Walking through the woods the dogs are running in the undergrowth looking for the unripe apple falls and chasing squirrels. While we wait for them to emerge my eye is drawn to a broken tree stump and a small grey stone which somebody has placed on top with the words “You Matter” and a pink heart painted neatly and delicately onto it.
Both of these are the tiniest moments of gratitude borne from someone else appreciating the power of reaching out with humanity.
The miraculous emergence of the twelve Thai boys and their coach from the flooded cave complex is on a different scale in terms of illustrating the wonder of human endeavour and the quite astonishing impact we can have when we put our resourcefulness and determination to good use. But it all shoots from the same seed. The recognition that we all matter.
Our darkest periods often come about because we doubt that we do.
When we prioritise others over ourselves relentlessly we fail to see the point at which our altruism becomes self-defeating. Only when we are able to save ourselves can we have any hope of helping in the rescue of others.
In my deepest depression, I cared so little for myself that I failed to realise I had become completely self-obsessed. I had created such a destructive spiral of self-loathing that my shame looked a lot like narcissism, which made me feel all the more pathetic and shameful. So it goes.
Recovery is, by its nature, selfish. But it is a selfishness honed and burnished by hope rather than one wrought from despair.
If we want to recover we need to understand the difference between a selfishness which is designed to bring positive change and that which is a result of a negative self-image.
In finding it hard to take care of ourselves for fear that we will be abandoned for our self-indulgence, that we are behaving selfishly and that we might be seen as arrogant we do nothing more than perpetuate the problem we seek to address.
We mostly know when we are on our knees. Helping ourselves back to our feet is the bigger problem.
Today when I passed the tree stump the stone was, predictably, gone. Perhaps someone took it for themselves in a selfish and ironic twist, entirely missing the point. It was not meant for them. Those who saw it lying there and took the message but left the stone are the ones for whom it was intended.