A: You hid those troubles well.
Me: That’s my superpower
A: You wonderful mutant.
This brief exchange with a good friend struck me as funny – not because he called me a mutant (let’s face it, I am) but because at a time when I thought the entire world could see right through me and wanted to stay away from the emotional tornado that had engulfed me, I was hiding it well. Apparently. Though I said it tongue-in-cheek, that IS my superpower. I don’t ask for help. I’ve spent so much of my life helping others and suppressing my own needs and fears. Now that it’s time to ask for help, I don’t quite know how to.
The other morning, I struck up a conversation with a stranger at the gas station on my way to work. It started with him asking me how I liked the mileage on my car and then we proceeded to chat for a good 15 minutes, about everything from how he’s been using our tools for 30 years to my cross-country move. That word popped up again.
I also happened to mention a couple of other things in passing, because I no longer think of them as major events and he just looked at me and said “Wow, you’ve been through a lot.”
No, I don’t suppose. I have. I know I have but at the time (and even now), I was just going through those things. I was in the middle of it and the only way I knew to get through it was to move forward. It wasn’t to talk about it incessantly. I didn’t do it by making everyone in my life of every little thing that was happening because they weren’t their battles to fight. What I tend to forget, however, is that I can’t fight every battle alone. The reason we connect with people and bring them into our inner circle is to not feel so alone in the world. Because life moves so fast and some mornings, we can barely get out of bed, let alone fight all the battles quietly and still smile on the outside.
Nor should we have to.
A few years ago, when I lost my job, I did what I always do. I internalized and shut down until I was ready to process it. I had one of my good friends get upset with me because she felt like I was pushing her away but not sharing. At the time (and for years after that) I felt like her reaction was unfair. I wasn’t ready to share my burden and I was sparing her so she could deal with her own life, and she was getting mad at me, on top of everything I was battling?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this and while my friend’s reaction may have been a little harsh, it wasn’t unfair. In the last 4 years since then, I’ll still have conversations with close friends where I will mention an event in passing and they will put their hand on my arm and go “Wait, what? When did that happen?”
While I was operating under the assumption, and let’s be honest, the fear, that people in my life would stop caring the second I actually asked for help, they were moving on with their lives under the assumption that I was happy and just busy, as we all are. At the time, they assumed that I was happily planning my wedding, when in fact, my relationship was falling apart. This past winter, most of the people in my life assumed that I was busy adjusting to my new home, when in fact, my entire life had fallen apart and I didn’t know how to dig myself out from under the rubble.
Because I don’t ask for help when I need it and wait until the last desperate minute at times, it’s fair of people in my life to feel upset. Because I throw 5 months of anguish at them all at once, without explanation or a smooth transition, really.
So all this to say that I am learning to ask for help. It’s not like I’ve been pooping rainbows with every post on social media, because let’s face it, I bitch quite a bit. Because honestly, I don’t trust people who can’t be honest with themselves or the people around them. It’s too hard to keep up the facade of fake happiness. There is a difference between being able to appreciate the good things in life, even when it’s momentarily falling apart, and creating an illusion of a perfect life while wearing your judgey pants, which are popular among people who are afraid to live an authentic life.
Raw honesty isn’t for everyone, but man, we all need a little more of it these days.
I also have some fences to mend because the relationships in my life are important to me. I just have to remember to breathe, check in once in a while just to say ‘Hey’ and remember that it’s acceptable for me to have bad days.
Today was a bad day for me but I got through it.
How about you?