Saturday, March 31, 2012

It's ok to ask for help

I am sitting here blogging while sipping wine and eating sushi...sushi that was bought for me by my special friend; that same friend took my three girls to ballet so that I could contain the emotions of my son who is as anti-ballet as you can get, and prepare for two of those girls' birthday party. And she also helped make that birthday party possible in the first place by being my absolutely reliable number 2 at the party itself. In fact, there wouldn't have been a party without her because my absolutely reliable number 1 is at this very moment winging his way back to New Zealand following a two week cross country excursion to Malta, of all places, and I had said, "I can't do this on my own." If I'm honest, I'll admit that I looked at this weekend, the ballet events, the anti-ballet emotions of my Sam and the birthday, with absolute dread.

But she heard my cry for help and stepped up, even though I've let her down numerous times in the past. Thankfully, she's not the only one who has stepped up; another very special friend has played a crucial role in keeping me sane these last two weeks, whether through texts, visits, playdates, or by just having fun with me over a glass of wine (or two). And while I feel slightly feeble and useless at not being able to cope with a few bits and pieces while my husband is away (and it's only a couple of weeks, I know), I am reminded of something I learned when we first had the twins: it's ok to ask for help. In fact, sometimes it's necessary and it's always a good thing. Nine times out of ten the helper enjoys being able to contribute. When paul and I had our first two babies and people came around and asked, "is there anything I can do for you?" Paul and I both practised our smiles and our "oh thanks for asking, but we're fine really," assuming that was the expected response. But when we had the twins and discovered, oh my goodness this is the hardest thing on earth, we learned to say, "yes please!" Yes please, would you fold that washing. Or, yes please would you do those dishes for me. Or, yes please would you watch the twins while I just go out for a quick coffee and a sanity break! It was necessary. And at all times and in all situations the person that helped us felt absolutely vital in the way they were contributing to our lives.

But we live in a western society that prides itself on self-sufficiency, "self-help" and to some extent, self-martyrdom. Think to yourselves how often you have got through a difficult time just by gritting your teeth and persevering. That is admirable, of course, but I do wonder, what would have happened if you'd asked for help? A relationship might have been advanced; a bond might have been discovered. Ultimately, you would have admitted, however humbly, that you can't do it on your own and you need someone else in your life making a valuable contribution. And your reluctance to ask for help may simply come down to not wanting to be a burden on anyone else. I understand that completely. I know it's a cliche but really, John Donne said it best: "No man is an island unto itself." God created us to be relational and I do believe we have to fight the western trend which is entirely "I" and "me;" rather, it is much much better to be "we" and "us." All that is this thing called "life"-- the obstacles, the challenges and the celebrations--are all much more fulfilling and rewarding when shared with significant others. There can't be anything burdensome in that.

So that same friend is taking my girls to another ballet event tomorrow and looking after several girls while they wait for their turn with a tutor--all this after cooking and catering for a retirement party on the eve of helping at my girls' birthday party, and preaching at church in the morning. I honour her. I couldn't do it. She's made of something completely admirable and self-denying that just is not in me. But I'm glad she is my friend and I'm glad that I've been able to accept her help. She's turned my dreaded weekend into something that was actually quite fun. And she wasn't the only one. Another friend did some essential baking for the party, someone else organised a playdate for Sam so he didn't have to suffer through a house full of girls (twelve of them!) while another one offered the same thing, and two others rang to see how things were going. I am extremely grateful.

Therefore, I shall put aside all feelings of feebleness and uselessness (unable to plan, cope, multi-task or manage even the little things on my own) in the belief that my asking for help has reminded us all of the wider societal lesson that we need to allow others to contribute significantly in our lives. It is not easy. But it is necessary. And it is the way we are meant to be.