I have always had trouble asking people for help, it is one of my worst failings. It is a strange thing because I love to help others, I am the first to come forward in a crisis; it makes me happy to help someone in need, but it is difficult for me to accept help for myself.
I have wondered about this trait of mine for years – is it pride, is it awkwardness, is it shame that stops me from saying to the people who can help me ‘Look, I need you to pull me out of the dark, I am mired in shadow?’
My family and friends think I am capable. In High School I won the ‘Most Dependable’ accolade five years in a row. I am quick-thinking, calm, unafraid on the outside; a maelstrom of cloud and woe on the inside.
My neighbour knocked on my door this afternoon. She needed my help. A little bird was lying under her scribbly gum tree, she wasn’t sure if it was dead. “I daren’t touch it,” she said. “I might really hurt it.” The little bird was dead, it had fallen from the nest, its little fluffy grey feathers splayed by the impact of the fall. My neighbour feigned horror, sympathy, but I could see she was more repulsed than bereaved.
I whisked the bird away, took it to my garden, shuffled in the shed for half an hour to find a suitable container as my neighbour whistled along with the radio, the bird forgotten. I placed the poor little creature in a tiny box and buried it under my maple tree. I wept for it, for the fact that no one had been there to help it when it had fallen, that I had come too late. I felt like that bird, plummeting, with nothing to hold onto but the denial of clarity.
I like to say :”Everything’s all right, everything’s fine,” maybe in the hope that if I say it often enough it will be true. But I have found that this form of self-deception is so close to self-destruction, it can be as dangerous as casting yourself into fire.
The promise of grace lures me into looking on the bright side. Sometimes it works, sometimes I feel faithless.
My husband nearly died this time last year. He is/was a biker and was hit by a car at 70km/h. He broke his collarbone, six ribs and punctured a lung. When I saw him at the accident scene everything stopped, it was like someone pulled a switch and the whole world moved into freeze frame. The only sound was my son screaming : “Save my Dad, save my Dad.”
After lengthy surgery he was in hospital for 6 weeks. Two weeks after his release he was readmitted. He had blood clots on his lungs and was moments away from a stroke. The surgery to remove the clots took six gruelling hours and cost $25,000, which thankfully, was covered by our insurance. But there are always other costs.
My husband was off work for 5 months. It is his business so I had to keep it going. I had to give up my own job as well as hold the fort at home and play Florence Nightingale. It was hard but I got through it. My mantra of ‘everything’s fine’ worked a treat in that instance. But it is during the aftermath that it becomes harder to fool yourself, especially when the bills keep coming and tiredness and fear choke like wet paint in an airless room.
My husband is not completely recovered. He will sometimes cower on the way to work because he thinks we are going to crash. He often gets me to pull over so he can walk the rest of the way. On bad nights he dreams of paralysis or of being buried alive. People comment on his diminished appearance but I assure them ‘everything is all right.’
It grows exhausting, repeating yourself. It feels like a mistake. I thought that nobody had noticed but today I experienced help, aimed in my direction, freely given. My son’s piano teacher offered to teach him for free until the end of the year moments before I was about to tell her I couldn’t afford the lessons right now. He is only 11 but he can play the blues and she can’t let him go.
My friend who owns a beach house that looks out onto a horizon that lasts forever offered it to me for the Christmas holidays for free. And my mother gave me some money as a gift not a loan.
I am the one who cannot say : “Can you help me?” yet help has descended unexpectedly. Light spreads. The kitchen smells of vanilla and icing sugar. My mother has left a plate of little cakes and an envelope filled with cash. I feel as if I have entered another world where I can’t hide anything from anyone. It is liberating, this helping, this kindness, the colours of it are not as unsteady as I thought.
The kettle sings. I pour my tea and eat a cake soft as memories of childhood. My son plays Ray Charles in the other room. I mentally pack my Christmas suitcase and buy us all a pair of new shoes. And I realise that help, whether given or received, is as radiant as a ripple of water in the morning. And it should not be refused, whatever its form.
