Today, my best friend came to me with all kinds of wonderful ideas about helping out in our community and things my family could get involved in together. Intentions were awesome, and his heart was in an extraordinary place. But excited energy aside, I simply said: you don’t have any more to give.
So you think I’m a jerk. And he did, too. My response may sound cold in a culture hyped up on being limitless and self-assured, doing more with less, and having a Just Do It! mentality.
I can imagine that someone saying you are tapped out could feel like a slap to the face.
Understand, though, that this particularly amazing person who looked me in the eye with abandon and said “I need to give more” is currently working full-time on higher education while simultaneously knee-deep in an extensive professional development course. He also is still somehow maintaining a rigorous daily workout regiment and keeping his tribe of Mini Me’s happy. We all know that last one translates to countless other responsibilities like late night binky runs and carpooling to gymnastics.
But my jerk response spawned from a real kind of love. He does not have anything more to give. No time, no energy. And contrary to the overwhelming messages of our society and the military mentality in particular, that is OK.
In certain seasons of our lives, we simply do not have any more to offer of ourselves. It may be for a month while we tackle a challenging project at work, or a year as we grind away at college. Some deplete their daily vigor as they care for family members tackling health issues.
We all know many parents are stretched to their limit for multiple years while their children are small terrorists. Don’t I know it.
It’s not just physical time and energy either. We also experience times of emotional and mental overload. We are drained, sometimes with no capacity for a single stressful interaction. If you get one more bill from a service provider you personally cancelled before moving from that state, heads will roll! I know that migraine. And some suffer a significant loss or have an anxiety that nearly debilitates them.
Our world is crazy. Any difficult circumstance can rob us of our whole glass of water. It’s not half empty, it’s not half full; it’s just plain sucked dry.
And that is OK.
These life experiences also are great challenges that may result in great rewards! And the drain is not forever. In fact, it can be a wonderful opportunity to allow others to support us: spouse, friends, neighbors, family, church … your community. You may not be used to leaning on others to make things happen in your life, but it is a real option. We are not meant to just live among, but alongside, and help each other. “It takes a village” is not just a passing comment for mommies with their hands full, it is truth.
Some of us are great at reaching out for support while others are better at hiding in a closet to cry and scream while the chaos ensues on the other side. Do not believe you are alone if that is your secret outlet. Because Sharpies, a 2-year-old and linoleum floors in a rental are real. I would seriously argue there is a place for both screaming and leaning on others in life.
But we should generally stick with letting others show their love for us.
I have never been the first to cross the street and invite people into my life, but that simple gesture has served to help me out of major binds I never could have anticipated during deployments. It’s easier to just get things done myself and not bother anyone, you may say. How can others truly help us?
So let’s keep it simple with realistic expectations. No one is going to make life a breeze during these seasons, but we can let that person or people help. Seemingly small things can make a huge difference when it adds five or more minutes to your day. So what if the neighbor walks your dog or your kids home from the bus, a friend runs an errand for you, and your spouse takes care of the kitchen after dinner? That’s a serious amount of work removed from your to-dos that took minimal effort from the people who care for you. It also probably felt like zero imposition on them, even though we may feel differently. People like to help!
I do not have an endless amount of Christina to dole out, and honestly, I wouldn’t want it.
I adore my mom for jumping on a plane when I have needed her. I cherished watching my daughters attempt to clean the house for me when I have been sick. I was humbled when a neighbor looked after my kiddos while we packed the house for a move. And I thought it was beautiful when my husband took more than his fair share of night shifts with the babies while I was a full-time graduate student and working at a demanding job. He had my back. He supported me and kept our insane schedules something manageable for that time.
I felt taken care of, looked after and loved.
There have been many times in our 10-year marriage that one of us has picked up the slack while the other’s plate was completely full. That is not to say things were smooth-sailing. Jumpmaster school comes to mind. Ugh. If he swiped me like I had a faulty parachute on my back or inspected our patio door for a jump one more time while I made dinner!
I definitely had and have my angry, bratty moments in my head that a good reminder of all my blessings serve to wash away. I may be pulling extra duty on the small things at home right now, but I have a home and a beautiful family to be pulling extra duty on. Most of the world cannot even understand those words.
So my best friend may feel a pull to add volunteering in our community or coaching soccer to his plate right now, but there will be future opportunities to give more of himself to our family and community. For right now, it is the time to tell my husband that he does not have any more to give, and that is OK. I have his back.
I look forward to the season when our excitement and ability for changing lives line up, and we make our waves. Right now we are conjuring our winds!