In the aftermath of a meltdown, here's what I learnt
A couple of weeks ago, I fell over the finish line of six intense months of creativity and work and landed in a very messy and emotional heap on Facebook. It was one of those times when you allow yourself to push through to a deadline, after which you subconsciously give yourself permission to collapse.
The intensity of 2016 so far hasn’t been about the work stuff. Not really. It’s been all the carrying. Carrying my 15-year-old through her battle with anxiety. Carrying one of my parents through the gradual unraveling of dementia. Carrying my 17-year-old through the on-again, off-again barrages of stress that can feel so overwhelming when you’re in your final year of school. Carrying other close people through deeply troubling experiences. Carrying, carrying, carrying.
Of course there comes a time when you can’t carry another thing. There comes a time when other people carry you. When we reach that point of officially becoming overburdened, it’s time to call out and say, ‘Hello, friends! I need you for a bit'.
So I did that, and was inundated with emotional support. Messages, lunches, gifts, coffees, words that I’ll remember always. It soothed the soul. A day or so of this, and I got up and felt better, had a massage, watched some TV, read some books, took a few days of ‘go slow’ and felt like a new woman.
Fast forward a few days and some of the people who’d been instrumental in this ‘love bomb’ from friends then found themselves in very hot water in their own lives. A mix of injury + cancer + added injury and worse. It was their turn to be helped.
I put out a call on Facebook for any friends who might be able to bake some meals. The result was that my kids and I spent four hours on the Queen’s birthday Monday driving to the four corners of Canberra and Queanbeyan to collect meals from ten people, who had given up their time and money on a public holiday to help complete strangers in need. Each of the two families ended up with a month’s worth of meals.
One of these helpers revealed that she’d been looking for an opportunity to be involved in a food drive like this for strangers ever since her parents lost their home in a fire, two years ago. Everyone had helped then. They’d been wanting to ‘pay it forward’ since. The recipient families both mentioned ‘paying it forward’ later on, and I know they will.
We weave our way through the twists and turns of our lives in communities, like we’re all in a conga line dance. Sometimes we’re in the lead. Sometimes we’re at the back. Sometimes we fall away and someone extends their hand and drags us back into the fold. Sometimes we know that person and sometimes they’re a stranger.
In the aftermath of my meltdown, and during others’ meltdowns that followed, I was reminded just how beautiful communities can be if we let people in. Sprawled unexpectedly on the ground we can try to stagger back without anyone seeing us, or we can wave over some assistance. People love to help. They want to help.
Let them help.