“Some people need a red carpet rolled out in front of them in order to walk forward into friendship. They can’t see the tiny outstretched hands all around them, everywhere, like leaves on trees.” – Miranda July
Last weekend, my boyfriend Mark and I went camping together for the first time. I was excited to spend time in nature after a whirlwind week of starting my first full time job.
Between temperatures in the high 90s, a snake falling out of a tree in front of Mark’s face, his untimely discovery of my extreme raccoon phobia, watching a tree collapse right where we were about to walk, and stargazing from the top of a picnic table, we garnered some amazing memories from the weekend.
But the most profound moment came during one of our hikes through the sandstone and canyons of Starved Rock. There are a few places on the trails where you need to climb up and down short bursts of sandstone to get a better view, and climbing has never been my forte.
So as Mark easily scaled the sandstone ahead of me, I slowly hobbled along, awkwardly grabbed the closest things to footholds that I could find, and invariably froze in fear at a certain point – typically, a point very close to where I started. I must have looked pretty pathetic because every time he realized I was far behind he backtracked to where I was, showed me the most strategic places to put my feet, grabbed my hand, and pulled me up.
By the second day of hiking we had been through this routine quite a few times, and again I found myself teetering on a rock: frozen, panicky, and calling for his help because there was no way I could physically push myself up. But as he went to grab my hand this time he told me:
“This entire time, I haven’t even been physically pulling you up. You just have a lot more confidence in yourself when you’re holding onto me.”
Of course I didn’t believe him. But after his comment, I noticed in awe that he was right – I was merely clasping his hand without putting any weight into it as I gracefully hopped up the rock.
Yoga teachers have said similar things to me: “You wouldn’t kick your legs upside down until you thought I was holding you, but really my hands weren’t even touching you.”
What is it that falsely convinces us that we are incapable of doing things – whether climbing a rock or getting a job or finding a romantic partner or expressing our zany vibrant selves in radiant and healthy ways? And what is it about having a friend’s support that changes our perception, that inspires us to push forward in our endeavors?
When fear overtakes us and the voice from our inner void pulsates with a mantra of “You can’t,” our egos flex into gear – the part of ourselves that thinks we are weak and inadequate beings separated from the consistently flowing Divine Source. Maybe if we were always on our A-game, we could recognize when this happens and re-affirm “I am capable of doing anything,” but sometimes we slip up and buy into unhelpful concepts such as lack, inadequacy, and impossibility.
We are on Earth to give and grow and taste and love and dance and express, and when we start falling into the negative attitudes and mindsets of “I will never accomplish this goal,” or “Everything always has to be difficult,” then by golly I would HOPE our friends are the ones offering their hands and nudging us towards our true potential, even if they aren’t the ones valiantly saving us from destruction.
If Mark hadn’t helped me up all of those times, whether it was physical or psychological, I would have slithered right back down those rocks and refused to keep climbing with him. That is the unfortunate power of the ego.
So maybe that’s what our friendships are for. To empower us with the confidence to push forward and achieve what we are already capable of doing. To poke and guide us along with loving assistance, even when we realize in the end that our power was in the same place that it has always been – inside our Selves.