Do you know the story of the frog and the pot of hot water?
When a frog was dropped into a pan filled with boiling water, it jumped right out. Naturally!
Who could bear to stay in that atmosphere?
But when the frog was in the water, and the flame was slowly turned up, the frog didn't jump out.
It kept trying to accommodate and accommodate to the change in temperature, and it slowly boiled to death.
That's one of my favorite teaching stories, because it reminds me how often we "get used to" unbearable circumstances. We keep trying and trying to deal with something and don't jump — or get out of a difficult and potentially dangerous place.
This came to mind this week when a friend of mine with RA called me up and asked if she could just talk to me for a while.
I was glad to listen, and we spent about half an hour on the phone as she detailed some serious health concerns. Then we exchanged stories about work, and our partners, and recipes and hung up.
The next day she called back to tell me how important that conversation was for her.
"I just don't talk about my arthritis very much," she confessed. "I don't know why. I guess I don't want to feel like a complainer, or like I'm always thinking about my disease. I don't want to be always talking about it, that's for sure!
"But I felt so much better when I got off the phone with you."
Hmmm. There's a disconnect there. I see and hear it a lot.
Someone feels better — relieved, supported, relaxed, validated … you supply the best word — when they are able to talk about how they feel with someone who will be present and listen.
But we resist doing that which helps us. We resist asking for help — even or especially in the form of having someone just listen.
We create beliefs that "I should manage this on my own" … "People will think I'm a complainer" … or "I don't want to talk about being in pain."
You think about it often enough! But you believe your pain is yours alone to cope with.
You forget how good it would feel to take a deep breath and tell someone your story. To know that someone is on your side, and someone is beside you.
Instead you keep trying to soldier on alone, manage by yourself, and deal with it on your own.
This is living like a frog in a pot of water with the heat slowly rising. It takes more and more energy to deal with your internal and external environment.
Decide to do it differently today.
Call someone you love and ask for a few minutes. Make a date with a therapist or pastor or rabbi. Sit down with your best friend. Take the risk of telling someone how you feel — someone you know wants to walk alongside you.
You'll agree with me that the air will feel cooler and you will have a sense of spaciousness. You'll stop accommodating to every difficult pressure and find there is room to breathe.
Make the jump.