Friends, I know what you’re used to seeing from me. Usually, I’ve got your back. Usually, I help to take care of you. I say food and childcare are my love languages, and I’m used to loving you well.
When you need help, I’ll schlep your kids across town or let them play at our house for a few hours.
I’ll make a meal for you when you have a new baby.
I’ll remind you that a big project is due for our kids’ class.
If I haven’t heard from you in a while, I’ll touch base to make sure you’re doing OK.
I remember your favorite snacks and will buy them for you just because.
I’ll text you on your birthday, and your kids’ birthdays, and tell you how much you’re all loved.
I send artwork to my kids’ grandparents, and post and print photos often.
When you’re going through something big and scary, or incredibly sad, I’ll show up with a loaf of banana bread and my sympathies.
The truth is, I’m generally a thoughtful person. I’m not used to having to remember to do all of this. I’ve always been one of those people who enjoy my role as a helper. I’m not saying that to brag, it’s just the truth.
But right now? I’m not.
Birthdays pass by that go unmentioned. Dates that are usually seared in my brain—the anniversary of a loss or the day you’re supposed to find out your test results—slip by unnoticed. The banana bread goes unbaked, and I find myself in the grocery store unable to remember which candy is your favorite.
I’m in the midst of a trauma. I know we all are, but for whatever reason, this trauma is breaking me down. I’m not able to do the things I used to do. I’m not able to take care of you.
Instead, I find you taking care of me.
You call me from Target to tell me they finally have butter, and would I like you to grab some for me?
You text me that the snow cone truck is coming by tomorrow and I should place my order before they sell out.
You drop sidewalk chalk and lemons off on our doorstep because you know how quickly we go through both.
You drive by on my son’s birthday with a carton of ice cream, passed off without contact.
You silly string him from your car, eliciting the biggest laugh I’ve seen from him in weeks.
You give me pep talks over Marco Polo or Zoom, and you buy me a bag of Brightside Skittles to remind me to keep my chin up.
You send me dozens of messages throughout the day, checking in or cheering up, consoling or rallying, depending on what I might need most.
All of this time, all of these years, I thought it needed to be me.
I’m used to being thoughtful, and it always came easily to me. But I’m going through something—we all are—and my magic power of helping and taking care of others has drifted away. I don’t know where it’s gone, and I’m mourning its loss. I’m hoping it comes back soon.
But until then, I find myself surrounded by your thoughtfulness instead. I remember it’s not always on me. I remember I’m allowed to be the weakest link once in a while. I’ll soak up your love, delivered with sticks of butter and boxes of sidewalk chalk.
And I’ll remember you’re there for me even when I’m not there for you. Even when I’m not there for myself.
And I’ll remember that we will get through this together. That this too shall pass. And that there are warm loaves of banana bread, thoughtfully delivered, on the other side.