It all started with a cereal bowl. The bowl, inched closer to the edge of the counter as my husband wrestled open a box of cereal. We were standing on opposite sides of the counter talking when I noticed the bowl was centimeters away from crashing to the floor. I reached over and moved the bowl out of harm’s way.
I’ve got it under control, was my husband’s response. In shorthand- I don’t need help.
I’m not criticizing- I utter something to that effect when he steps up to help me empty the dishwasher, or put the leftovers away or strip the bed Saturday morning, “I’ve got it.”
I began to wonder, while stuck in traffic, why do we infer so often that we don’t need help.
Why can’t we accept help? It seems to be a problem for independent people.
I’ve been doing things for myself since I was a pre-teen. I was determined that I would not be a burden to my parents, who had six kids and limited resources. I got a job at fifteen, a car at eighteen, and moved out soon a few months after high school. If money got tight while in college, it was extremely difficult for me to ask my parents for help. As a result, I ate a lot of cereal, yogurt and spaghetti.
When my kids were young, I lived some distance from family. I was on my own much of the time due to my ex’s job responsibilities. My sister-in- law insisted on staying with me for a few days after my youngest was born. My husband was working 100 miles away, and I had my hands full. She took Scott to school, Keith to the park and allowed me time to rest and get the breastfeeding thing down with my daughter who had latching issues.
It was easier to accept her help because I had once come and stayed with her when my nephew was born long ago. I’m not sure how much help I was- we were both in our late teens and we had no clue disposable diapers couldn’t be flushed down the toilet.
Which brings me to the thought about the grace that is extended when someone extends a helping hand and we reach out to grasp that hand with sincere gratitude. I don’t do it enough, but I am saying thanks more often in middle age.
I am beginning to realize that if I don’t learn how to accept little offers of help now, I am going to be miserable when I have no choice. That day in the far future ( I hope), when I am no longer able to perform tasks for myself. So I need to practice saying yes to the helping hand now. To learn to say thank you, instead of I’ve got it.
Which brings me to the way the universe teaches me these lessons, over and over. My son surprised me at work today. He came to get his Ash Wednesday on and before the service began he told me he had attended a funeral for the father of a high school friend on Monday. Her father had committed suicide. How tragic, I said, and asked if anyone had a clue as to why this had happened. It appears he was upset that his business had tanked. Thoughts of being a failure and worrying about the future overwhelmed him to the point he decided to end his life. My son said the family is devastated- they had no idea he was in such a state. If only he had asked for help, my son said.
But perhaps someone offered help and he had replied, I‘ve got this under control.