Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Asking for Help

I was having a rough time a few weeks ago. I had tried to make weekend plans with a few people and the people I asked were not available or didn't respond to my invitations. In general, I am content with my own company, but I was really craving the company of others. Really craving it.  But after a few no's or non-responses, I didn't want to risk any more. Another no seemed like more than I could bear. I wrote, "I find that, unlike alcohol, where greater consumption leads to greater tolerance, my ability to consume rejection, even when I know it's not personal and even when it is delivered kindly, goes down the more I taste it."

Thankfully, the wave of loneliness rolled out, but then it slammed back in again. At the time I described it as feeling like I was casually dating everyone I know, "even those who I know care deeply for me- we see each other at 'non-peak' hours, but we haven't made it to weekend plans or because other obligations have come, weekend are out." I felt raw, depleted. But by the time I wrote those words, I was ready to risk again; I couldn't stand feeling lonely any more. I wrote to a group of women - we describe ourselves as a "tribe" - who hadn't yet been around me when I was as low as I was that weekend. It felt scary to reach out, because though I knew they cared for me and supported me in theory, from afar, I wasn't sure how they'd be in the nitty-gritty, here-I-am-really-needing-some-support-RIGHT NOW. In writing to them, I made a general invitation (which felt to me like begging) to anyone who might have some time to go for a walk or grab some coffee. 

Almost immediately, one of the women responded, saying she was feeling restless and lonely, too, inviting me for a walk. We took a rainy walk and talked and talked. The rain, or actually the company, washed my soul clean, saturating it with the care it so needed.  Later in the day, I received messages from some of the others, letting me know that they were, in fact, there for me in my nitty-gritty neediness, my place of utter heart-baring vulnerability, and also assuring me that they'd been in the very same spot I'd been in at one time or another. My feelings were not unique; they were simply part of being human. The tribe came through.  

I am learning, particularly in the last few years, to ask for what I need - it's never been one of my great skills. I've had a crazy notion that people should know what I need without me telling them (a completely unreasonable expectation), or sometimes even denying I am struggling when they notice and ask (an even less helpful response). 

So I am trying to change my ways, learning  to walk a new walk, like a toddler stumbling and getting up again. Sometimes I reach out in the wrong places, where there's no hand to grasp, leaving me frustrated and judgmental of people who don't deserve my judgment. Sometimes I lean my full weight into people who aren't prepared to help me carry my burden, and I am again frustrated and hurt, even when it is because of their own burdens that they can't help support mine. 

Through these lessons, I am also learning who I can ask for help. I am learning that sometimes when I reach out in places where I feel more tentative, people who I wouldn't have expected offer a hand, or lift the yoke from my shoulders, or even carry me until I can walk again. I am learning to trust in a broader way. I am learning that admitting my vulnerability is better than faking independence - both for me and for my relationships. 

As I learn, I am also realizing that I am too often the one who can't be bothered to help, that I am the one who says, "I can't carry that," even when I can. I am trying to reconcile who I have been with who I'd like to be. In an effort to do this, I have been trying to say "yes" more often, trying (and I emphasize trying) to offer the same unconditional care that I have received time after time when I have asked for help. I've got a ways to go.

But I am learning: to ask for help and to offer it. Doing so leads me into deeper communion with others. I am so thankful for my helpers and for my teachers. 

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