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  • Writer's pictureJaime Pollard-Smith

Under Pressure

Relax. Nothing is under control. 

This past week I stood in the parking lot with four friends after a yoga class. One of these friends is a pillar of health. She eats a perfect diet, runs family 5ks for fun and goes on adventure vacations (think less lounging and more sweating). Despite all her efforts, she was hit with the news that she needed to begin treating her high blood pressure. A true competitor, at first she believed she could beat it, but once the daily readings showed otherwise, she was faced with the inevitable reality. She needed medication. There was no eating or exercising her way out of this one. 

My heart ached listening to her story, not because she had high blood pressure, but because I heard the guilt and shame in her voice as she described her failed attempts to “fix” it. 

Another friend in our group, an avid, clean-eating runner with a stand-up desk (because sitting is the new smoking), disclosed that she needed treatment for high blood pressure as well. She was undergoing testing to get to the root of her health issues. I saw that familiar pain in her eyes. She wore the “how is this happening when I am trying so hard to do everything right” face. I know that look. 

My therapist often reminds me to let go or get dragged. I am not good at that. The fear of losing control is greater than the fear of being dragged to my bloody death. Yet, control is an illusion. Taking responsibility for things I cannot change anchors me in a mindset of shame and self-blame. 

I see this scenario over and over again with my female friends. They blame themselves for health problems, work conflicts, financial burdens, every choice their children make, and so on. Instead of using energy to address our current reality, we get sucked into shaming ourselves by taking personal responsibility for issues not of our own making. “I should have known better.” It is the opposite of victim mentality and equally damning.

I told my yogi friends that I recently began a new journaling practice. I list all the parts of my life where I bear some responsibility—my lifestyle, my house, my job, my friendships, my self-care, etc. I reflect upon the current state of those categories. These are the things I can change. 

Next, I make a list of all the areas of my life that I cannot control. This is the hard part. 

Here is where I experience pain. These tear-stained lines hold my grief and heartbreak. This part makes me want to run for the hills—but I have to write it. Then, I leave it. The voice of shame and blame has no place here. I work to accept the things I cannot change, and on these pages I have a clear breakdown of where I hold responsibility and where I need to hold grace for myself. 

In that parking lot I stood with friends who are brilliant women…smart, strong, incredible mothers and friends, artists and light bringers. They save me time and time again. Naturally, I want them to see the myriad ways they are thriving. Shame has no place at their table. We are proud of them for taking care of themselves and accepting help when needed.  Another friend said what we were all thinking. “Thank you for sharing your struggle. I needed the reminder.” We aired out our wounds, cheered each other on, and all left feeling a little lighter. 


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