• Eve Bernfeld

The Crux


“This is the crux,” I found myself calmly explaining to my daughter as she clung to the side of a giant pole. “That means it’s the hardest part of the climb.”


The ropes course instructor was impressed with my climbing-speak. I chuckled to myself that such a thing was still lodged in my brain. And my daughter hoisted herself up another step before allowing herself to swing free. She whooped with glee as the instructor lowered her to the ground and then she got promptly in line to try again. All three of my kids were way too small to get up the pole, but that didn’t stop them from trying three times each.


And it got me thinking about the crux. What is the hardest part? And, perhaps more importantly, what are the tools I can use to get over, under, through it?


“No.”


Said calmly and aloud, to myself. I swear it is a magic word.


Much has been written in recent years about learning to say NO to the million demands on our time and energy from the world around us. I agree! And I want add that there is immense value in learning to say NO to ourselves as well. In fact, learning to say NO to myself is excellent practice for learning to say NO to all the other things and people in my life that would love a piece of me.


No to what? No to holding my breath. No to bracing and stiffening and making myself small. No to guilt or shame. No to the million tiny habits of body and mind that contribute to feeling diminished, to feeling like I can’t go on.


Trudging up the stairs on a crazy school morning for the 14th time to get library books. Socks and shoes are not progressing at the rate I’d like, and I’m quite ready to start yelling my head off. Then I realize: This is the crux.


“No.” I say to myself, and find a tiny new pocket of patience.


At the top of the ropes course myself and looking out over the narrow and slippery log I’m supposed to walk across. Why did I think this was a good idea? Damn crux.


“No.” I say to myself. “Let the neck be free.”


“Wow, she looks so calm up there!” I hear from the ground, as I walk across the log.

I want to yell down: “It’s the Alexander Technique!” But I don’t.


Giving blood the other day—a million times scarier for me than any ropes course. I’m breathing, I’m thinking about the people this O+ will help, I’m silently freaking out. CRUUUUUUX!


“No.” I say to myself.


And in the moment of stopping, I realize that playing it cool is NOT working and what I really need is help. This No, it turns out, is to my fear of being vulnerable. So I give up all pride and tell everyone—from the people who sign me in to the man who draws the blood to the women at the snack table, that I’m really scared and then that I’m feeling faint. So yeah, I’m back to lying on the floor with cool cloths on my neck and head when the woman who started after I finished is sailing out of the room to get back to her day. I am not a rock star blood donor. But I DID get through it without passing out. Because I asked for help.


Because I said No.

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