From Jane's World
Early on, my dad taught me many lessons to help me learn to navigate the challenges we all face in life. One was to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” Another was “If you fall off your horse, get right back on.” I’ve prided myself on having listened to my dad. He was a hard worker. I wanted to be like him when I grew up. However, he never had the opportunity to teach me the lesson I learned the other day.
As a child, I fell off my horse, Lucky, many times and got back on. Lucky was sold a long time ago, but I’ve continued to fall in other ways. I get excited about ideas that don’t pan out. I try offering new classes, additional hours, and different locations for my fitness training business. Many times these ideas don’t work. I write an essay I feel is pretty decent, and a friend reads it and remarks, “I didn’t like it.” I decide to lose 20 pounds, and it never happens. The list of my failures and weaknesses is long.
One thing I know for sure is, like my dad, I’m a hard worker. That has been my saving grace. If I lose one of my jobs, I feel there’s no need to worry because I’ll just do something else. I’ll write another book, organize an event for the women in my area, or make new note cards with my photography. I’m not certain if such thoughts qualify as confidence or stupidity. Anyone reading this will have their own opinions.
Recently something happened to me that taught me a new lesson. What I thought was the flu turned out to be Lyme disease—again—and a co-infection. It wiped me out. Completely. I spent almost four days in a hospital bed thinking, “This is it. I’m dying.” I’ve spent even longer at home trying to recover. On the flip side, I thought, “It’s a good day to die. I’ve had a great life.”
The worst part was being unable to work. I couldn’t teach my classes, meet my clients, see my friends, pet my beloved animals, or go for daily hikes to my happy place. Heck, I couldn’t even eat for the first three days (not an ideal way to lose those 20 pounds).
Trying to pull myself up to a sitting position was tough—forget about the bootstraps. And getting back on my proverbial horse? It wasn’t going to happen. I was down and out.
Everything I’d learned since I was a kid was being challenged. Working was impossible. I had been brought down to my knees. I had to learn a bigger lesson than any my dad had taught me. I had to learn to say “Help!” But at the time I couldn’t.
A friend asked if she could start a GoFundMe campaign to help me get back on my feet. I became emotional and croaked, “No!” I was afraid my situation wasn’t big enough to warrant that kind of kindness—that I wasn’t worthy enough. I was ashamed to let anyone know I was down on my luck and in over my head. Those two lessons from my dad kept going through my mind.
I was weak, both physically and mentally, from being sick with Lyme but I also had to deal with my own foolish pride. I whispered to my friend that maybe if I didn’t know about it, it would be okay. My irrational thinking was that I could accept her help if I didn’t have to see a post on social media, an article in the newspaper, or, God forbid, a poster around town.
Instead of getting annoyed, my friend took action. She sent an email to eight other women whom I lead in a fitness program, and they apparently sent it on to more people. The following week this friend handed me a coffee can filled with money—money to help me stay afloat during hard times. My friend and many other people in the community pulled together and gave me the help I couldn’t bring myself to ask for.
I worried about whom to thank. I worried I would be judged. I still worried I wasn’t worthy. I worried all the way from the class where I was given the can to my bank, where I handed the teller the can and said, “I was just given this. I’ve been sick. I haven’t counted it. Will you count it and please put it in my account?”
I drove home with hot tears stinging my face. I thought about my dad. I thought about my work, my house, my animals, my friends. I thought about how undeserving I am. I thought about how wonderful my friends and community are. I thought about my life. I thought about what I love.
Mostly I thought about what I’d learned. Needing help or asking for it is not a weakness. It’s a skill that I need to learn. Working hard is easy; admitting I couldn’t take care of myself was hard.
Thank you, dear friends. Thank you, loving community. I’m feeling deeply grateful and humble.
"I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma." —Eartha Kitt (and Jane)
Originally Published June 22nd, 2017 in the Crawford County Independent & Kickapoo Scout