carry – verb \ˈka-rē, ˈker-ē\
: to move (something) while holding and supporting it
: to sustain the weight or burden of
We felt the weight of it. The morning fog pressing in–sticking hair to heads and grass to ground. Clouds swirling our ankles as we began the steep downhill trek in the mountains of Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. As a twelve-year-old from the flat lands of northern Indiana, I felt enveloped by this misty land of ups and downs.
The adventurous crew–a few of my cousins in their mid-twenties, my dad, younger sister, and I–set out for what we thought to be an easy hike. But a little beef jerky, limited water, and high spirits only get you so far.
We hit the bottom of the mountain path by mid-afternoon nearly out of steam, food, and water. My dad and little sister knew it was time to bail before the ascent part of the path began. They followed a short trail that led to a main road out of the national park. Pre-pubescent stubbornness and my desire to keep up with the older (and far cooler) cousins kept me pressing on.
Soon I was knobby-kneed and having trouble seeing. My cousin, Scot, had nothing to offer but a wad of damp Certs and a strong back. I was horrified at the thought of being carried the rest of the way, but I was clearly not getting off that mountain on my own two feet. The sky was darkening when we finally made it back up the trail, me having been traded piggyback from cousin to cousin.
There are times in life when it feels impossible to move forward. The idea of taking just one more step by ourselves feels excruciating. We aren’t wired to shoulder times like these alone.
I feel like a bit of a hypocrite giving advice in this arena. I’m a get-it-done kind of girl. I’m almost always confident, capable, and downright perky. Good for me, right? Except when it’s not.
The perky, “I’m fine” mask is a heavy one, my friends. It slips on easily when you know everyone around you expects a smile, warmth, and raging optimism since that’s you–most of the time. But I’ve worn it when I’m simply crumbling inside.
If you’re in that spot–you’re stuck or paralyzed at the thought of taking one more step–reach out. Just do it. It might feel awkward or lame, but it’s the right thing to do. And here’s the best part: you’ll bless someone by letting them help. I know that seems odd. The opposite of what you’re thinking as you imagine them groaning inwardly or sighing with annoyance at your reaching out. But I’m telling you that’s not the case. To confide, to admit struggles, is a beautiful display of vulnerability and trust. That’s powerful stuff.
“I suppose I have found it easier to identify with the characters who verge upon hysteria, who were frightened of life, who were desperate to reach out to another person. But these seemingly fragile people are the strong people really.”
― Tennessee Williams
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Jen Petro is an overcaffeinated wife and mom of three who gets all tingly inside when playing with words. She helps organizations tell their stories through her small biz, DropLeaf Communications. Connect with her over email, Twitter, or LinkedIn (or even better, over coffee).
Photo by Toronto History, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License.