I Get By with a Little Help from my Friends

by Elizabeth Newcomer




            While I was in California in July, visiting two of my best friends from childhood, Stef and Lauren, I had a mini-meltdown in the car ride down from San Francisco to Santa Barbara for Stef’s bachelorette weekend on my 32nd birthday.  The reason for the meltdown?  Well, I did have major PMS, so I can always use that as an excuse, but it’s also because my Type Four vice of Envy was in full effect, leading me to destructive patterns of comparison and leaving me feeling inadequate.  The topic?  Self-care. 
The few days before our car trip, I stayed with Stef and Lauren and got to witness first hand some of their habits.  I became very aware of how well they were taking care of themselves physically, in regards to exercising and eating healthily.  Being far from routine myself, in the past several months, I have not adhered to any specific regimen. 
            What struck me, was how they had made certain healthful practices habitual, and how they made those practices a priority.  Stef had a yoga studio nearby with favorite teachers that she liked to frequent.  Lauren went on runs in Palo Alto before getting her workday started.  They both ate a lot of quinoa and vegetables, said “no” to the mid-week glass of wine, and in general listened to what would make their bodies feel good.
            Boy, my envy began raging.  I, too, want to have a regimen of self-care that I prioritize!  And yet, I feel so far away from that.  In times of stress, when I go to my resource point of Type Two, I match my loved ones.  I do what they do, when they do it.  I eat what they eat, I time how long it takes me to do something with how long they do it.  I guess you could also say, I become co-dependent. 
            I was so envious, and almost mad, that Stef and Lauren were able to hold a space for their own process.  Even though I was in town, Stef opted for a yoga class to clear her anxious head, instead of meeting me for an indulgent shopping trip.  Lauren woke up early to ensure she'd have time to run, while I lazed sleepily in bed.
            (I realize, now that I’m writing this, that I may seem overly hard on myself, perhaps.  That is familiar territory for me, and an aspect I am trying to treat gently.)
            So, back to the car ride melt down.  I wanted to snack on things that are bad for you, like Doritos and Diet Coke and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups!  I wanted to do the whole Road Trip Wasteland Diet (not a real diet, I just made that up).  But, still, in the car, Stef had yummy, but healthy snacks from Trader Joe’s: fruit leather, and flax seed corn chips. 
            I began to take it personally, like their eating and their regimen was a direct reflection on me.  I also thought that it meant that they must be judging my habits of neglect, my choices to lounge on the couch over taking a yoga class, to sip wine with sushi on a Monday night.  Then, my idealistic Four mind chirped in and wanted to be that perfect specimen, who is glowing and thin and beautiful, who adheres to healthy habits, who listens and meets her own needs.  And I just broke.
            What was so awesome, is that Stef and Lauren just let me cry it out, and whine a little bit.  They held a space for me.  They encouraged me.  And they assured me that I was beautiful and perfect just the way I am, and that their only wish is for me to be happy.  They explained that they did what they needed to do to take care of themselves, and that, in no way, means they are judging me and my choices.
            It felt nice to get that all out, to let my perceived “ugly” thoughts and feelings have space to breathe.  It’s nice because now I have compassion for myself through all steps of that process of realization.  In the Enneagram, your type, or ego structure can really take over if you are overly identified with it.  And reactivity, which is what I was experiencing, though conceivably messy and uncomfortable, can also point you to the way of growth.  By acknowledging my feelings of inadequacy and envy, I am able to appreciate Stef and Lauren’s ability to take care of themselves, and know that that’s something I would like for myself.  But I am also, able to cut myself some slack, and come to terms with the perfectly imperfect being that I am.