Greetings from a white and cold Upper Left USA, where our mountains received over four feet of snow this week and counting. Snow lovers rejoice. Others, not so much as we continue to shovel walks and wait for snow plows. ❄️☃️
The tempo of the season certainly feels more brisk and full than the last time I wrote before Thanksgiving. (Click here to read if you missed it.) Concerts, cookies and color permeate our lives, providing a myriad of opportunities that tug on our emotions, hopes and expectations. As wondrous and special as many aspects of December are, there’s simply a lot to navigate emotionally and practically. Much is being asked of us—in ways we may both welcome and dread.
And each of these responses are just fine. No judgment.
All responses are welcome within us and have a purpose for us.
Joy, grief, anxiety, stress, uncertainty, anticipation, sadness, celebration.
Take that in for a moment…
Can you trust that?
Can we welcome what is stirred up with open, curious hearts?
Can we tune in and listen to what those responses want us to know? Why they’re here this time of year?
The question I posed a few weeks ago asking how you and your internal system of parts REALLY are generated a number of heartfelt responses from you, readers. Thank you for speaking for your parts, from your hearts. Your comments moved me and reminded me of a familiar dynamic when we are suffering alone and long for support from others. This dynamic permeates a holiday season punctuated by giving, receiving, independence and connection.
I unexpectedly heard from a Struggling Friend who lives across the country. She shared that this is a rough time of year and she’d rather just skip to February thank you very much. Struggling Friend is navigating the first anniversary of her father’s death while managing the stresses of single parenting and caring for a sibling in the ICU an hour’s drive away. All with a disability. Struggling Friend had reached her breaking point and yet had only allowed herself to express a drop of distress to me and one other mutual friend. No one knew how hard things had been for her and the dread she felt facing December, especially the holiday hopes of her young children.
Struggling Friend, after all, is a fighter. She’s strong, determined, capable and independent–so much so, that we worried she’d be upset if we tried to reach out to try and help. We wandered around a maze of uncertainty for a few days wondering how to help, could we, should we? Finally, clarity clicked inside of me and I knew I had to do something. Struggling Friend admitted that she’s terrible about asking for help. She couldn’t say it, but she needed someone to advocate on her behalf.
Can you relate?
Why do we insist on silently struggling alone when neighbors, friends, co-workers and relatives may be honored or delighted to assist and support us? Even from thousands of miles away. Even just to send a text or a card to extend their love or concern.
What makes it so darn hard to ask for help?
It’s complicated, isn’t it? Or maybe it’s not.
I, too, struggle to ask (anyone but my husband!) for help. I’ve held a lifelong belief of not wanting to bother anyone. I should be able to do this, all of it, on my own. I still vividly remember after my brain injury putting off for weeks asking for a ride to a park a mile away while Erik was at work. I just wanted to sit by the pond, watch the ducks and listen to the birds to try and lift my spirits. When I finally forced myself to text a friend and ask, I burst into tears because it was so hard to “bother her”. I’ll never forget how happy she was to hear from me and to finally have an opportunity to do something for me.
Why do we make this so hard for ourselves?
Back to my Struggling Friend:
Asking for help on someone else’s behalf feels much easier, less scary and vulnerable. Last week, I emailed a handful of mutual friends, described a few specific needs and options to help and asked them to be discreet. I hoped a few of them could extend some love or care to our Struggling Friend. I was surprised when several of them thanked me for being included and that they’d be honored to help. Their responses reminded me that it feels good to be asked, to be included. We want to make a difference. Helping someone we care about reminds us of our value, that we have the capacity to make a positive impact.
I had never put a request out like this before and our circle of friends responded with an energy and speed that stunned me. Our circle of friends rallied like Santa’s elves. Within 72 hours (I’m not kidding) Struggling Friend’s home was decorated for Christmas and upcoming meals were taken care of with a generous assortment of food gift cards. She had never received such a kind and thoughtful act of love and said she was verklämpt and overflowing with gratitude.
This couldn’t have happened if we didn’t know she was struggling. Being vulnerable and speaking up is scary, oh yes it is!– but our honest disclosure opens the door for someone to show their love and care for us.
I look forward to expanding on the theme of expressing vulnerability in another mailing–a theme in my life these days!
So I invite you this December…
To focus inside:
and get curious about the parts of you who may struggle to ask for help.
Ask them what they want you to know about why they’re here and what their concerns are.
What do they need from you to relax a little bit and not work so hard?
And to focus outside of yourself:
Is there a need or want deep inside of you that you long to share with someone soon?
What would help you to share that need or want? or even share just a drop of it.
Who could you extend some loving-kindness towards this season?
Who could you reach out to and support in some large or small way, perhaps without them even asking?
Let me know what resonates with you and what transpires.
We’re hoping to give you a space to share your comments soon!
This photo below shows our perfectly crooked, wild Christmas tree I couldn’t have found or transported without the help of generous friends. And one of the coziest scenes I’ve ever enjoyed, with friends and pups who have patiently, persistently and unconditionally offered their home and their company as a safe space to land. It took me awhile to receive their generosity, but once I did, I’m kind of hooked!
My heart is full over the goodness in this world. Keep sharing it. Keep asking for it when you need it. There’s enough to go around!
Thanks for joining me for this Sunday Pause and being part of our community.
Sending warmth and light to you and all your parts. Winter solstice is Tuesday, as we welcome more light into our days!