Friday, July 1, 2016

The Problem of Needing to Ask for Help ...

Life doesn't make any sense without
We need each other 
and the sooner we learn that, the better it is for us all.

Erik Erikson

Hello, Everyone - Happy Canada Day!

Today is not only the birthday of our beautiful country, but for me and thousands of others it's the first day of summer holidays. Sadly, this year I'm packing for the cottage with one wing in a sling after catching my feet in the edge of the bedspread as I changed the sheets. Now, having snapped the head off the radius bone in my forearm, the packing process is a little more complicated!

(Yes, I know. I could at least have broken it doing something exciting but I did paint quite a picture as I caught both feet in the spread, flew low across the room, too quickly to save myself, landed and skidded even further across the carpet and then rolled on my back with my legs in the air, stunned and winded.)

After several moments of trying to catch my breath and figure out what had happened, I got up and checked for damage and, realizing that most of my in-town support network were away, called a physician friend half way across the country and together we did an ortho exam on the phone and figured that I'd be black and blue in the morning but that nothing was seriously awry.

Roll on the next morning when I woke to discover that, despite icing, my left elbow was crooked, swollen and exquisitely painful and the closest I could get to touching my nose with my finger was a good foot away. And that led to the first of many uneasy decisions regarding whether and how to ask for help.

Why is asking for help such a big deal ...?? Well, if you're like me, you grew up in a family where independence, strength and self-sufficiency were the expectation and, thus, the norm. "Whining" was nipped in the bud, trying-it-yourself-before-asking-for-help was mandatory and feeling anything from uneasy vulnerability to outright shame accompanied even the most legitimate requests for assistance. Such experiences, encountered both at home and at school, would not have been unfamiliar to anyone growing up in the '50's and '60's in North America.

In her more recent book, Help Is Not a Four Letter Word, author and researcher, Peggy Collins, has published survey results to the question, What frightens us most about asking for help?. The top twelve fears are:

  • bothering other people
  • rejection / being told no
  • looking weak, inadequate, needy or just plain foolish
  • someone taking over / surrendering some of my power
  • owing other people and having to pay them back
  • things not being done the way I would like them to be done
  • relying on someone who doesn't come through
  • losing the reputation that I can do it all
  • not performing like I was raised
  • not asking in the right way
  • others seeing my mess
  • believing my needs are not important enough for others to meet

Perhaps a few of these sound familiar ...?

Ultimately, after this week's fall, I had to face the vulnerability of requesting help before getting almost anything done and I relearned something I learned years ago when people cried after being invited to help with my husband's care; people WANT to help. All they need is the invitation and our willingness to be in the receptive role.

It's a great lesson in humility to recognize and admit that we helpers also need help sometimes - a lesson that most of us need to learn again and again. Interdependence is the goal of healthy relationships, families, organizations, communities and nations. None of us can go it alone. We need each other and, as life coach Heather Plett says, (quoting Christina Baldwin in The Seven Whispers), -

"Ask for what you need and offer what you can." That's what creates the balance, the yin and yang of relationship. Even those who teach this need to be reminded to put it into practice.

So, great bouquets of gratitude to Ted who supported me in the first hour after the fall, my sister Sheila who drove me from pillar to post all week long as I saw medical professionals and prepared to fly to Ontario, my friend Cathy who - as always - empathized and made me laugh, Sandra who provided distraction and Healing Touch, Ginger who took me to the Market for coffee and mystery books, Linda who drove me to church and offered more, and Janet (my Enneagram "six-sister") who worried and planned for me so I could relax! Interdependence is what makes a healthy world go round and I'm so very grateful for that truth this week.

Happy Summer, Everyone!