For the last 4 years, since becoming a single parent, I have always felt as though I was within something like 20 paces of falling off the edge of the cliff, the cliff that marks my the boundaries of sanity.
At first it felt scary, to be so close to falling apart. But then I realized that 20 paces is really quite a ways a way. After awhile it felt quite comfortable. Even as I knew that it could all unravel quite quickly, I knew that it most likely wouldn’t.
There are times when I move closer, within 10 paces or even 5 of the edge. Those times initially felt scary too. The wind is stronger here and I can smell the dangersous dropoff but I have survived moving so close so many times that it feels old hat. I know 5 paces is still 5 paces and one step backwards is all that is needed to get me back to 6.
But lately, the last week or so, I have been perched with my toes curled up against the edge, gripping with every last bit of strength—channeling it all down to the tiny muscles in my pinky toes. Its not a trauma that pushed me to the edge. Instead I am just the daily business of keeping it together, through winter, through Max’s latest bouts of separation anxiety and the flu, through the battle with a house which is slowly falling apart, dissolving into a pile of broken toys and popcorn crumbs and dirty laundry and dust, Four years of trying so hard to do the work of two parents, to build a community that fills the holes in our hearts, of striving and working and being solution focused. Its got me worn out and in my exhausted stupor I stumbled like a drunk to the edge where I stand now, holding my arms out for balance and crying out “Whoa…”.
The other night as I was dropping off Max’s playdate, and running to the store to pick up the M&M’s Max needed for a graphing project, I thought if I don’t ask for help I am going to fall apart, literally, figuratively. Asking for help is hard and while I feel I have pushed past all my fears and the taboos that I carried, I still wince when I need to ask.
And truth, unlike the help I needed in the past the help I need now makes me feel so much more vulnerable. I didn’t need a babysitter. I don’t need someone to cook me a meal or give my kid a ride. What I need is a hug from someone who loves me, who sees me, who isn’t trying to change one bit of me or hope that I am someone other than I am. I need someone to appreciate me, celebrate me, tell me why they cherish me. Oh…and I need someone to sit on my couch and drink a glass of wine while I clean, cause I need to restore order to this house and I have been having a hard time settling. I need someone to help me settle.
I wonder if I can whisper wishes so precious and vulnerable out to the world? Can I ask my community to fill in this way? Even just a few people–my closest and dearest friend or two? Is it too much? I know these are needs that so many of us have unmet. If I ask, do I give permission for others to ask too…Do I open up a door where we all start unsurfacing our most vulnerable needs exposing them to the air where they can be met? Or… do I risk creating resentment and hurt during a time when everyone is so stressed, by the economy, by illness, by their own demons that feels so much bigger than my exhaustion.
Post script: I wrote this piece last week but never posted–The frantic pace of being stuck kept me from making it to my blog. And then I asked. Not wide and far but within a very tiny circle. And like a magic carpet that request swept me away to safety. I will continue to ask, because I know how easy it is to know that perch and when I am ready I will write what I learned along the way.