I hate asking for help. Or maybe, I hate needing help. Either way there is a laundry list of vulnerable acts that I would much rather partake in:
- Apologize? Sure! No problem.
- Admit I was wrong? Easy.
- Tell you my feelings were hurt? Where do I begin?
- Ask for help? Ahem…(nervously backs away)…Thanks, but no thanks. I’m fine carrying this tower of books as high as the ceiling while dragging three suitcases behind me on roller skates while playing the kazoo and memorizing Shakespear. But is there something you need? I’m sure I can fit it in.
Now, offering to help? I’m an expert. I’m the first to sign up and I can usually rally a few others to join the cause. Why? Because I have no problem linking in to that feeling of need. I get it, I’m human, too. Life is hard and it hurts and sometimes it’s just too much, right? And how good does it feels to lift someone’s burden, if even just briefly? And for that moment you connect with them in the vulnerable space they created by asking for you. It’s lovely.
Plus, there is a community aspect, an economy of scale, where it is easy for many to give a little and for the result to be tremendous. My whole life I have focused on efficiency and it is incredible what coordinated efforts can accomplish. But when you are the one in need, and you have to look someone in the eye and say, “please help me,” it is terrible. For me at least. But why?
I’ve had to ask myself this question lately. Why do I resist asking for help so much when I am so free to offer it to others? The answer is:
That big knot in the middle of our chests. I’m not stubborn or prideful. I’m not shy. But asking for help is the most terrifyingly vulnerable act. Mostly because it’s injury compounded by risk. First, I have to admit that I cannot do it. I have to show up and say “something about me is not enough right now, I cannot do this alone.” Admitting I am not capable of managing something falls the walls of my defended heart. Then, I have to invite you in to that need and pray to God you don’t let me down. Because what could be worse than showing up vulnerable and not getting what you need?
Asking for help means I have just raised the stakes on my hurt. 99.9% of the time I am not willing to take that risk. I would rather work harder and suffer more on my own account than risk a broken heart. If you never ask for help, people never let you down. I’m telling you, I have a brilliant system lined up here. All grit, no connection. It’s air tight.
Until you get cancer.
So what cancer does is it blows up that first line of defense. Something about me isn’t enough right now. I have two tumors growing inside me. I’m regularly infused with chemicals that are killing my good and bad cells. I feel like garbage half the time and the other half is a shadow of the energy and capacity I used to wield. The first step to functioning in the dysfunction of a life-threatening illness is to embrace your new reality. And I have. You have seen that here. I freely and fully admit that I am not what I used to be.
But that second step…I’m still hesitating. It reminds me of the diving tower we used to jump off of as kids at the lake. It was maybe 15 feet above the water and I was probably 10 the first time I jumped off. I stood up there forever. Sometimes when kids would jump they would squeal upon rising to the surface that their feet sank into the muck below. I hated that muck. There were leaches in the muck. Plus, what if I hit a rock? Or the dock? Or got stuck in the muck so far down that I couldn’t break free? What if I belly flopped and it hurt? What if? What if?
Now, 23 years later, I’m still hesitating. What if I ask for help and no one shows up? What if people don’t care enough about me to want to help? What if they say they will help and I rely on that and they back out? I realize in all this that ultimately, the real question is:
Am I person worthy of love?
And I’m terrified to test the theory.
If people love or care for you, they yearn to respond to your invitation for connection, which is what asking for help boils down to. You are extending your hand hoping the other person will reach for you. The heartbreak of standing alone after extending that invitation is almost too much to bear when you are already hurting. And that is my fear. That I will pull down all the defenses and be left more wounded than I arrived.
So how do I heal this? Or maybe, how do I move toward connection and away from self-imposed isolation? The first step is to be more patient and more kind to myself. No one else can convince me that I am a person worthy of love. It is a gift I can only give myself. I have to feel into that with my heart and soul and be as kind to myself in doing so as I would to one of my children. I have to practice sitting with those uncomfortable feelings of undeservedness and practice peace and unconditional love. Holy smokes…that is going to be hard.
Second, I have to jump off the damn tower already. I will never fully realize people’s love and care for me if I don’t let them try. The beauty in connection is that it begins with the desire to connect from the individual, and materializes when someone else reciprocates that interest. It’s a dance. I suppose it might not mean anything catastrophic about me at all if someone else doesn’t want to connect with me. There are plenty of people we will not dance with for a series of reasons. I don’t have to pin each rejection on my chest and wear it like a scarlet letter. I can just identify it as a mismatch and move on. I will still wake up tomorrow and practice the same love for myself and others as I did before.
I will love daringly and see what happens.
So here is the leap- the moment when your stomach rises as gravity pulls you down to the uncertain ending. I do need help. I have created a link on this site that details what kind of assistance is most useful to me right now, and if you want to dance, I’ll meet you there. Just click the Donate tab on the home page.
I can tell you that putting this out there unleashes every fear and anxiety in me. My hands are actually shaking as I write this. (Note to self: must refer to paragraph on peace and unconditional love above). However, I am comforted by the countless acts of generosity and kindness that so many of you have already extended. Please know that your support has carried me so far on this journey, and that you all have already started to heal my heart. And please also know that I do want to connect with you, too. I have a lot of room for love in my life, and I hope you desire that in your life as well.
Be well. Love fearlessly. And have faith.
Give em’ hell.
6 Comments Add yours
I’m not sure why it’s so hard to ask for help. You are an amazing person and I hope and pray things are looking up:)
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Thank you, Debbie.
Hi! I just discovered your blog through our mutual friend Lieveka….and I have to tell you about this great book I’m reading about this exact same thing. Because, I too, hate to ask for help. And I don’t hate on much. It’s called The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. And I’m listening to it on an audiobook where the author reads it. I know I don’t know you, but after just reading this one post, I think you would like it.
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Thank you! I will check it out!
You summarized this so well. I too find asking or accepting help one of the hardest parts of this journey.
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You summarized this so well. I too find asking or accepting help one of the hardest parts off this journey.