You put your right foot in, you put your right foot out… you put your right foot in, and you shake it all about…
So goes the little routine that I was taught when I was young, the good ol’ Hokey Pokey. And in my turn, I taught it to any youngsters of my acquaintance and to the family dog.
Yet here I stand, doing an awkward version of it on the back fringes of a cluster of people. The reason I shuffle awkwardly back and forth, wearing a little path on the carpet with my frayed graduate school sneakers, hanging near the back of the conversation circle, is that I need to ask for help. Yet to do that, I’m waging a painful battle against a whole chorus line of little voices. I’ve figured out I need some help with something… but the girl on the end in the bright tights and sparkly headdress is doing a high kick and telling me I’ll be judged for asking for help when I look fine. The doofus front and center, doing jazz hands, is making me question again whether I need this favor at all, and maybe I should just risk going it alone. The woman in blue glitter in front of the mike is getting ready to solo about asking for help and then finding that you actually didn’t need the assist. The trio doing the splits is reminding me of the acrobatics it’s going to take for anyone to accommodate me. The active stage of my mind, with curtains of shyness.
So I just have to embark on stage two, which is mental as well. I charge in like, well, who I am, which is a lot less “chorus line” and a lot more “Invasion of the People with Two Left Feet.”
There are numerous people with the so-called “invisible illnesses” out there. Education is helping those who suffer from these conditions gain more understanding from the broader world (a sub-reason for the existence of this blog), so perhaps I won’t be judged too much for looking fine when in fact I am not. But even so, I’ll take the stand, explain, and educate — and if they judge in a negative, condescending way, fine. It’s not a reflection on me. High kick girl goes down.
I’ve really already taken out Mr. Jazz Hands earlier. Sorry, mate, all the hand fluttering in the world won’t disguise how uncool of a performance my body might be giving on a certain day. I’ve already weighed the risk to the outside world or my family and friends if I don’t ask for help, and decided that I’m not a three-year old’s art project but a real live girl, so… down goes that straw man.
The glittery woman singing the soulful tune is Mr. Jazz Hand’s relative, reminding me of the shame I’ll feel if I ask for (XYZ) and then… I can do it myself. Or could have. And then all I’ll feel is miserable for putting someone out. But I don’t really know; so I weigh the probabilities again. I make the decision again. Most of us go through life making many decisions of which we’re never absolutely 100% certain. I do all the time. Apple-banana-pecan streusel topped muffins that I’m sure will turn out but are really flavored bricks. Flight connections I’m certain I’ll make and don’t. The time I calculate to run the errands. The amount of effort it will take to get through a day… a hundred little decisions where most are in actuality a series of probabilities where the benefits and chances of success outweigh the risks and the drawbacks of failure. Why on earth should I treat this so much differently? After all, everyone has these experiences. (I think.) I’ll make the best decision I can. I’ll apologize for my failures, learn from my mistakes, and move on… and just really slather the butter on the brick/muffins. J Once again I body slam the stage character, ignore the fact that others may judge, and get on with the real show.
Everyone has a life. Me included. It just seems like, as I’ve grown older, the lives of people around me have grown more busy, not less. Perhaps it’s merely maturing and noticing more about the world around me. Perhaps it’s also the environment I live in now — a much bigger city, a graduate program, friendships with 20-30 somethings than 8-12 year olds. 😉 People around me have yoga, lacrosse, soccer, cooking classes, college classes, part-time jobs, full-time jobs, family commitments, book clubs, prayer meetings, and date nights. Nearly every hour is booked and the few that aren’t are reserved for laundry and grocery shopping and… I feel myself curling into a ball at the thought of interrupting that train that is someone else’s life. I’ll get run over! And what possible right have I to get in the way of that train in the first place? But time and again I’m shocked by someone taking the time from their busy life to help me out. Of realizing how many people out there are kind and caring, and of the incredible love of my family and friends. Of learning more about people’s lives as I work around their schedules, and they around mine. It’s not a right of my existence to bother yours, no. It is part of the gift of being friends, family, members of the same club, “humanity.” Compassion costs. Sometimes quite dreadfully. Yet I pray that I don’t forget it, and that others don’t either. And of course, there are other options out there — paid carers, medical taxis, and support groups to name a few. So even if it takes a couple of tries, the trio doing the splits and back handsprings does, eventually, go down too.
Just me huddled in the backstage grime now, clutching curtains of shyness. Overcoming your own “shyness” and/or social anxiety can be a tremendous battle for some. Others have written on that, far more ably than I ever could. For myself, it’s a pep talk: Look how many battles you’ve already won, I tell myself! Go, girl! …. And remember, if it really is so difficult to broach a subject in person, to talk about this face to face, there’s always other options…
Pull back the curtains, take center stage, and here we go, real me in the spotlight, making the decisions for this play. Flying free of the chorus line of little puppet fears. I pray you can too.
…you do the hokey pokey, knock some straw men to the ground…that’s what it’s all about! Yeah!!