I Could Use a Hand at My Back

Around 5 o’clock, I asked for help.

At 5:30, I would walk into a room of people I had known, loved, and then left. Not with anger or hate. But with the recognition that life was taking me one way and them another. It had been years – over a decade? – since we had stood in a room together.

Now, at 5 o’clock, I was plain nervous. Flimsy legs and curled spine, mouth dry as the desert, wondering how I’d protect my heart if they looked at me with unremembering eyes.

I took out my phone. Brought up my brother’s number. “I’m going to see them,” I wrote him. “Feeling weird.” Then, in a moment of frank vulnerability, I asked for something I rarely ask for:

“Words of encouragement welcome…”

So, help me. Support me. Walk with me through these next moments. I could use a hand at my back.

I don’t ask this much. My reasoning: Why bother? I think. People have jobs and spouses and kids; who has time to shepherd you through your rough patches? My truth: I don’t want to expose the tender, most easily wounded parts of my heart to the world.

Across the country and three time zones away, my brother took out his phone and responded: “Completely understandable.”

Don’t know if I have great words of wisdom, he wrote, but here’s something that’s stuck with me: “Be where your feet are.”

Which I liked. Which would lift up my spine and widen out my heart. Which I would carry with me into that room, where I would be met with warm, beautiful, remembering eyes.

And which would remind me, and those tender, easily wounded parts of my heart, that one of the best ways to get a hand at our back is to ask for it.

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