feel to it – I call it ‘visual crackling’ because I can’t think of a better word for it – but it’s similar to photophobia from migraines, and almost exactly like the sensation of being light-headed from standing up too quickly. This was accompanied with the sensation of extreme heat around my collar – and it’s a sensation I’ve experienced before – but only once: I nearly passed out from donating blood one time when I hadn’t eaten breakfast (yeah yeah, lecture me later- and no i didn’t have breakfast today either but i’m eating a bagel at 1am?! that counts, right?! right. moving on).

I recall frowning, and stepping slightly back, and then the dizziness was overwhelming, and I started falling because there was no support near me to hold on to. Luckily, one of my fellow staffers (and good friend) happened to take note that I was dropping to the ground and, I think, caught me before I made it all the way down – this part is a bit hazy because all I recall is being asked “are you ok?” And me just saying very clearly “yes yes yes” because, as it turns out, it’s pretty embarrassing to just fall down for no reason! I stayed sitting on the floor, waiting for my vision to clear, and the wave of dizziness to pass, D——-  still holding me, concerned. There were a few other people near me now, strangers who were part of SSUNS, asking all the relevant questions, getting me juice and snacks, and water and then deciding that no juice was probably better than water – and so on and so forth.  I met a calm, confident young woman who experiences sudden dizzy spells on a regular basis, and made me feel better in an instant – literally, 5 minutes. She was able to acknowledge the embarrassment right away – and it felt good to have some empathy.

There I was, sitting on the ground, surrounded by strangers (with the exception of D———, who all pitched in and helped out. Now that I think of it, it’s actually something I should get checked out – random fainting is probably not indicative of anything good.

Friendship. Right. that’s what this little note is about. I think I’ve already made it, but here it is spelled out; I no longer think – and haven’t thought for a long time – that friendship should be measured by that old saying “there when you really need them”. Strike ‘need’. Strike ‘really’.  Because as I learned today, total strangers are more than happy to help during an emergency (provided you’re not in the unfortunate situation Kitty Genovese found herself in). In fact, I’ve also been there for total strangers so here’s where I stand now: sometimes, the way to measure friendship isn’t necessarily by seeing who is there for you at the worst of times, but by seeing who is around to share good news. If you feel like you are imposing on someone with your happiness, because they aren’t interested, that is a pretty powerful indicator of friendship. So I’d rather have friends around me who want to be around me, who don’t feel obligated, and who don’t think that being there for me entails solely emergency situations.

Just as I want to want to be around them, not feel obligated, and not think that the sole driving force of our interaction is because of duty, but desire.

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