When you were a kid, did you ever try sit on a beach ball in the water?
I used to try to fool my friends in the deep end of the pool. I’d push that ball down as hard as I could with my arms and then slowly put one leg at a time over the top, until finally, I had a floating chair.
Then I’d call out, Hey look at me, I’m standing!
Inevitably, as soon as they’d look my way, I’d lose my balance and the ball would come flying up into the air with the force of a giant splash. I would fall under the water and everyone would laugh. My cover completely blown. I’d rise from the water like a drowned rat, my pride damaged.
I still try to sit on beach balls sometimes.
I caught myself doing it recently. When asked how I was doing, I responded with a big smile and a consistent answer that all was well. But then, my beach ball was a little unsteady and I wobbled.
I realized that in reality, everything was not great.
There was something brewing in me that I wasn’t talking about. I was shoving it down, pretending it wasn’t there. I was walled off. So many things were going well on the outside, it was just faster and easier to gloss over the icky parts and stick to the script. It’s amazing how putting yourself in transparent relationships with others will make you drop the script.
As soon as you call out, trying to pretend everything is okay, the beach ball will blow.
That’s what happened with me.
What’s wonderful about close friends though, is when you come up from the water, you don’t see them laughing and feel the weight of damaged pride. It’s actually completely opposite. You see them swimming towards you, hands outstretched, ready to pull you back to the shallow end.
They become concerned and empathetic life guards.
When they start to swim towards you, something beautiful happens. You instantly see beach balls emerge from the water all around them. As they turn their love and attention towards you, it allows them to ease up on the beach balls they’ve been pushing down, too.
When I followed up my surface response with a deeper more authentic answer, my friends responded with such openness, empathy, and love.
I was struck by one response in particular.
One friend said, You are not alone. Amid the explanation of her ups and downs she said, I am just tired of feeling like the broken one.
I felt her every word.
It stung, but it healed. I felt so held. Not because she was actually holding me, because she was standing beside me. Because she reminded me I wasn’t drowning. I was just a little wet and embarrassed. And so was she.
Everyone needs a friend and a towel sometimes.
Every one of us needs to be reminded that we aren’t the broken one.
We are human.
We have needs and dreams and desires. We want to float perfectly on our beach balls waving a pageant wave and smiling a vaseline smile, but it’s impossible. What we need is a towel and a hand to hold.
We need to splash around in the shallow end with a friend who loves us.
Do you ever feel like the broken one?
You aren’t broken. You are human.
A messy, imperfect, beautiful, unique human being.
Let go of your death grip on the beach ball.
To more love,
P.S. Last year, I wrote about why we need a friendship challenge. It’s beautiful that this year, I can write a story about how that challenge and that app have kept me sane. 😉