How to Support Yourself and Others—Even When You’re StrugglingBy Lynya Floyd
Last week, I found myself crying in the middle of my living room. And it was not the cinematic, lone track of tears gently spilling down my face, but a straight-up ugly cry that left me drained. It would be cliché, and flat-out incorrect, to say that the tears came out of nowhere. (Do they ever really?) I know the exact cold mountains of racial conflict those rivers of grief came from. I know the genuine and heartfelt phone call from a dear friend that created a safe space for them to flow. And, still, I was blindsided by them. Because when I picked up her phone call, I had my emotional mask on.
All of us put up facades of strength at one time or another in life. We might wear a mask of joy when our friend announces their amazing new job when underneath we’re stressed about how we’ll pay this month’s rent. We may wear a facade of bravery so that we don’t worry our aging parents when we drop off groceries for them in the midst of a pandemic. We might disguise ourselves as calm to avoid making our kids anxious when they ask us tough questions about racial injustice.
Unfortunately, we tend to forget that the same emotional mask we’ve put on is the same one we’re seeing on others. We forget that if we’re just one phone call away from a breakdown, someone else probably is, too.
What’s worse, our masks may not come off when it’s just us looking at ourselves in the mirror. We may not even realize how deeply we’re hurting.
This is your reminder to remember.
With so much going on in the world (from pandemics to protests to financial problems), most of us are feeling overwhelmed and overlooked. Whether you’re socially distancing or living under the same roof with others, this is how to genuinely check in with the strong people in your life—and yourself.
CHECKING IN WITH OTHERS
Know That There Are Bad Questions
To clarify, “You doing okay?” is a bad question because you already know the answer. You wouldn’t be checking in if you thought they were okay. I’m not saying you have to use prose that would make Hallmark jealous when you touch base. It’s fine to call and say, “I don’t know what to say. . .” or “I know I don’t have the right words, but I didn’t want to not reach out, because I care about you.”