Yet this is a story with a double-edged sword.
So let’s fast forward to present time…..
But instead, I turned to the guys next to me and said, "Do you need another person in your group?" And they replied, "No, we're all good - we've got our 3".
They had no idea that I was actually asking for help, because I was too afraid to state it.
And I realised something profound about myself in that instant.
And I know, if I’d asked in that vulnerable way, that any one of them would have been there for me. They would have made room for me. One of them would have held back to allow me to step in. How do I know this? It’s because this is the foundation of our culture in this group. We’re family. We help each other.
But the issue lay with me. I was the one who had been unable to articulate my need for help in a way that others would realise I was indeed asking for help.
As I witnessed this, my mind went back to our recent floods, and a parallel experience. It was the second round of floods in Byron, the one that was so bad it sank the centre of town under metres of water. I was alone in my home, and at 9.30 at night I was in a dilemma. I had a huge pot plant, much taller than me, positioned over a storm water drain. This flood was worse than the first one, and I knew if I didn’t get help to move that pot off the drain, the water wouldn’t be able to escape quickly enough and my home would flood this time.
But who would I ask?
My male friends are early birds, and unlikely to be answering the phone at 9.30pm. Would I walk in the pouring rain down the street, knocking on doors? I spent 5 minutes thinking about my options, and coming up blank. I ended up deciding to attempt to move it myself, and to my utter amazement I was able to do it. The flood water was already well above my ankles. I was wearing my gumboots, looking like a drenched rat with my headlamp on to give me some light. And I wobbled that massive pot back and forth and back and forth until I got it off the drain.
I was amazed that I managed to do it! Yet this was not just a physical feat. There was a deep emotional event happening for me – one that had me feeling incredibly isolated and alone. That emotion lodged in my lower back, and I’ve been in pain ever since. And it’s no wonder – metaphysically, lower back pain is linked to feeling a lack of support. So true!
Tears sprung from my eyes, saying to the world what I’d been unable to vocalise.
Two beautiful women spotted me from afar, and made a beeline for me. They stood on either side of me, shoulder to shoulder with me. They didn’t say much – they didn’t need to. I knew they’d seen me. And so I opened my mouth and asked for their help. I asked to go into the ice bath in the next round, and they stepped forward with me to ensure that I did.
Stepping into the ice was incredibly intense. I’d followed the suggestion of not hesitating, so I was under the ice before I knew it, and before my body had time to register the shock of the temperature. Then, it was just a matter of breathing. And because I was already so emotional, I simply did some power breathing as the seconds ticked away, until I reached that beautiful instant of peace (the result of so many endorphins being released by our body), and at that point I was able to relax and smile.
When the timer went off, I leapt out of the ice bath with a happy yelp. There, with arms held wide open, was one of my friends in the group. She wrapped her arms around me, and said, “I had your back the whole time you were in there.” I let her hold me, and I sobbed and sobbed.
Then she drew me away from the crowd, looked me in the eyes, and began doing the warm up exercises with me. Her eyes mirrored her words. “I have your back. I’ve got you. You are safe and loved.”
Those words struck so deeply. How often do we yearn for someone to have our back – to be that solid rock for us, even when life throws us its curved balls and we find ourselves losing our balance or our mind?
As I walked back to the hotel with her afterwards, I shared with her my “ah ha” moment, ie. that I was so good at giving help, but found it so difficult to ask for help in a way that anyone would realise I was asking for help.
She stopped and looked at me. “That’s because somewhere in our childhood, someone who was meant to be there protecting us wasn’t. So we grew up needing to take care of ourselves, and we never learned how to ask for help. It’s something we’ve got to re-learn.”
The next day, I stood up in front of that hundred people, and I shared. I shared about every moment of that experience for me. I shared with tears running down my cheeks, but with my head held high. I shared about my childhood, and how I’d been bullied and outcast, how I’d been both physically and sexually abused at different times. I shared about how grateful I am for all of those experiences, as they’ve made me into the most incredible woman I’ve ever met. I acknowledged how foreign it is for me to ask for help, yet I promised them that from this moment forwards, I will always ask for help when I need it.”
And that’s when the magic really happened.
I thought the magic was my realisation (before stepping into the ice) that I found it difficult to ask for help. Then I thought the magic was being “seen” by the two women, and having them give me the love and strength I needed in that moment. Then I thought the magic was my courage in going into the ice bath, and breathing through that experience. And then I thought the magic was being told that my friend “had my back”.
But whilst all of those played their own important part in the bigger picture, the real magic happened when I had the courage to stand up in front of a hundred people, and to allow them to see me in all my humanness, my divinity, my vulnerability.
And they saw me. In fact, my heart-felt share became a topic of conversation for the rest of the weekend. So many of these amazing people resonated with what I said, and came up and told me so. We were all cut from the same mould – powerful people who are amazing at giving, but who find it difficult to ask for help.
And what I experienced in that moment of sharing was the dissolving of the barriers I’d been carrying around all weekend.
I was the one who didn’t want to be seen. They were simply reflecting that back to me. And as soon as I had the courage to speak out, they saw me.
We can no longer remain invisible once we’ve drawn those curtains open and let the world see us. Once a miracle is given, it can’t be taken away. And here was my miracle.