Why Asking for Help is So Hard

I just never know when the next ah-ha moment will happen.

Weed Eater

The man from the landscaping company came by to talk to me about some rocks.

We surveyed the backyard together. As we did, I apologized profusely for the condition of the grass along my fence line; as if the condition of the yard was some reflection on my character. I was embarrassed and explained that I had run out of weed eater string and was working on how to replace it. I assumed this would be the end of that conversation.

I do not know how to replace weed eater string. In fact, I did not even know that the string was designed to destroy itself. Yard work is not one of my gifts.

He smiled sweetly and said “I’ll do it for you.” I, of course, said something like “oh no, no I don’t want to bother you with that.” He insisted.

I stood and watched, uncomfortably, as he laced the string into the weed eater. I apologized for using his time to do this for me. I apologized for not knowing how to do it myself. Really, though, I was apologizing for needing help; I was worried that he would judge me because I could not do this myself. I explained, apologetically, that this is the first house I have lived in where I was responsible for the yard. In the past I hired someone to do it and growing up my Daddy always took care of the yard. As I gushed, needlessly, I wondered why I needed him to know why I did not know anything about weed eaters. Why would I?

He repeated sweetly and genuinely that he did not mind. He said that he was happy to do it and that “it makes us feel needed.”

It makes us feel needed – I thought about that comment for a couple of days. He did not care that I did not know anything about weed eaters; he did not expect me to and did not judge me for it. He enjoyed helping.

He liked being needed as much as I did not want to be needy. It’s clear to me now that when I refuse to ask for help when I need it I am depriving someone else of the opportunity to feel the joy of being needed.

Turns out, needing help is not a character flaw either. It is an opportunity to give someone else the gift of being needed.

Home Ownership Lesson #10

Shut up, accept and be grateful for help.

When I bought my soulless house in my little subdivision I never expected that it would see a real holiday event or celebration. Why? As I have said many times, holidays only happen at my Mommy’s house. Turns out, that is not true any more.

Sister, Brother-in-Law, The Princess, and the Benevolent Dictator decided that they would spend Thanksgiving 2012 in Vegas. My parents opted out of Vegas and instead they packed up half my Mommy’s cooking supplies, various ingredients (bring your own homemade cranberry relish), a giant sack of canned goods, and the dog and came to Fort Wayne.

Have canned beets, will travel.

Have canned beets, will travel.

On the surface this was the perfect plan. The parents still get to do a little traveling but we get to have a home-cooked traditional Thanksgiving feast (including a 17 pound turkey for 3 people). For me? I get to not drive to Virginia until Christmas. Everyone is happy. The devil, however, is in the details.

Five days, three people, two dogs, a small house, and no cable. Do you see where this is going now?

The dogs missed cable as well.

The dogs missed cable as well.

The key problem here, upon reflection, is the lack of cable television (meaning no Thanksgiving football). This forced us to talk, walk the dogs, burn things, then we resorted to rummy. I think the rummy could have gone on longer had I not beat the parents unmercifully and bragged about it (a trait I get from my father). As the rummy showdown wrapped up I went to the bathroom. When I returned my father was standing in the kitchen with the ladder. That is how long it takes. Why? He bumped his head for the second time (gasp!) on the low hanging light fixture in my kitchen. It was too much – he could not take it any more. By “it” I mean not having anything to do, but he probably meant the ill-hanging light.

Winning!

Winning!

Enter gratuitous holiday home improvement.

Now, in my family every group project is an opportunity for a fight. I am surprised my parents have remained married for 43 years. This little project lived up to those low expectations. I was irritated because I really had not planned for electrical work and this was not my idea. Mom went along with it, my guess, because that is easier. I have not gotten that smart, yet. So, at this point he is frustrated because I am irritated and not helpful. For instance, I refuse to go turn the power to the lights off because I don’t want to do it wrong and electrocute my father. I’m a total grown-up.

Me being unhelpful. Note my Mommy's little feet standing on my kitchen table.

Me being unhelpful. Note my Mommy’s little feet standing on my kitchen table.

Daddy the electrician

Long story short, 30 minutes later – after having to redo the entire wiring once because someone (who shall remain nameless) forgot to put a washer back on – the light is up and working. The end result is a huge improvement – no one can hit their head and it looks better (even though the fixtures are ugly and I want rid of them).

So, who feels like giant a@! now? Me. But you know what, it was a holiday and somebody has to be “that person.” Might as well be me. Hopefully I won’t win that prize at Christmas too.

