For those of us women who hate to ask for help, there comes a day of reckoning.
We have a cold and have to ask for soup.
We have a serious illness, and have to ask for a lot of soup.
And then sometimes we can’t move.
A week ago, I leaned on what appeared to be a sturdy table at a wedding to photograph the rings. I’d gotten some nice shots, and when I was done, I put my hand on the table to brace myself to stand up. The table, which was not so sturdy as it turns out, collapsed. I fell to the floor only a foot or two, banging my elbow and my knee. But it was the long muscle in my groin that took the brunt of it, stretching taut like a rubber band to try and catch me. Ouch, times infinity.
Talk about a wedding crasher, the next day and the next and the next and for the next many days and nights, my mobility was severely limited. I found crutches in the garage from when my youngest sprained his ankle, which I employed to hobble from bed to bathroom, which is about all I’ve been able to muster other than a trip to the physical therapist who told me I tore my adductor muscle. Eight days out, and I continue to struggle with walking, getting in and out of the bed, even sleeping, as the adductor is the muscle that helps the leg turn, lift and otherwise act like a leg.
From the get-go, my friends offered help. From the get-go I knew if I was to heal, I had to get over my fear of being a burden. I had to believe people really did want to help or they wouldn’t offer. I had to believe it was not only OK, but reasonable, to be on the receiving end sometimes.
And so I took a deep breath and said yes to Elizabeth’s offers for home cooking, picking up supplies at the drug store and otherwise being a significant go-to. I said OK to Lisa bringing a tub of cooked brown rice and Lynne picking up takeout. I told Becky and Steve, sure, that’d be great if they raked the leaves that were multiplying and collecting like bunny magnets one to the other in the front yard. I let my son scrub down the kitchen while he was here visiting and said yes to friends picking up staples from the local co-op, where the kind 20-something clerk took my list over the phone, then had everything boxed and rung up by the time they got there.
“This was not a problem,” Ben said when I texted him my effusive gratitude. “If anything, it made my day better.”
I knew living alone with an immobilizing injury meant I was in a position to either accept help or starve.
I was also poised on the precipice of a community-health opportunity: If I am all about connection like I say I am, if the way into community is intimacy, if intimacy means letting people see my basement where the laundry is, then there could be no better occasion.
It’s a moment I’m still living into these many days out with no end in sight, as adductor tears do not heal quickly. I still have to ask every single person helping me: “Are you sure this is OK?”
At the same time, I’ve taken to developing a revolving list on my phone. On this list are the things I need, so that when people stand before me asking: “How can I help?” I have something to say.
It’s not like I’m asking people to drive me to California, I have to remind myself. On my list are small things like “Go to the garage and get the extension cord so I can plug my phone in.”
I’m helping myself by asking for and accepting help. I’m also fostering extended family. I’m letting people be close to me, and me, in turn, close to them.
Tomorrow, my friend Patty is bringing some crafts from the local DIY store that I thought might give me something to do besides glomming up on Netflix.
I’m hoping she will come in for tea.
Which I will dare to ask her to make.
Debra-Lynn B. Hook of Kent, Ohio, has been writing about family life since 1988. Visit her website at www.debralynnhook.com; email her at email@example.com, or join her column’s Facebook discussion group at Debra-Lynn Hook: Bringing Up Mommy.