There is a favorite fable of mine that I first heard on our all-time favorite show “The West Wing.” This story is also popular in a more traditional version on Sunday mornings. It’s read aloud to congregations of varying denominations or emailed by Pastors like is was to my friend. Anyway, I’ve read or been sent this story more than a few times over the years.
The first version of the fable as appeared on the show is told by Leo McGarry to his protégé Josh Lyman- following a grueling therapy session where he discovers he has PTSD from being shot. If you don’t know The West Wing, hop to it… it’s on Netflix friends. Alas, the story is a bit more casual than the church version as you can imagine.
This guy’s walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out.
A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, ‘Hey you. Can you help me out?’ The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on.
Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, ‘Father, I’m down in this hole can you help me out?’ The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on.
Then a friend walks by, ‘Hey, Joe, it’s me can you help me out?’ And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, ‘Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.’ The friend says, ‘Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.’
You can read the more religious version online or watch the video that was sent to me here. Both versions speak to me, but there is something a bit more real and tangible from the West Wing story.
I’ve been in a hole. Actually, I’ve been in several different types of holes in my life and in one not too long ago in fact. I know you have too, friends. These holes are the darker times when we don’t know how to help ourselves. We don’t feel we have the tools or the maps to navigate by ourselves.You experience a loss of control, lack the motivation to get out of the hole, and you can lose all sense of time in there also. It feels like shit, frankly and we tend not to want to face why we’re in there in the first place.
As the story goes, our first inclination is toward simply medicating our problems. Just throw a prescription at the issue. My mild post partum was confounded by my painful sense of bewilderment when Landon was born. I remember a distant friend telling me she was on something and I immediately wanted it. So I hopped on the “Pass the Zoloft” bandwagon and figured I would feel fine in no time. Now I do believe some people need medication. I am not saying it’s not an enormously helpful answer to a lot of very serious diagnoses or problems. But… for most… it’s just the beginning of the answer. It did help me, I believe, and I’m glad for that. But it was simply one piece of the puzzle.
So… next we head off to church and try to just pray our way out of it. I have heard countless times that if I offer my problems to God, they will be answered and I’ll be taken care of…and so on. YES… I understand and am living proof that this part of the answer also helps one feel whole again. Church and faith absolutely can be part of the answer to finding light again.. But for me and for many others this too is just part of the equation.
The final answer comes in the form of what my friend Haley and I have dubbed the “Foxhole Friend”. That person that you are not necessarily related to OR married to. This is the person or persons that you call when shit gets REAL. It’s who you text when you go into labor, or when you or your spouse loses their job. When you cannot stop crying because whatever just happened hurts so badly that you need someone else to tell you that you can survive it. It is that face that you need to see or voice you need to hear when you just cannot see past the darkness. They know the light inside you. They know that you’re capable of hard things, and they are in this world to remind you of that.
When Landon was born there were six people I texted. Women that I let into the inner circle of pure helplessness that I was feeling. Those same women felt my pain and joy alongside me. They have all reminded me over the last two and half years that this child is a gift and they all love her like she is part of their family. Because…she is. These six are the very same women I sent a message to two months ago when we lost the baby. And again, they responded with intense love and understanding. They sent cards, follow up texts. They knew I couldn’t survive the pain without their words. There are certainly more than six that I love like family. Many more who I would fly across the world to support and help them out of their own holes. But there are the few that you try first and that’s just the way of life as we get older. So to those that hopefully know who they are… thank God for you. I have survived these holes in my life because of you. You quite literally lifted me up. I love you.
Here’s to celebrating our Foxhole Friends today and every day. I hope for all of you that these holes are fewer and far between one another, but if you fall in… call upon these friends. I promise that letting each other in far outweighs any other option.