Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends (But Could Ask for More Of It)

My mother doesn't like asking people for help, & growing up, I didn't understand it at all. She'd call our neighbor if it was urgent - like the time(s) she found a bat in her bedroom or when she needed to borrow a snowblower. When it came to more important things, though - the kind of things you just can't do by yourself - she'd say, "I don't want to bother anyone."

Bother anyone? I always thought. But they're our friends! That's how friendship works! I never understood the hesitance to reach out to people who clearly care about you & who would likely be happy to do whatever they could to lend a hand. If my friends asked for my help, I thought, especially on something really easy or something that tapped into a knowledge base I had & they didn't, I wouldn't mind at all.

And I still think that way. Need me? I'm in. I would go to great lengths to help the people I love, because, well, that's what you do when you love people.

Yet when it comes to the inverse situation - the times I need help - I find myself, in adulthood, becoming my mother in the one way I'd rather not. I'm hesitant to ask anyone for help, ever, because I really, really don't want to bother people. I don't want to be an inconvenience to those who care about me, because in my mind, inconvenient > bothersome > needy > clingy > get the hell away from me. Yes, my mental slippery slope is apparently so slippery that I fear my friends will literally stop being my friends if I ask them to help me do something I can't do by myself.

Do you know that when I wrote that post about not being able to assemble my new bed frame, I received four emails from nearby friends offering to help the next time I found myself in need of a toolbox? Four friends, all at varying degree of closeness. They just, like, offered, unsolicited, for next time. I was blown away.

Tonight, my friend Aaron - who was one of those to offer up his tools for the future - drove me to pick up a couch for my apartment. I didn't ask him to help me, even though he'd offered his help a few times in the past. When he offered to help me today, I begrudgingly took him up on it, feeling terrible the whole time. The couch didn't fit in his SUV, so we had to walk to CVS to buy rope & bungee cords to secure it in place, & in all, the whole process took an hour an a half - 90 whole minutes that he could've spent hanging out with his wife or playing with his dog or watching TV or cooking dinner or doing just about anything other than schlepping a loveseat up & down the stairs & across town & fastening Boy Scout knots out of clothesline in freezing temperatures.

I'm coming to recognize that my reluctance to ask for help when I need it shows a fundamental lack of trust in my relationships - that somewhere deep within, I don't believe people love me enough to stick with me when I am an inconvenience to them. This is silly, really, because I know that helping people I love with the occasionally inconvenient task or chore isn't going to affect my overall feelings for them. I just expect them to pay it forward, to eventually help someone else, because that's how friendship works & how humanity works.

But I don't trust people to feel the same way about me.

There are other factors, too. On my own, here, I feel terribly vulnerable, more susceptible than ever to the possibility of "inconvenient > bothersome > needy > clingy > get the hell away from me" because so many of my friends are married or engaged or in serious relationships, & suddenly, I'm all by myself. There's no default person to turn to when I need something, & friends or not, I feel as though I shouldn't intrude on someone else's person to ask for any sort of serious help. It's the ultimate third wheel syndrome - but ultimately, it's also bullshit. You don't have to be someone's significant other to give a damn about their well-being.

I value my independence, & there are a whole hell of a lot of things I can do alone - but I want to be a person who trusts others to step in, too, who trusts the people who love me to keep on loving me even though I sometimes need a little backup - even when it's inconvenient or bothersome. I love my mother dearly, but this is a characteristic of hers that I never meant to inherit.

Yeah, I'm gonna try with a little help from my friends. (And I'll try not to sing out of key.)
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