I was having a sad day and sent a group text to a couple of people I care about.

It was the end of winter break and I had to say goodbye to my son at the airport. Does it ever get any easier? Usually, I keep things like that to myself, but I’m really trying to ask for support when I need it because sometimes my little sads turn into big sads these days, so I reached out.

Crickets. No response from either of them.

I briefly felt the old wound I’ve lived most of my life behind show up.

You are alone.

Nobody is coming for you.

You can’t rely on anyone.

I was standing at a fork in the road. That narrative takes me down a lonely path where I repress my feelings and push on, alone. Maybe it will always make a brief appearance. Maybe someday it will get replaced, I’m not sure. I know there’s another path at this fork though. It’s the one where I courageously try again and keep building deeper relationships by sharing  my vulnerable side with people. Old path = reinforces my old narrative. New path = shows me new evidence of something truer.

No one friend, partner, or family member can be everything.

This is why we need a tapestry of relationships. People are good at different things. I have friends who like to ask a bunch of questions and go deep. I have friends who are amazing problem-solvers. I have friends who are terrific listeners. I have friends who are awesome validators and make me feel seen. I have friends who are the best at making me laugh.

On top of that, friends go through their own seasons. They can be in the midst of their own crisis and not able to show up the way they usually do. They can be too busy at the moment. They can be stressed and just not have the bandwidth for what you need. That’s all okay.

Here are some good questions to ask when you’re thinking about reaching out to someone.

What do I need? 

Validation? Help? Advice? Connection? When you don’t know the answer to this question, you’re gonna get whatever the person thinks you need (usually advice).

Who is best for this job?

Think about the strengths of the people in your life. Who is the best match for this? When you accidentally ask the wrong person and they show up with their default response, you may end up feeling lonelier than if you never reached out.

Is this the right time to ask them?

From what you know is going on in their lives, will they have the ability to give you what you need. If you’re not sure, you can always reach out with an ask first – do you have the bandwidth for this?

A previous version of me would have shut down as soon as I concluded neither person was going to respond. I would have retreated to comfort myself alone and maybe tumble down a dark hole in the process, or else push my sadness away. However, I’m committed to feeling my feelings and strengthening my relationships in the hard moments too, so I reached out to a different group.

I wasn’t calling an SOS. I didn’t need support or advice. I also didn’t want to dive into anything deeper or get involved in a lengthy text exchange. I knew I just wanted to be seen, so I brushed off the failed attempt – you never know what’s going on with people anyway and why they don’t respond to your text – and sent a text to a different group. I sent it to people I thought might be better aligned with what I needed, and guess what? They all got back to me immediately and with the perfect responses, further proving to myself that my old narrative isn’t true at all. I am not alone.

Neither are you.