I think it is interesting what is valued and undervalued in our society today. Even more intriguing to me is how those imposed values affect us.
For instance, we value independence and self-sufficiency. From the youngest of ages we are taught to do for ourselves and not to be looking for a “handout” or a “free lunch.” Ain’t nothing comes for free in this world. Right?
Admirable to be sure, but could all that independence and self-sufficiency that has been preached at us had some possible unintended consequences?
I’ve been pondering this question more and more in the last year or so. For me, it started as a result of my wife’s cancer. The cancer was ravaging her body and the care that I needed to provide her at home increasing. Then, eventually came the grieving from losing her. But, the latest teaching moment came under far less dramatic of circumstances. My lawnmower broke.
Yup! My lawnmower broke a few weeks ago and despite my best efforts at resembling a mechanic, I could not resuscitate it. Money has been a little tight lately, and I couldn’t afford to go buy another just yet. So, my lawn began to grow like a weed. (See what I did there? Sorry, I’m a little punchy tonight.) In fact, it was getting so bad that my female dog was now having accidents in the house because she didn’t like the long grass messing with her girly parts when she peed. I was seriously beginning to question how one goes about selling hay.
I considered all of my options, but they all included asking someone for help, ugh!!! We weren’t raised that way. You don’t ask for help, you pull yourself up by your bootstraps and carry on.
That’s my question: why is that? Why is it undervalued to ask for help? Most things that are valued are held in such high regard because they aren’t easy. We value that which is hard to achieve. Well, asking for help is fucking hard!!! So why isn’t it valued???
Once Kristin’s care required round the clock hydration and pain management, I needed help; I had to suck it up and reach out to our family and friends and ask. When she passed, and the wake and the funeral were over, and everybody had returned back to their lives, I was left all alone with my pain. At times it became too much. I again had to ask those that love me, “please help me?”
Oh, the lawn? Yup, I had to ask for help with that too. I asked my neighbor to borrow his mower. And, Abbie can now pee again without the tickle of grass on her underside.
But, despite my eventually asking for help in all of these instances, I am still left to ponder why is the asking so hard?
The best answer I have come up with for me is pride. It’s humbling. It makes me feel inferior and that I have somehow failed at life.
But, I don’t think that’s actually true. I think that all those years of having self-sufficiency drilled into me put that lie there. It doesn’t make me weak to ask for help, it’s actually a testament to my strength. I am strong enough to recognize when I don’t “got this” and I need help.
A thread that you will find weaved throughout my thoughts and writings these days is the interconnectedness of the universe. We have different ways of approaching it, explaining it, and experiencing it, but all spirituality and all religions speak to this universal truth. We are all sourced from the same universal life energy.
I think about this as it relates to helping one another. If our energies are really all interconnected then doesn’t it make sense why you feel so good when you are the helper for someone who needs it? I think that maybe that “love” that you put out into the universe when you have turned you intention to the betterment of another just comes right back to you. In other words, we are ultimately the receiver of any love we send out, even if it was intended for another. Maybe, by asking for help, we are allowing another to feel that love come back to them?
So, can we start to value that more? Can we start to value the strength it takes to ask for help? Imagine what the world might look like if it were full of people getting what they need and people feeling good about helping them get it?!?!?!
So, the next time you need help, ask! Who are you to deny someone that reciprocal love? You might just make their day by allowing them to make yours.
As I read Kevin’s post a zillion images came flooding in. I’ve struggled with this concept as well. No place more than sitting on the oversight committee for Health and Human Services in state government where money is always at the crux of the issue. As we listened to hundreds of hours of public testimony on various safety net programs, the opioid crisis, mental and behavioral health needs, hospital and health management, public health, and prevention of all types, the common response was that individuals need to take responsibility for their own situations, dig in, and pull themselves up. The state is not in business to provide handouts to those not willing to do for themselves. I spent the better part of two years as a State Representative in hives. It was as if my father had returned from the grave and was painting his broad stroke on humanity which he charged was built from freeloaders, beggars, and the undeserving. As much as it physically affected me to sit on that committee I knew there was a reason I was one of the lucky thirteen.
Giving has been raised to the level of sainthood in our society. At an early age we are taught how important it is for us to share, to assist, to give. It’s a lesson that begins with toddlers and continues on throughout our education system. We share our feelings, our snacks, our toys, we learn to take turns to give others a chance to experience an activity. As we grow older we are encouraged to give can goods to food drives, coats and toys to tots during the holidays, and hours of community service in order to get our diploma from high school. Yet, the one thing we are not taught is how to receive whether or not something is a gift or a helpful hand up. If we cannot receive than how can we give? It is a circle, both existing in the same moment yet somehow we have landed in the place where we very much value one action and denounce the other.
I’ve been fortunate in life. I’ve had extraordinary experiences, traveled to far away lands, achieved successes throughout the years, and met some of the most incredible individuals. I’ve also fallen into some of the darkest recesses where I felt as though I was drowning and isolated from the rest of the world. There were nights when before I could read I wanted to scream out for help in the dreaded darkness but was left silenced unable to escape. As I grew older, I ran from what I didn’t remember had happened and wanted to end the pain but remained isolated in fear of being judged or shamed. As a single mother during the recession, I scraped to keep food in the cupboards while working three jobs but struggled to ask for and receive help. It was always my mom that seemed to show up when I couldn’t stretch myself any further and felt myself ripping from the stress of trying to hold it together. Since my earliest memory it has always been her consistent rhythm of stepping one foot in front of the other without doubt or worry that life won’t work out in the end. Yet as many times as she came to my aid, I never quite felt okay in accepting her hand up and often shamed myself as being undeserving or unable to figure life out.
It wasn’t until I met Kyle that I began to realize there was a different way of experiencing giving and receiving. Just as I believed I finally had my life smoothed out and I was sailing through with my head above water instead of constantly being dragged under, Kyle appeared out of nowhere. I had determined that life as a single mother was where I wanted to be and dating was more of an albatross than anything else. His bright eyes and generous smile appeared and after a month of back and forth dialogue he asked if I would meet him for dinner. We met, it was good but not earth shattering. He was kind, gentle, and understated. A second date was planned, I had already decided we would be friends at most but something connected us in a way I wasn’t prepared for. Now six years later I am still learning that giving and receiving is very much a dance and requires two willing partners to be all that it can be. Where I am guarded, he is giving. Where he is weak, I am strong and in the places we both fall short, we are united. I still struggle with receiving. It’s most difficult for me to lean into his unconditional love which never falters or waivers. He is always there committed where I am always waiting for the ax to drop, the earth to open up and swallow me. Our love can only be as great as I am able to receive it and then return it back to him. I realize that now. It’s been an incredibly hard lesson to endure. To own up to the fact that my experiences are a direct result of my conscious choices as a person, wife, mother, and friend. I have no one other than myself to determine to what extent I will allow myself to exist in the fluid motion of giving and receiving and to what extent I will continue to block the magic of it all in my life.
Kevin, thank you for shining light on the need for us to value receiving just as much as giving. This has been helpful to wonder out loud how they exist and have existed together in my life.