Thanks to my Mommy and Daddy, who still love and are willing to continue “raising” their willful, independent, short-tempered, and high-strung 35-year-old child.

Happy Holidays!

Home Ownership Lesson #8

It is mine and I can do whatever I want to it.

The last two days have been a cleaning frenzy in my little corner of suburbia. Thursday was the screened in porch, Friday was the kitchen, Saturday was everything else. I love a house filled with the smell of Clorox.

I noticed that cleaning my master bath is tough because of the door situation. The bathroom closet door is right behind the bathroom door into my bedroom such that the door handles will bang against each other. In order to get into the closet I have to close the bathroom door. This makes sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping a huge pain. It also encourages me to leave all my products out on the counter so I don’t have to get into the closet for everything. Contrary to what my parents will say, I like to be neat, but my closet won’t let me. It is not my fault.

Since the bathroom was clean, all my bathroom stuff was in the closet in its proper place. I want to leave it there in an effort to be the neat person that I like to believe that I am. So, as I prepared for an evening out on Saturday night I got irritated at my bathroom. I rolled my eyes and closed the bathroom door and opened the closet door. Again. I thought to myself, I wish I could get rid of this closet door, it is a waste of space. Then I closed the closet door and opened the bathroom door and continued on with my primping.

Then, I realized, wait, this is my house. I can get rid of that door.

And that is exactly what I did. In party clothes and freshly coiffed hair (my impulse control on such issues is clearly lacking) I snatched a Phillips screwdriver from my cardboard box of tools and proceeded to unhinge the door. Ten minutes later the door was is in the garage and I have unfettered access to my closet. Ah, it is the small stuff that makes me happy.

Now, I wonder if I should paint the inside of the closet? It never ends.

“A good home must be made, not bought.” Joyce Maynard, “Domestic Affairs”

 

Home Ownership Lesson #4

You will need to accept and/or ask for help.

I have been doing things myself for a long time. Even though I am the same baby that refused to walk because I had people for that – why walk when everyone carries me? I somehow went from happily depending on the arms of others for transportation to insisting on moving myself from my college apartment to downtown Richmond, Virginia when it was close to being the murder capital of the world. Mommy later complained that “I could have asked for help.” Honestly, it never occurred to me. I could do it myself.

Boyfriend #2 used to say that I am “independent to fault” because I wasn’t jealous and regularly told him that I needed a couple of days to myself. I thought he was over-reacting. Sometimes I prefer my own company, what’s the problem with that? I enjoy eating, going to the movies, shopping, and traveling alone from time to time. I have been told by people that those preferences are “weird,” “pathetic,” and “brave.” I just thought I was being normal? Sometimes a book, a movie, or NPR is all I need.

Not much has changed. I have rented apartments, traveled abroad, driven through the desert, chilled in Las Vegas, New York, and Chicago, and bought two cars myself. Most recently I bought a house by myself with some interest rate advice from a mentor and a chat with a few folks about realtors. Why not think that I can move into the new digs by myself? I thought I will hire movers to transport the furniture – even though the Family of Six offered to move me. Great plan? Two nights of pain, one doctor’s visit, two prescriptions, a sick day, and heating pad later – I realized this was not a great plan.

It started when I decided that I would move two night stands from Virginia to FW myself. Solid wood night stands with full drawers – no need to unpack them . . . waste of time. I unloaded these myself. The next day I woke up with a sore back. No big deal, right? I did some stretches and all was well. Next morning I had to keep my arbitrary schedule of moving things from my apartment to the new place (can you say OCD?) and was carrying a giant plastic container filled with clothes down the stairs. When I turned the corner into the garage I felt a sharp shooting pain in my lower back. That pain stayed without fading for the next three days. I spent a lot of time lying on the floor. Not good.

It turns out I need help.

Luckily I am extremely blessed with some homeownership angels who actually offer and expect friends to ask them for help. Shocking!  So, I have learned my lesson. I am letting the Family of Six help move some things, the Father of Six did all the prep for my painting and is cleaning the carpets, Sweet Chelle painted three rooms beautifully, Bob the Builder has recommended tree cutting services, and various others have provided muscle and advice. All I had to do was ask. What was so hard about that . . .

“How do I feel by the end of the day, Are you sad because you’re on your own, No I get by with a little help from my friends.”

John Lennon & Paul McCartney