If you are a successful person who has ever struggled with accepting help from others, you’ll appreciate what I’m about to share.
A good friend of mine, a nurse, offered to stay with me the night of my surgery, and my immediate response was, “Oh, no. I don’t need anyone’s help!” I was already allowing a couple of friends to drive me to and from the hospital next Monday, so how could I possibly let a third person help me? (Like there’s some kind of rule about the maximum number of helpers a person can have!)
For most of my life, I have taken pride in being “self-sufficient.” I’ve always been the one to help…it’s only been in the last decade that I’ve begun to practice letting others help me. There is no coincidence that I now find myself in a situation that is providing a valuable life lesson in this department! I have to admit, it took me a few days to decide whether or not to accept my friend’s help. And what I would normally do is beat myself up for not being able to make this decision as quickly as I’d have decided whether to have soup or salad with my entree. But by some miracle, I chose to pause, talk it out, get honest and gather information in order to move forward. What do I mean by all that?
Pause: I’ve learned via my recovery work that I don’t have to give a “yes” or “no” answer immediately. I’m allowed to say, “I’ll get back to you.” Whaaattt? Growing up in a crazy home like I did made me into a human reactor vs. a healthy responder. Yet, when my friend offered to stay with me, I was able to pause and say, “thank you for offering. I would like to think about that and get back with you.” That’s progress! She agreed, and I felt relief in knowing I could step back and make my choice based on more than a conditioned reaction. I bought some time to respond. Now what?
Talk it out: I’ve also learned through my recovery journey that the best way to approach solving any problem is to get it out of my head. It was Einstein who said, “Problems cannot be solved with the same mind set that created them.” In 12-step recovery, you hear the term ‘sponsor.’ This is the person who helps you solve problems without solving the problem. Seems impossible, but when the sponsor simply listens and offers perspective, nine times out of ten a solution emerges. It’s like magic! In my case, what emerged was not a final solution but another possibility. Do I need someone to stay with me or could I rely on a neighbor for necessary support if trouble should arise?
Sidenote: When I reflect on the beginning of this vocal journey, it was in talking it out with my friend Andy, getting an outside perspective, that prompted me to visit a doctor who could address the issue. Thinking my voice problems through in my own mind just kept me spinning without a solution. Including another person in the process brought a different result.
Get honest: After talking things out, I had to look at what my objection was to letting my friend stay with me. Why was I struggling with the idea of accepting help from a good friend? Turns out, I was taking responsibility for feelings my friend “might” be having. You see, my friend is a single, working mom. Does she really need the hassle of making overnight arrangements for her child? Does she have to work the next day, and how will this interrupt her schedule? In talking it through, I realized that none of these questions or potential concerns belonged to me. They were for my friend to answer. And she wouldn’t have volunteered to help if these were issues, right?
Gather Information: I shared my concerns with my friend, and admitted my attempt at taking responsibility for her feelings. (We had a chuckle over how easy it is to slip into codependent behavior.) I let her know that I had neighbors who could help if need be. She suggested I get more information; that I call my doctor and let him decide if I need someone onsite or on call. I followed her advice, and the call to the doctor provided not just the answer to my current dilemma (he didn’t feel I needed an overnight monitor), but lots of information about what I could expect next Monday…how long the procedure would last, how I would feel afterward, what kind of physical activities I could engage in. All of this gave me a greater sense of peace that I would not have gained without going through the discernment process on accepting help.
Isn’t it interesting. In the end, I was able to accept help. But it was the process of getting to that willingness which was most valuable. It’s like the coaching work I do and the recovery work I do. It may sound cliche, but it’s really not the destination, it’s the journey.