Encouragement Pinata

A couple of months ago, I was having what is commonly known as "a very hard time."  Without going into too much detail, it felt like my life was failing on multiple fronts - work, family, body stuff... and it was really intense, and sad.

Worst of all, my normal internal self-cheering mechanisms weren't working.  Our resilience gets tested when we experience stress and sadness on multiple fronts, and it becomes harder and harder to bounce back.  I'd lost my bounce.

So I did something that's quite difficult for me to do - I asked for help.

If I couldn't cheer myself up, I reasoned, maybe my friends could.  Maybe they could see things about my situation that had hope.  Maybe they could see super powers in me that they knew would activate with the right boost.

So I put this note on Facebook:

Friends, I have been having a really tough time lately with medical news. I need some help cheering up, and I had an idea: an encouraging pinata!

The idea is this: you send me an encouraging note, weird Japanese candy, janky wind-up toy or whatever, I put in a pinata, and then I smash it! This combines lots of good thoughts and juju with the benefit of a HULK SMASH. If you’re down, PM me and I’ll send you an address of a friend who will be assembling stuff. I’m just going to make the pinata, but they’re going to fill it, so I won’t see anything until SMASH TIME.

I know this may sound a little self-serving, and I’m sorry. But I need something bright to save me from despair, so if you feel like participating, shout. Much love to all, and also, should you need an encouraging pinata in the future, I will make you one. ♥

To my surprise, more than just my 3 best friends were down.  I got messages from many folks that day, asking to participate.  One of my friends commented that the pinata was a great idea because a lot of the time when someone we love is struggling, we don't have anything concrete to offer.  By giving my friends something they could do for me, I helped them to help me. 

I waited a little over a month, and then bought this guy.

Encouragement Pinata.  Basically the best idea I've ever had.

Encouragement Pinata.  Basically the best idea I've ever had.

I figured there was some kind of poetic symbolism in smashing my dragons/dinosaurs.  It might feel more satisfying and less morally dubious than hitting Hello Kitty in the face repeatedly.  Or maybe not.  But anyway, this is the pinata I chose.

To my surprise, over 20 people contributed to my pinata.  I had a friend collect the packages, so it would all be a secret. 

On the day of, I borrowed a big wooden sword, had that same friend stuff the pinata, including some stuff I'd gotten for it: my favorite flavor of Jolly rancher, red Raspberry, and some vintage stickers.  I got them because I wanted to be a friend to myself. 

And then it was time for the smash:

Encouragement Pinata SMASH!

Encouragement Pinata SMASH!

You know, this was truly one of the most fun and surprising and affirming experiences of my life. 

When I first got the idea to do an Encouragement Pinata, I thought I was being kinda selfish.  Like, who am I to ask for people to send me notes and presents?  But I did it anyway because I really needed it.  I've been sad and discouraged, and it's been really dang heavy.

In the midst of so much cloudiness, I needed some light.  And I got it.

It's not weak to ask for help.  It doesn't make you selfish or bad or grabby to reach out and ask for what you need.  And what's so great is that everyone really came through for me.  I feel loved and buoyed up by the care the donors have shown me.  Every time I need to be brave or strong or move forward, I will think of them.

And since I am not Amanda Palmer or Lena Dunham, I decided to send everyone a little something back.  I'm making surprise balls for the 20 people that sent me something.  Doesn't matter if it was just a post-it note, or a book, or a whole jar of hand-folded origami stars, or even 10 individually-wrapped mini chocolate bars (all of which appeared in the pinata), they're getting a treat.  Because I like surprising people.  And because no one was more surprised than me at how generous, lovely, and yes, encouraging, all of my friends are.