I hope you husband continues to get better and make a full recovery. I think help flows around and if you are willing to help then others will be willing to help you too, its karma, its also because a helpful person is nicer to be around then someone who doesn’t help.
I firmly believe in asking for help, but help is all the sweeter when someone else gives it without our having formed the request.
Praise God for the way He has blessed you through others!
Wanna be one of my NaNo buddies?
Can you email me your profile so I can do the same? I promise i won’t bug you…MUCH!
Many years ago, when I could walk into a church without bursting into flames, I sang a duet with a friend. The song was called, Brother Let Me Be Your Servant (or something like that).
The message was simple, let me help you. Let me lift you up and be your support. But it didn’t stop there. My favorite part of the song was, “pray that I might have the grace to let you be my servant, too.”
It can be so hard to ask for help. My mother was one of those who would say things like, “I shouldn’t have to ASK for help, you should KNOW I need it.” It took a therapist to undo some of that damage. She asked me, “When you go to McDonald’s, do you walk up to the counter and just stand there? No, you have to tell them what you want. Even though they’ve served billions of burgers, you still need to let them know what you want. They don’t read minds any more than you do.”
Accepting help is my Achille’s heel. I can give it left and right, but accept it? That’s so hard sometimes.
I’m glad you’ve been on the recieving end and getting some support, and I really hope you enjoy your stay at the beach.
Sometimes the world is small, but other times, when friends far away are blue, the world becomes too big to reach across for a hug. I’ll send one to you anyway, m’dear.
Craft Green – what you say about karma is so true. For years I doubted its power but lately I have seen evidence of it many times.
Groovy – I would be honoured to be your NaNo buddy. My link is http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/203293.
Karen – thanks for the hugs. You make me laugh so much – ‘back in the days when you could walk into a church without bursting into flames.’ LOL!
Amen about the karma!
When I thanked a neighbour I hardly know for a kindness he did, he just shrugged and said ‘You would do the same for me’
Wow. This post brought me to tears for so many reasons. For your husband’s accident and ripples from it, for your struggles and for the fact that these beautiful loved ones stepped in at the right time.
I agree that saying “everythings alright” can be misleading and damaging.
I wish I had what you had…..people who loved me like that. I envy you.
I saw a good deal of my self in this post, Selma. Always saying “everything is alright”, even if it really doesn’t feel that way, and always helping others, but never being able to ask for help for me. It looks to me like your kindness has come back to you, the powers that be heard not your words but the longing of your heart. Gifts that come unexpected are the most wonderful blessings. I am delighted that people are reaching out to care for you. At some point you will discover that everything really will be alright again. These gifts were a reminder.
*Hugs* Selma. I’m sending good thoughts your way and I hope your husband comes through the trauma of the accident.
selma you are just such an amazing person,, your writings are profound,, and the fact that you can make a story out of just about anything makes me jealous indeed… i love coming here
Keith – karma is an amazing thing. I used to scoff at it, but now I feel I am a convert.
Laurie Anne – from the number of positive and thoughtful comments I read on your blog, there are many people out there who care for you too. Sometimes it’s the people who never say so who care for you the most – I have learned that this week. Thank you for your very kind comment.
Josie – you are so right about the gifts I received this week being a reminder that everything will be alright. I am a great believer in signs. It’s good to know that all the effort needed to ‘hold things together’ sometimes pays off with a positive result.
Paisley – WOW! That is a huge compliment coming from you. I am such a fan of your writing and of you. Sometimes I read your blog and just sit and ‘feel’ what you’ve written. It is always a wonderful experience. I am incredibly touched by your comment. Thank you so much!
There is nothing I can add here as my two blog buddies: paisley & laurie ann have already stated it so perfectly.
I am just REALLY happy that I found your blog and get to read these posts which are like little GIFTS every single day.
You are amazing.
Meleah – that means so much coming from you. Your generosity and spirit are unsurpassed. Thank you so much. I am not worthy of such praise, really. Hugs to you….