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What do you need?

When my dad died, so many people reached out to me. Phone calls, cards, letters, facebook messages, emails. My closest friends (in heart and proximity) showed up in the most amazing ways. Bringing food and plants and hugs and shoulders and comforting words. People, I don't even know that well, or have lost touch with, showed up too, and it warmed my heart. It made me realize that when someone you know is having a hard time, it's better to say something than nothing. So many times we don't say anything, fearing that we won't have the right words, or that we will upset someone. I was so touched by people's efforts; it didn't matter what they said or did, only that they cared enough to try.

A few years ago, someone I love dearly was going through a very hard time. A couple hundred times, I tried to reach out but stopped myself because I wasn't sure of my words. Other people told me to keep quiet. Sweep it under the rug. What if you're wrong? I listened, against my gut feeling. Years later, when she finally opened up to me, I told her that I'd wanted to talk to her about it but was afraid. You know what she said? "I wish you would have."

It is very difficult for me to reach out for help. When I do, it's usually very tentative. I'm afraid of rejection, I guess. I try to offer support whenever and wherever I can, but I'm reluctant to ask for it. Consequently, a lot of the time, I feel misunderstood and isolated. Occasionally, I step outside my comfort zone, and try, in my own awkward way, to ask for help. Usually, no one even recognizes my feeble attempts, hence they don't respond how I wish they would, and the vicious cycle continues.

People often say, "I'm here if you need anything," and then wait. Wait to be needed, I guess. I do it too. It's easy to say, and we are always genuine in our assertion. But in some cases, in my case, I am never strong to admit I'm weak--never brave enough to say I need something. I remember one of my very dearest friends holding me tightly by the shoulders, looking straight into my eyes, and saying, "What do you NEED?" I couldn't name it. My husband says all the time, "What can I do for you?" I don't know. Seems like I know it when I get what I need, but I certainly don't know how to ask for it.

Sometimes it is as simple as asking the right question. Sometimes it takes persistence. Sometimes it just takes showing up at the right time. People always tell me they are "here" for me. I don't really know what to do with that. There are people I trust with my secrets, people I trust with my kids, people I even trust with my life, but there are very few people I trust with my heart.

Last Sunday at church, the pastor said something that resonated with me in a profound way: "As long as we are growing, we will always be outside of our comfort zone." I never really considered that. I try to grow and change right here in my safe little place without risking rejection or pain. Pain sometimes finds its way into my safe place, but I certainly don't go looking for it. And I certainly don't open myself up to anything that could possibly hurt me if I can avoid it. So, I have been trying to take baby steps outside of my comfort zone. I'll admit, I've only tiptoed out and then quickly run back inside. It's a start though.

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