When do we reach our breaking point? And what makes us reach it?
Today would definitely qualify as being my red-letter, camel that broke my back, breaking point day. Today would be the day I'll call my George Bailey day. Not the standing on the bridge before jumping in to save Clarence the wanna-be angel George Baily day. Today would be the entire sequence that came right after that, when Bedford Falls turns into Pottersville.
And I guess this is a good thing. But before I get to the good, I need to figure out the bad.
Today I asked a very hard question. I asked someone who I love with my whole being and who loves me in the same way for help, help of a very particular kind. And the answer was no. I think I knew the answer was going to be no, but the saying it and the hearing it couldn't have been more painful.
I wrote a letter first, explaining the circumstances and how difficult it was for me to ask. I had to put it into writing because I couldn't let known the break in my voice, the despair in my being. I didn't want to reveal my fear. It was the right thing to do because in writing the letter, I was able to preserve a certain level of dignity and to create space and time to digest the information.
When we finally connected on the phone, the loving concern on the other line was genuine and that was a really good feeling. As the conversation continued, the concern turned to well-intentioned questions about what we are doing to get us out of our current situation. I calmly answered them, feeling like I was at an intake session for social services. Somewhere between the answering of the phone and the questions, the no was there all along. I finally stopped answering the questions and asserted we've explored all our options and that I wouldn't be having this conversation or have sent the letter if we hadn't. The call of last resort.
I almost made it through the conversation without losing my cool and bursting into tears. But again, in this 30 day challenge to honestly bring myself to the public page and more importantly, to my life, I had to be honest. I expressed my disappointment, my growing sense of isolation and stress. I expressed my anger at what it is to turn to who you think is the last person you can turn to and for that person to say no.
The phone conversation ended uneasily, murmurs of "I'll talk to you later," instead of "I love you."
It was time to pick the kids up from school just as I finished the call. The bell rings and the school doors opens. My oldest emerges, walking and holding her best friend's hand. She sees me and immediately begins to feel my expression out and I quickly put on a happy face and gave her a big hug and kiss. She soon gets distracted with her sister's after school candy, which I happily let them have - anything to take the focus off the soon to be permanent furrow between my brow.
I take a deep breath and take it all in. Somewhere in the exhale, which I'd say was the first real breath I'd taken in days, I began to think how often and how easy it is to say no to all the little things in one's day. I'm great at saying no to my kids, my husband and especially to myself. I think about the other ways I say no: when I look the other way at the fourth or fifth person I've driven by whose holding a sign asking for help, having already given to the first, second and third. How I've been saying no to dreams put on hold, my writing, my singing, this blog, so many aspects of my life throughout my life.
Breaking point? Yes. To the point of no return? No. No! That's the good part of the breaking point, the combined place and time where everyone, including those who love you the most and especially me, gets to say no, with love and compassion. And the good news is that there will be more breaking points and that might really be the meta-purpose of this whole stressful stint.
And even with this understanding, I'm still hoping for the other part of my George Bailey day to happen. You know, the part after George, despite his perceived financial ruin and public humiliation, realizes he wants to be very much part of this world and rushes home to Mary and the kids and when Clarence finally gets his wings? That's the kind of happy ending I'm looking for today.