A couple weeks ago, I went to Escapology, a wonderful escape room in London. I went with my partner, in an attempt to try something we would have to do as a team. Don’t get me wrong, we have to work as a team all the time. Any relationship of 20 years, building a family and raising two kids who are awesome but who can, at times, make us question our sanity, requires teamwork. But we have struggled a lot lately with communicating what we need and what we want. I think most relationships go through that.
The escape room was really fun. We opted for the “Budapest Express” room. The premise is that someone has died on the train and our job was to determine who the murderer was while solving puzzles and collecting clues. We had one hour to get the clues, solve the crime and get out of the room. Unfortunately, we ran out of time. We were so close, but could not get to that last clue which would lead us out of the room.
On reflection, however, I learned a lot from this experience, even if we didn’t escape. There is no way I could have done this on my own. We had to work together, using our strengths and relying on one another to fill in the gaps when our knowledge and understanding fell short. I missed things she found, and she missed things I found.
Those who know me well know that I have a bad habit of not asking for help. I want to do everything on my own. Not only that, I believe I can do everything on my own. And to make matters worse, I really hate failure. Not in others. I celebrate First Attempts In Learning in my students and my staff and in my family members and friends. But for me, to even consider the emotional turmoil I know I will feel if I don’t do things perfectly is terrifying. I am working on this. This kind of perfectionism has robbed me of joy, and has kept me from having some amazing experiences. A year ago I would never admit to anyone that I need help. Today, however, because I have a team of wonderful people who love and respect me enough to call me on my BS, I am beginning to be brave enough to ask for help when I need it. And once in a while, I can even ask for help, even when I don’t believe I need it.
The escape room is like our lives. We are there. We are in it. We have a task, a purpose. And we only have a limited amount of time to do what we are meant to do. To do it alone is not only hard, it isn’t possible. We can certainly try. And we will fail. We will fail and we will miss stuff, and we will lose the joy that comes from doing life together. I have a friend who has encouraged me to build a team, a small group of trusted people with whom I can share my real self, failures and all, and who will continue to encourage me to show up, to try, to fail and then to pick myself up and try again. These are the people who don’t let me give up. These are the people who can see me – like REALLY see me – and who will not judge. These are the people who will tell me to check my black and white thinking, to stop trying to fix everything and instead to experience and feel. These are the people who will call me out when I try to do life alone.
Who is on your team? Who has given you the gift of being on their team? My team consists of my closest family, a few earnest friends, trusted colleagues, my wonderful therapist, my doctor and that’s about it. Not too many. But the ones who are there really matter. They check in. They let me fall on my face because they know I need to learn that I will be ok and I will get back up. They don’t let me give up. They don’t let me compare myself to others. They do encourage me to see things differently. Like in the escape room. I can get stuck in one way of seeing something and occasionally need someone to challenge my way of thinking.
I am so grateful for having this team of trusted people who push me and support me, who hold space for me to work out my thinking and feeling and who, on occasion, just let me vent and process and reflect without any judgement. We all need people like this in our lives. We never have to walk through life alone.