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What is Support?

Last year, I was in a leadership position for a women’s weekend and found myself saying, “Reach out for support” often to the staff as we were preparing for the weekend.

I hadn’t stopped to consider what exactly I meant by that.

What is support?

How do I know if I need it? Or what kind I need? From whom?

As I explored these questions, I found myself offering suggestions, in part as “starters” to get the women’s imaginations flowing.

In an email, I wrote, “Reach out for support if you need it. That might look like hopping on the phone with someone and asking them to just listen. It could look like asking someone to go through the order of the weekend with you to make sure you’ve got what you need in place for yourself. Or asking someone to give you permission to deem your prep ‘good enough’ instead of raking yourself over the coals for not being perfect (she said to herself as much as to the others). It might look like setting aside time to sit quietly or get a pedicure or go for a walk.”

I’ve said before that I have a hard time resting or taking care of myself. If I don’t support myself, how could I know how to ask for support?

I’ve spent a lot of time exploring what support looks like for me.

I believe that support looks different for each of us and is situation-specific. I might need a listening ear in one instance and someone to challenge me in another. This isn’t the supporter’s job to guess. It’s mine to become aware of and be clear when I reach out to be supported.

I’ve written about being a food addict. Support is a major component of “working a strong program”.

Reach out for support.

Sound familiar?

For me, food can serve as a distraction if I’m bored, as comfort when I’m emotional, or as “volume” when I feel depleted.

Food is meant as fuel, not a co-dependent partner.

I recently had a tender conversation scheduled with a good friend. It would take place right around the time I usually have dinner.

Before the call, I prepared my food so that, as soon as the call was done, I could eat and not have to prepare anything when I might be emotional.

Additionally, I texted three different friends.

“I’m heading into a tender conversation. I have prepped my food and commit to feel my feelings and eat only what I have prepared. Nothing more.”

As soon as I hit “send” on the third text, I felt a weight lift off my chest. No one had even responded yet. Just knowing other people knew, or would know, was enough. I wasn’t bearing the burden alone, and I had people who would be waiting to hear how it went.

I had the conversation, ate my food, and texted back to say I had done what I said I would.

Not even a week later, I saw that the 10-year anniversary of having lost my dad was coming and that my husband would be leaving the day after to be out of town for a week.

I couldn’t know what emotions might come up, but I did know that it was possible the space left in my life by my husband’s absence would create the opportunity for some feelings of grief to come up.

Again, I sent texts to multiple people.

“Tomorrow is 10 years since we lost my dad. Judah and I are going out for V-Day dinner tomorrow night ... and then he's leaving for a week. I commit to acknowledging and feeling my feelings ... and reaching out for support if I need it.”

With this awareness, I also offered to have a “remembering Dad” conversation with my mom. Sharing memories was a form of support.

I didn’t end up feeling overly emotional that week. I wasn’t triggered by or overwhelmed by my husband’s absence. But, I knew that if I had been, I had three people who were primed and ready to be there for me.

As I continue to explore “support”, I am seeing that sometimes support involves simply bearing witness to someone else’s life. On the receiving end of that, it is allowing others “in” to some of the harder parts of my life so they can bear witness.

Is it vulnerable to ask for support? Yes.

Is “can I get some support from you?” an honest yes-or-no question? Yes! Sometimes the capacity of the person I ask will not line up with my need. That’s okay. And an important reminder that my support “team” cannot consist of only one person!

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