The other day, Jill, a friend of my family, had called me in tears saying that she couldn’t do it anymore. She couldn’t handle the pressures of her current work situation and didn’t know what to do about it.
She had never said anything like this to me before and though we were friendly enough with each other and spoke often about what was happening in our lives there was still always that separation between us, so I was especially caught off guard by the brutal honesty of her call. She was given a three week work assignment that exposed her to levels of business dealings and decision makings she didn’t have a lot of previous experience with. I knew that on one hand she was excited at the prospect of being trusted but on the other, nervous about how it would all work out. The time came and there were the normal blips that happened and she was handling things well enough to keep things moving. But then the call came.
It was just one of those days when nothing was going right and whatever could go wrong did. Imagine weeks of Mercury Retrograde packed into a few hours! Situations and problems just exploded exponentially. The morning of the call, there were already problems brewing on the job but then, the personality of one particular employee, who was high-maintenance and had a combative nature was the factor that tipped Jill’s balance. Jill had taken this woman under her wing because she reminded Jill of her own mom, but this woman’s constant neediness and antagonistic behavior was becoming a real issue from increased confusion of early onset Alzheimer’s. Coupled with a series of problems that had come up that Thursday morning brought the frustrations of Jill’s new responsibilities to a peak. Her initial fear of not being able to do the job seemed to come to fruition and that morning brought her to the point of the phone call to me and the tears.
In truth, it was the first time that she was left with such enormous responsibility and for such a long time, and I think it would have been a challenge to many people with her experience. Listening to her talk, I didn’t judge her for how she was feeling because when I heard her say that she couldn’t do it all and didn’t know what to do or who to talk to, I heard myself in her voice and in her words and most deeply, I heard myself in her tears. How could I possibly judge her for something I knew only too well from experience, from words and tears I’ve cried myself?
I just listened and let her talk. I assured her that she was going to be alright and that all she could do, and all anyone could expect from her, was to do the best that she could. There’s no way that she would know all the answers to the situations that cropped up—how could she since she never dealt with them in that capacity before? I told her she did the right thing by walking away from an argument that was brewing. She was afraid of what she was going to say and so walked away to sit in her office to cool down and gather her thoughts. It was then that she called me. I was really surprised that it was me she reached out to, but I’m glad she did, because I completely understood every emotion she was going through.
The conversation with Jill was a good reminder about how important it is for each one of us to feel free to admit our fears and frustrations and honestly say, “I don’t know how to do this.” or “I can’t handle this.” It’s here in that mustard-seed moment that our true power comes in.
Each one of us has our own threshold of what we can handle or think we can handle and we do so in different ways. Some people dodge responsibilities when they feel they can’t handle them, others plow through them like a bull, and then there are those, who I think are the bravest of all, are honest with themselves and admit that it’s not working.
My mother used to say, “Don’t play hero,” meaning don’t be so full of bravado to think you can handle everything yourself. The real hero, as far as I’m concerned is the person who admits that they can’t do everything themselves and that they don’t know it all. And there’s no shame in that. Even just admitting it to yourself is an act of release that opens up space and energy in yourself, creating room to allow for growth.
Admitting that something is too much for you to handle is not a sign of weakness, insecurity, or immaturity as some would have you believe. I look at it as a sign of maturity, honesty, and integrity with yourself and it’s from that place, from that deep place of surrendering and acknowledging that you don’t know, don’t have all the answers, and don’t know what to do is when we grow our strongest self.
I am lucky in that I have someone in my life I have said the very same things to about situations I found myself in and I have had my days of being alone where the only thing I felt I could do was literally throw my hands in the air and cry out to an empty room, “I can’t do this!” Each time I did this, I grew. And I know Jill will too. And you, as you’re reading this thinking about your own situation that you’re wondering how you’re going to get through.
I hope this Friday’s Focus will take you to a place in yourself where you can find solace in knowing it’s okay to admit, even to yourself—when you’ve had enough and you don’t know what to do. It’s okay to admit that we don’t have all the answers. It doesn’t matter if it comes as a shout or a whisper, you’ll find that you can do whatever it is but you will do it to the best that you can and not to the expectations others had for you or the ones you may have placed on yourself.
Go and be your own hero today!