Here’s the deal: I hate asking for help. It is painful for me. I don’t mind asking for “help” if in fact that help is going to help the person that I am asking to help me. Follow? Like, I don’t mind tricking other people into helping themselves by using the guise of me needing help. But when I actually, truly (sometimes desperately) need help… I chafe at the idea, especially when I don’t think that I should have to ask.
My dislike of asking for help became most apparent this past month due to a benign tumor (enchondroma) being removed from inside my left pinky knuckle bone and a bone graft taken from my wrist to fill the tumor hole. For a week the painkillers blunted my ability to do much except lay on a couch and nap. Thankfully I have wonderful parents who could take time off to care for me.
I cleared the drug-induced haze, constipation (yuck), and pain, but I have limited strength and mobility in my left hand. I can’t submerge it in water…so dishes and bathing have been difficult. Chopping food. Putting on sports bras.
You name it. It’s difficult.
Being incapacitated exposed some distinctions between some friends that I made here and in my past. Those who “showed up” unsolicited and those who did not. Part of me recognizes that this tendency may be a part of their core personality. I see this personality trait reflected in their chosen profession. The people who “showed up” with food, company, etc. all work in the human service industry and the one’s who did not work in the science industry.
I could spend a long time talking about my childhood and the relationship I have with my father, but one of the main lessons I internalized from him is, “Anticipate!” My father also struggles, sometimes, with delegating, specifically the clarifying instructions. Many times it would just come down to him yelling “Anticipate!” And by that he meant, “Assess the situation. Where do you fit in? How can you be helpful?”
It’s a valuable skill. To see what is happening, and then, instead of having to be given specific instructions, you just fill the gaps i.e. it’s hot out, people’s water bottles are looking low, and you just fill them…without being asked to; someone is struggling to carry an awkward box, you step in to help without being asked; your friend just had hand surgery and was nice enough to lend you a paddle board and run shuttle for you, you help her load her board back into the car, instead of waiting until she already has it in her good hand to ask if she needs help. Assess the situation. Anticipate.
Obviously that last example was personal. And not fair. I tell people all the time, “Don’t hesitate to ask for help.” But I would like to make the distinction between seen and unseen need for help. Most of the people that I say the above to may be in need of help that I cannot identify because it is an internal need.
Anyhow, for those who showed up, brought food, hung out, etc… thank you. Thank you for not forcing me to ask for help. Thank you for recognizing that everything was difficult. Thank you for letting me “delegate” during the making of Ghirardelli brownie making.