"You need to let people help you," she said after I once again rebuffed one of her very generous offers to help me out.
"It's hard to feel close to someone when they won't let you help them. You need to let people help you. You need to let people in."
These words were spoken almost 10 years ago, but they have stuck with me. At the time, I thought I was a pretty good friend. I was stable, considerate, a good listener and I felt like I was warm and sharing and dare I say even silly and fun! What I really valued about myself was that I was very independent - I wasn't one of these overly needy friends and I was never going to put anyone out. I wasn't going to overstay my welcome or take advantage of people's kindness, or feel like I was always on the receiving end of a favor. I was a very self-sufficeint person.
I still am. I'm not going to start analyzing this personality trait, but it's something that is very engrained and probably even a bit self-protective. However, I never saw my self-sufficiency as causing any harm to me or anyone else. Yet, when my friend told me I wasn't letting her "in," it made me recognize that I might be keeping people at arm's length without meaning to.
Since sharing my new diagnosis more publicly than I ever thought I would, there has been an outpouring of support unlike anything I would have imagined. I have heard from old friends, new friends, acquaintances, family and even those I have never actually met in person but know through the blogosphere. I am beyond humbled by the well wishes, thoughts and prayers of so many people.
A few weeks ago, I started to take a little emotional nose dive. I was tired from inconsistent sleep and I was waist high in a series of tests, procedures and appointments almost daily for about a week and a half. This was enough to knock me out of my routine, impinge on my time with my kids, and get myself off my game. I started to drag, both emotionally and physically, especially when two more biopsies that were not originally planned popped up.
I texted a friend who just went through the same type of breast cancer a year ago. She has been a huge support to me. I told her I felt so disappointed in myself for starting to feel a little bit overwhelmed. I was having a few days of being bummed out and lethargic and mopey and I was beating myself up over the inability to shake it as quickly as I would have liked.
I think my exact words ending my run-on text paragraph were "I can't wait to get my head out of my ass."
My friend said a whole bunch of encouraging things because she is both strong AND encouraging. "Take it day by day," she said. "Allowing yourself to be upset at times will also allow you to be the positive, strong person you are."
She reminded me that when I allow myself a moment to feel vulnerable and raw and tired and frightened and anxious and angry... when I give myself permission to be human... it isn't a sign of weakness. Instead, it actually makes me stronger and more positive.
It reminds me of that saying about courage. Courage isn't about being unafraid. It's about feeling scared but doing it anyway.
I'm reminded that courage, strength and positivity are not attitudes you have 100% of the time, every waking moment. It's not about ignoring your feelings and putting on an act. By feeling the great range of human experience, I can sift through the mess and truly feel the peace of being strong and positive to my core. I'm also reminded that letting people in means saying "yes" to HELP. Opening myself up to the kindness and support of others only makes me stronger, my family run more smoothly, and shows people how much I appreciate them in my life... and I do, so very much.
I feel a tad guilty and quite undeserving of so much kindness, but I'm going to let it in. Because some days your problems loom a little bigger than you'd like. Because some days you feel like horsesh*t. Because sometimes it takes a village. Because sometimes letting people hold you up makes you stronger than you ever could be alone.