On Asking for Help

What types of things do I avoid asking for help with? Pretty much everything… Easier to say what types of things I do ask for help with. Which is things I can’t manage to do on my own – after trying to do so.

  Long road, heavy load

It’s not that I insist on doing things without help. I just don’t ask for it if I don’t need to. And I will never assume I need help until I’ve tried on my own.

I have no idea whether this is because my parents wanted to teach us to be independent. They expected us to make our own decisions from a young age, and to go places on our own. If there was something we didn’t know how to do, we were expected to try to figure it out.

At school, I never needed help, because things like math and reading came easily to me. If there was anything I didn’t figure out right away, I wasn’t going to let anyone know that because I had a reputation for being the smartest kid in the class (maybe in the school).

Perhaps it was because I was shy, and asking for help meant initiating a conversation. I didn’t ever talk much, even with people I did know. I preferred being alone, and I preferred doing things on my own.

I also was eager to prove that I coud do things, even at a young age. I was the youngest at any family activity, even those that included my cousins. I didn’t want anyone to make any accommodations for me being younger and smaller, so I worked at being able to keep up with people with longer legs, and to keep going even if I was tired.

I preferred to be with people who were older than I was, because I other children my own age didn’t know as much, and were more likely to act childishly. I wanted to prove that I belonged with older children or adults, so I felt a need to be able to do things without needing help.

Maybe it was some of the books I read. The sort of hero I wanted to be like was one who was independent, who didn’t need anyone else for anything. One who could face any difficulty or danger with equanimity, who didn’t get upset or excited at much of anything (even positive things). I wasn’t like that, really – I’ve always avoided danger, though not difficulty. But that was my ideal.

I remember going shopping for my mother, which meant walking a mile to the supermarket, and then carrying home the bags of groceries. These were paper bags, of course – plastic bags with handles hadn’t come into use yet (at least where we lived). One bag wasn’t hard to carry, but two full bags were.

I remember one time the bags were so heavy that I had to stop a few times to rest, and by the time I reached home my muscles were so tired that I could barely hold the bags up. But that was no reason to consider asking for help – it just meant I had to be more careful how much I purchased (weight-wise) in one shopping trip.

These days I almost always drive the car to the store (normally I go on the way home from work), and I use cloth bags with handles. I only have to carry the bags from the car to the house, which means going the length of the back yard (we live on a corner, and the driveway is at the rear of the backyard).

My husband does not understand why I insist on trying to carry everything in one trip, instead of taking one bag, going in the house, and telling the boys to go get the rest. Occasionally I will ask one of the boys to get the rest – but only after carrying as much as I can possibly manage on the first trip.

When it comes to solving puzzles, I especially do not want help. I get very annoyed if someone tries to give help, because I want to solve it on my own. My younger son does not understand this – he is always quite ready to ask for help on something that is hard to figure out. But that takes away the fun of it for me, and certainly takes away the sense of accomplishment in figuring it out.

What do I ask for help on? Coming up with ideas for meals. I get so tired of thinking of what to cook. (Except that now, when I’m trying to cook and eat healthier foods, I don’t generally ask because the suggestions are likely to be things I don’t want.)

If I have trouble figuring out the notes in a piece of music I’m learning for choir, I’ll ask for help. I don’t have nearly the sense of music that my husband does (and my older son). I’m also not nearly as good with the piano (every time I have to count white and black keys to find a C).

If there’s something heavy to carry at work, I just might ask for help, if there’s a man around that I am comfortable asking. (And I couldn’t tell you why I am more comfortable asking some than others.) But if I don’t find one, I’ll go ahead and do it myself.

A few weeks ago, I took down the artificial Christmas tree from the lobby. By the time I finished, most of my co-workers had left for the day. There were a few I could have asked, but no one I knew well. So I decided to try to carry it myself. Not too bad – for the first few yards. It got heavier as I continued down the hall, but I could do it.

Out into the plant, up the stairs to the storage area on the mezzanine. Funny how heavy that tree got as I went higher up the stairs. There were some people sitting on a bench at the bottom, but of course I wasn’t going to ask them for help – I didn’t know them at all. And since they saw me carrying it, I wasn’t going to look foolish by deciding I needed help after all.

Next Christmas I will probably ask for help. Then again, if I keep working out at the Y three days a week, maybe I won’t need to…

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