Inside Lane

Help! No, Don’t. Help! No, really, I Got This. Help!

A new review is up on A Chick Who Reads, today.  Four Flowers!  I love the background design on that site.

I hope you all had happy Halloweens.  We only had two visitors to our door, and that was disappointing, but it worked out well for those kids.  They got gobs of candy.

This morning, I had a sweet note from my aunt, who is coming up to visit with my mom.  My cousins, my uncle, my friends–everyone who cares–has been offering support, thoughts, and prayers.  I really appreciate that.  You have no idea.

My Mom’s parents were people who always helped others, but who frequently refused, or pretended they needed no help.  This carried over into the way my mother raised me.  ALWAYS help other people.  ALWAYS feed that hungry person.  ALWAYS help that neighbor.  ALWAYS find a way to do for someone else.  NEVER let your own need be visible.  NEVER say you don’t have, or you can’t afford.  NEVER expose your own weakness, and NEVER accept charity.

Pride doesn’t always go before a fall because it’s nose is in the air with hubris.  Sometimes it goes before a fall because it is weak from refusing to ask for, or accept help.

I’m still figuring this out, in part because I was raised to keep so many secrets, and conditioned to believe that “telling everything you know” exposes you to more harm than help.  “Don’t tell so-and-so that this happened because (s)he will only use it to hurt you!”

This line from the blog I reposted yesterday, really resonated with me: “I was so afraid of what might happen if I tried to leave that it paradoxically kept me in a situation where I was actually being harmed.”  That’s how I was raised to think about asking for help.  You worry more about what might happen if you ask for help, than what might happen if you don’t.

Somewhere in my 30s I rebelled against the rule of keeping secrets, and I started a blog where I told all of mine.  So, I got the hang of talking.  I’ve got the hang of telling the truth about what goes on in my life (and I understand audience–I don’t put everything out here in public-public, you know.)  What I’m still learning is how to react to people’s reactions.

Whenever someone offers help or support, I go through this thought process:

  1. Oh! How nice! [This Person] likes me!  Who knew?
  2. That is very sweet that they say they want to help.
  3. I’m sure they do not mean they will help, but it’s nice they said so.
  4. What if they mean they will help?
  5. How much will I owe them?
  6. I can’t afford anyone’s help.
  7. I can’t afford help!
  8. Oh no–how do I budget for this?  How do I budget for it financially and emotionally.  How much do I owe them?
  9. If they help, am I on the hook for it?  What if they need help next week, and I can’t give it to them?  Will they hate me?
  10. I can’t afford for them to hate me!
  11. What is my end of the bargain?
  12. I can’t afford this.
  13. I shouldn’t have said anything.
  14. I should be able to do this by myself.

And then I shame spiral and feel like I am a terrible, terrible person for a) needing help, b) not knowing if I will be able to return the favor of helping someone else even though I don’t even know if the other person will ever need anything.  This plagued me the day of my grandfather’s funeral when all my girlfriends showed up–having taken time off work to come support me–and I panicked with worry that I might not be able to get the day off to support them if/when they had an important funeral.  I AM NOT KIDDING.

I started crying at Boom’s funeral because I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to pay back the kindness these wonderful girls had shown me.  I had been fine until I saw them, and it hit me that I might not be able to pay back the love.  I don’t think I’ve ever admitted that before.

Isn’t that crazy?  It is crazy to me that I grew up with people who took care of others without ever asking for anything in return, only to be conditioned to worry that someone might ask in return.  Where does that come from even?!

SO, if you offer to help me with something, and I freeze like you’ve just asked me what color my underpants are, that’s why.  I’m busy doing a shame spiral.  Give me five minutes and I’ll come back to you.  😉

I’m learning to assess my needs honestly, and learning when it is okay to ask, and when it is okay to accept.  I think a good rule of thumb is for me to remember that when I offer help, it is with no strings, with good cheer, and with full sincerity–just the way I was raised to offer help.  I’m sure other helpful people were raised the same way.






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