During my recent trip to the land of injury, surgery, and recovery, I’m reminded of how important it is to receive.
It’s taken me decades to learn how to ask for help, no wonder, considering my past. My dad was a WWll veteran. He was a P.O.W. and returned to his rural roots in the hollows of Kentucky with a Purple Heart pinned to his chest, but missing his right foot. As a decorated, amputated veteran he went on to ski the most beautiful slopes of New England, and to camp and hike along the Appalachian Trail. His chosen profession was of a minister. His business was marrying, burying, and baptizing, all done while standing on his feet. I have no recollection of him ever complaining.
My mother was from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virgina. Her blue eyes light up when she tells the story of growing up on the farm. “We didn’t see a doctor for 19 years,” she proclaims with a lilting voice.
Sadly, this resilience came at a cost. On one hand it fostered courage and fortitude, and it inspired good problem-solving skills. However when I was a child and sought assistance, when it didn’t come I learned to fend for myself. This became a lifetime habit.
This brings me to my recent situation. I’ve discovered the power of surrender and how humbling that can be. First I had to tell people what was happening. That was the hardest part, but I did it either in person, by phone or in a clear, upbeat email sent to a group of friends. I learned that asking for help not only helped me, the receiver, but as one friend told me, it nourished the giver too. The abundance of generosity residing within my circles of connections astounded me.
The result of my revealing vulnerabilities in a non-judgemental manner linked me to the rest of humanity, and when I asked for support, it came. I am grateful for it all — from delicious homemade soups to rides to physical therapy, from flowers to unselfish and humorous acts of kindness.
As with any new skill, learning to ask for help takes trial, error, and practice. Here’s my list of hints and tips:
1. Tell people ahead of time what happened and what your future needs may be. This way when you contact them you don’t have to tell the story of how you got here.
2. Make a list of people who you realistically think could help.
3. Have back-ups, so that one person doesn’t feel the brunt of all the requests.
4. Be specific in communicating your needs.
5. Think of who you are asking to do what. Is this something they can provide? If not, go down your list until you notice someone who fits the bill.
6. Ask with an open hand, if they say no, thank them and move on. No hard feelings.
7. Pay attention to the friend who is helping you. Ask them about their day or inquire about more details on something in their life that you know is important to them. They have already shown up to help you, don’t regale them with all your gory details.
8. Say thank you.
Creativity and wellness message for today: Receiving is an art and asking for help can be learned.