It was one of the cooler mornings that we’ve had recently. We sat there, hands cupping our coffees, tucked into the corner of one of my fav little cafes in the area. First came coffee, both of us had just rushed around doing the mad school dash. Then came the standard going through the mental checklist – husbands, kids, jobs….how are they all?
Twenty minutes later after we’d both assured each other of health and general happiness, the wealth was still to come though…Liz sank down deeper into her chair, momentarily closed her eyes and and then I saw her whole chest rise up and down, as she took some deep breaths. ‘Fee’. Her voice faltered a little and I could tell things were fast changing gear. ‘It’s hard’, she whispered.
I leaned forward, and took one of her hands, the one that was mindlessly twisting her rings around and around. Knowing that Liz is one of those dear friends who listens really well and prefers not to speak unless she’s got something really meaningful to say, I knew this was big for her. Gutsy. Brave.
She looked up from her coffee cup and gave a half smile. That reminder she gives from time to time when conversation does get deep, as if she’s declaring her own strength to the world and doesn’t want me to worry; ‘yeah I’m sad and this is hard, but I’m going to be OK’.
I smiled back, and released her hand so it could go back to the endless twisting and twisting. ‘Tell me about it’. I whispered back.
Liz is facing some major challenges at the moment, that much I knew. I know some of the details of the challenges of her life, but there are many details I don’t know. Her story is only hers to tell, but I do have her permission to share this much today.
A couple of tears managed to sneak out of Liz’s eyes, and just as soon as they appeared, Liz swiftly wiped them away.
‘I feel like I’m on a tightrope, and I have to place my feet so carefully on this tightrope. It’s the only way over, the only way across the danger; the hurt and the hard. I can’t go backwards, and if I stand still for too long….well I can’t…..I have to go forward. And I don’t even know where this tightrope ends. And that’s a frustrating thing. Most people can see what the end goal is, where they are headed. But I don’t. I just have to keep going. And not only am I on this dangerous tightrope, but as I’m walking it, I’m juggling all these balls. These demands on my life. Walk, walk, walk, juggle juggle, juggle. That’s what my life feels reduced to’.
And in an instant I understood. Liz was being very real and open about the weight of expectations on her. The things said and unsaid, the lists of thou shalts and thou shalt not…..sometimes even from the most and best meaningful of intentions. Because Liz was facing x y and z in her life, by hook or by crook she needed to react in a b and c ways. That was how she needed to be, that was what it felt like to her.
I nodded in agreement and understanding. I’ve had my own share of balls to juggle and fear of dropping them. Haven’t we all? I didn’t and couldn’t think of anything more helpful or caring to say, right then and there, other than, ‘I know’, and by then, Liz, realizing that the chinks in her armour, the armour she wears to enable herself to function as best as she can right now, had started to show, was embarrassed at being the focus of our attention, and what was left of our quick coffee catch up quickly moved on to other things.
Well the conversation moved on then. But my thoughts have kept coming back to Liz’s picture. Trying to understand. Trying to think of how some glimpses of hope can be offered to her. Trying to gather some truth for her.
Tightropes are do-able. They are not impossible. Hard, yes. But not impossible. Thinking back to when I danced and even when I did gymnastics and did any kind of hard foot work like that – it helped when I looked up. Looked ahead. It keeps your centre of gravity in the right place to help most with balance. So that’s what I’d tell Liz now. Look up. Keep looking up. It doesn’t matter that you don’t know when or where this tightrope will end, just keep looking up. Even if and when people place expectations on you – even when they are misdirected but well-meaning…keep looking up. Keep seeing the good in their intentions. Keep looking up to where your help really comes from. Seek the Lord and All His goodness.
Another thing about tightropes is that it helps to have a supportive audience. The best circus performers have supportive audiences cheering them on. They may be holding their breath, as they are nervous for the tightrope walker, but every single one of them is urging the person on. No-one wants to see that person fall. And so I’d remind Liz that she has people around her, urging her on. They can’t walk the road that she’s on for her, they can’t do the hard work that she is needing to do, but they are with her, every step of the way, urging her on. Feeling her pain. Feeling her frustration. But cheering her on. As hard as it is for Liz to let people in, to share with them her pain, her hurt and all the messy feelings she has, that audience may well be her biggest ally in forward momentum, in helping her stay on that very narrow and flimsy path she’s on. They can lend her their strength. They can give her courage. They can remind her of who she really is, when circumstances around her try to steal that away from her.
How about the juggling balls? We’re all juggling so much, all the time, aren’t we? But here’s the thing…..circus performers don’t start off with all the items they have to juggle. They have a few things, then they have more added to their performance, and then sometimes these items are taken away and/ or swapped out for other things…and then eventually, one by one, they catch every item they have and finish their routine. I’m thinking that sometimes we forget that we can throw back some of the balls that we juggle. We don’t have to always be juggling so much. Sometimes we have the capacity to juggle more, and sometimes we don’t – it keeps our routines fresh that’s for sure. The hard thing is to know what and when to throw away some of the balls/ items, right? Without the whole routine not going completely out the window. But its possible. And – what’s the worse that can happen? We do drop some balls? Even seamless circus performances can go badly wrong…..and what the audience doesn’t see are the hours and hours of practice put in, to make those performances as near perfect as possible. We’re allowed to drop some balls from time to time if we give ourselves enough grace, and when we have the people around us, to either leave those balls by our side and urge us on anyway, or to helpfully hand them back to us, when the timing is right, and we can once again include those balls into our timetables and routines.
The tightrope, and the juggling…….not easy….not really much fun when so much energy and focus is needed…..but do-able my friend, dear Liz. It’s do-able. Especially when you keep looking up, and you keep your biggest fans by your side. It’s do-able my friend. xx