When HOPE is spelled HELP
Whenever I encounter a problem, whether personally or professionally, I have a mantra that helps me get through: “I’m strong, resourceful, competent and capable.” These are the agreements and values I align myself with and when I remind myself of these, it sets my mind on walking forward, reminds me that I have access to resources and know how to utilize them, and affirms who I know I am. When I encounter challenging problems that have a solution but will require some work, that mantra is great, and I recommend using it. But sometimes, there are challenges that no amount of positive affirmation will help me overcome, and it’s just something I repeat while staring at my red faced, puffy-eyed reflection in an attempt to prevent me from coming apart entirely.
April was one wave to the face after another for our family.
On the first, I came home to find a 60 day notice to vacate on our door, as our new management company has decided to kick out all it’s residents so it can “renovate” and then dramatically increase the rent. I remember looking at the letter and saying, “This isn’t fair,” before reminding myself I’m strong, resourceful, competent and capable. With a shrug and a sigh, I set down the notice saying, “I guess we’ll figure it out,” and we started putting in applications for apartments.
2 weeks later, I got a call from my husband. “Our car won’t start,” he said. “I’m having it towed to the mechanic.” Diagnosis: Blown head gasket. “The mechanic said don’t put any more money into this, and it’s time to get a new car.” My heart sank. I looked up at the sky and thought, “Are you serious?” Then I reminded myself I’m strong, resourceful, competent and capable. “We have to figure this out,” I told my husband, and within 24 hours, we had a new van.
Then on Monday, April 25th at 3:30 p.m., I received a phone call while at Court with our new Law Clerk that brought me to my knees. “Your children have been taken by law enforcement from school. We need you to come down to the station.”
I remember not being able to stand, then not being able to breathe, and having to call my office and explain to the attorneys what was going on. I was unintelligible, my greatest fear coming true before a business office at their busiest. I walked back to the office and left with referrals in my hands. Once at the police station, I was briefed regarding the circumstances and my boys and I went home.
After settling down and getting dinner in front of the kids, I excused myself to my room. There, I leaned against my vanity and looking at my tear splintered reflection said, “I can’t do this.” It was not possible for me to be strong enough, resourceful enough, capable enough or competent enough to get through this trial by myself.
I needed help.
The information was heavy, and our needs were great. I started texting our friends, some of whom called me immediately. Without hesitation, they started coordinating childcare, dinner plans, park dates and asking how much money I was going to lose as a result of having to leave work early for the foreseeable future. Many asked if they could speak on our behalf, and twenty of them did on a follow up call I had with The Agency nine days later. During that call, the Coordinator continued to comment how she never sees so many people supportive of a family in crisis, and because of that call, just two days later, our family was permitted to resume our normal life.
I asked my husband, “What do people who don’t have community like ours do in situations like this? People whose friends aren’t Lawyers, Cub Scout Leaders, Medical Professionals, Social Workers, Sunday School Teachers etc.?”
In my guts, I knew he was absolutely right, and at first, I just thought us incredibly fortunate to have the specialized friend group that we do. But over the last month, I’ve seen a sign outside of a local fire department that says, “Children drown without a sound. Keep an eye on your kids around water.” This is in preparation for summer safety, but the message holds a deeper truth: Most of us, when we get hit in the face with a wave that knocks us on our back, never yell for help. Most of us drown because of the humiliation or embarrassment our situation causes, or we’re afraid of being judged or thought of as less than because clearly we’re not strong, resourceful, competent or capable. We are afraid to overburden our community with our heaviness, convinced we’ll drag others down to rock bottom with us, so we go down alone. There, Despair and Dread easily overwhelm, filling our lungs with Hopelesness until we stop fighting. After realizing we are not actually dead, we become like zombies, just bodies that refuse to give up in spite our mental will being obliterated.
It is not possible to maintain confidence that the story of one’s life is a good one by yourself.
It is not.
That’s because at some point, the narrative you’ll find yourself living out will be your nightmare come true, and you will not be strong enough, resourceful enough, capable enough, competent enough or even faithful enough to navigate through it alone.
You will need help.
And in the hands of those pulling you from the pit of Despair; in the shelter made of bodies shielding you from the most Dreadful elements, you will find Hope, assuring that though things may be painful, though things may change, you are not alone, your story’s not over and you’re going to be ok.