I’m in the middle of a personal tragedy. The kind that you would never know about unless I told you. The kind that leaves me constantly frantic, grief-stricken, or both, even when I am smiling. The kind that makes me question the world.
I’m sure that you have been here. Or, if not, that someday you might be, which is why I share this with you today. So that you can know: that you are never alone, that the stories you build about others lives being perfect are untrue (look at my picture on the home page of this site and tell me what you assume), and that there are specific ways that you can be while in the mess that can help you navigate it well.
There is good to focus on and grab onto during hardship, if you are willing.
Let’s be clear, I’m not saying that you can be happy during such times. I am not a proponent of pretending or ignoring truth. I also know that pain has to be faced or it will chase and dog you across the rest of your life. I do, however, believe in: relying on supernatural support, doing everything one can, embracing meaning and purpose in hardship, and using suffering for the good of all (for love). It can be done. Where do you think all my information and passion for uncovering healthy self-esteem in women originated? It was from my life first, and then from working with others. There is nothing stronger than personal experience to drive women towards helping each other. When you survive, and then expand, you want others to as well. This is part of our core nature as, above all else, we were created for love and relationship. It’s who we are.
So, although I am embodying my nature in sharing this, I’m also going to access my feelings and my logic (just as with self-esteem) and set some ground rules for those of you who choose to read my narratives. I believe that there is much you can discover about being a friend in the following parameters, as I both have and am learning:
1. This is not about me. The way that you can help me is to be totally selfish with this information. Use it. Let it help you. That would give real meaning to the work I am putting into dealing with and sharing my challenges, and generate very real good out of my hardship (Romans 8:28). This would also be kind as the idea of you doing this soothes me.
2. If you feel the need to judge me, stop reading this. Until you can read another’s story without judgment, you are playing God rather than being a friend or beneficiary of the gift of sharing. It most likely also means that you are feeding your self-esteem from my misery, which is unhealthy for you. Instead, be an observer. Ask yourself: “What am I learning is true for all people in this story?” “What is being revealed about myself in how I am reacting to and thinking about it?” “How can I use this to be my best and truest self?” And, if you can answer the above well, you will easily find the answer to: “How can I use what I am learning to help others?”
3. If you feel the need to respond, I would love to read what you send me. Please, however:
- A.) Do not send any advice at this time. If I want advice, I will ask for advice. This is a rule that you can use with all your friends who are experiencing difficulties. When you offer unsolicited advice, the message you send is: “I know better than you how to solve this,” and “I don’t think you are doing everything you can to fix this.” This makes me feel judged, triggers feelings that I am not doing enough (which I am as nobody knows my situation better than me), and makes me want to get away from you (when I really need to not feel alone). If you have something you feel may truly help, simply ask if you may share it before you do. “Are you interested in some advice, or would you like me to just be with you?” is a beautiful and generous statement.
- B.) Do send stories, and I will read them lovingly. Also, do tell me if you are open to me sharing the story with others, with or without your real name and
- C.) If I don’t respond, it’s not because I don’t love you or that your story is not worthy. It’s because I am in over my head right now and I have to be smart about how I use my limited energy. Boundaries are not an option in times of hardship. And, as long as I communicate my limitations to you, it is in your lap to figure out how to be the best person you can be within this structure. This is an opportunity for you to learn about yourself. Can you give without receiving? Does your self-esteem falter or thrive when others can’t pat your back for your good deeds? Are you able to take yourself out of the picture when the need arises?
4. There are going to be spelling and grammar mistakes in what I write. If you want real, that is what you get.
5. There are things I cannot write out of respect for the other people who are part of this tale. Some stories are not mine to share with this audience. If I am vague, please know that I am respecting their boundaries as well.
6. Finally, I, and I’m sure many of you, worry that when you share difficult things that you will be labeled or avoided. Let me address this with a real life scenario. I have friends to whom I know I can tell all my truth. And, in hearing it, who: won’t walk away, will choose to see my strengths in this, and will not judge me. Further, and of equal importance, who also won’t hold what happens against me or those I love who are part of this episode. When everything comes back together, they will be in the present with us. They will know us as we know ourselves: wounded, healed, and more than we were before. These kinds of friends exist (I know them first hand) and they are the kind we all need. Please let this friend be you.
I dedicate this writing to the friends who have shown me that #6 is real. You know who you are. I love you with awe and gratitude, and I see you from a supernatural perspective. You are that big to me. Ecclesiastes 4:12: Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
*Romans 8:28: And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.