For years, when a friend or family member was ill or had gone through surgery or a heartbreak, I gave them space. That’s what you’re supposed to do, right? “I’ll let them be messy and do their healing thing and, if they need me, they’ll let me know.”
Yea… Come to find out, that’s not really how it works.
I’ve had five surgeries on my chest alone, and I had a grand total of three friends visit me ever after all surgeries combined. (That’s not a WOE IS ME sort of thing; it’s a simple fact.)
And I remember this dichotomy between wanting to be alone because I felt embarrassingly messy, and feeling lonely and sad and wishing someone would come sit with me. People asked what they could do to help, and I’d tell them “nothing” with my chest puffed out, as if I was a badass for not needing anyone.
Once I felt back to normal (and I’d push myself to get there as soon as possible so as not to appear “weak”), I’d go on with life as if the surgery or illness or depressive episode never happened. Friends and family did the same. This may have been because they didn’t know the depth of what I had been experiencing due to my lack of communication, or they just didn’t know what to do or how to help.
Showing up for someone, even when they haven’t asked (and especially when they’re trying to push you away) is a very vulnerable thing to do. It’s opening oneself up to rejection and to possibly upsetting the other person all out of love and care.
Nothing pisses me off more than a person being in my space when I’m a vulnerable mess.
Nothing is more special to me than a person being in my space when I’m a vulnerable mess.
Someone pushing past my defenses and refusing to take the many “outs” I offer them is proving to be very healing. It’s a new experience for me. And-surprise surprise-it started happening once I started showing up for others.
A dear friend of mine recently had surgery. She’s somehow more stubborn than I am, which is quite the feat, and thrives off her independence. I showed up at her house the day after surgery with flowers and a strong will to combat her stubborn independence.
“I am here to help you. I love you. No request is too small. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. I want to be here.” <– the kinds of things I said to her, because I knew I’d wanted to hear those same words.
And it meant the world to me that she trusted me to help her… That she trusted me to be with her in that tender state.
At first I offered what seemed logical: let me walk the dog, let me clean your house, let me cook for you. But honestly, 80% of my time over there has been sitting with her, keeping her company. Yesterday I gave her a ride and then stayed and chatted for a couple hours afterward. When I left, she said: “Thanks for the ride. And thanks for staying and hanging out with me. That was possibly even more helpful than the ride was.”
AND I GET IT. I really do.
I’m at the tail end of a depressive roller coaster ride that lasted for a few weeks. I expressed to people what I was experiencing, and as soon as they were like: “I’m sorry; what can I do?” I’d shut down.
For me, when I’m in an emotionally rough place, I often have no idea what I need. I can barely convince myself to stay on earth, and walking to the bathroom is a feat. What I need you to do is beyond my grasp.
People are so loving. At our core, we are love. And we hate to see others suffer. So it’s a natural reaction to want to help and fix. But really I think the most powerful thing we can do is to show up for and love and accept that other person, exactly as they are.
This has been a tough one for me. I’m the queen of research and problem-solving, and for many years I saw each human as their own type of Rubik’s cube. I WILL FIGURE YOU OUT AND I WILL SOLVE ALL YOUR PROBLEMS FOR YOU.
But that’s not what it’s about. Each person is on his/her/their own journey, and the most helpful thing we can do is be supportive of them.
You know that whole, do unto others as you’d have them do unto you thingy? Yea. It’s a true story. It is deeply powerful. And not only because people will inevitably start showing up for you… But because of the new depths discovered in a relationship by being with a person behind their walls.
Today I had my first book signing event at The Open Mind Center. I had someone close to me come with, even though I was like “HERE ARE ALL THE REASONS YOU SHOULDN’T COME BECAUSE IT MIGHT BE BORING OR LONG OR OR OR” and he came anyway. And another friend surprised me by showing up.
Originally, I was like “I ONLY WANT STRANGERS THERE. I am way more comfortable in front of strangers than I am in front of people I know and love.” But… Today… I allowed myself to feel supported. I allowed these friends behind my walls and I let them hold space for me while I shared my story in front of the exciting crowd of 11 heart-centered folks.
In the past, I’d have been embarrassed. Shit, even if there was a crowd of 1,000 and a standing ovation, I’d probably have still found a reason to be embarrassed.
I used to find comfort in telling loved ones about my experience AFTER it had happened, rather than them being there in the present uncontrolled moment where anything could happen.
Today was a big deal for me. I had people show up just to be supportive. They didn’t show up to get anything out of it. They just… Showed up. For me. (HOW SPECIAL IS THAT?)
I am motivated now more than ever to show up for others.
I AM READY TO CLIMB OVER YOUR WALLS. I AIN’T SCURRED.