Letting them in

In the space of a few hours yesterday, I was described by three different people as:
High Functioning
Altruistic
Caring
Nurturing
Good judge of character
Trust worthy
 
I was also told by two different people that if I ever needed anything, that they would be there for me.
 
Have you ever heard the hollow statement ‘If you ever need anything, just let me know’ or ‘If you want to talk, I’m here’.  Perhaps you’ve even said that hollow statement.  It’s not really hollow tho… I think that at least some of the time, the person saying it means it.  For about a day.  Then they go on to forget that they even offered you anything because everyone has their own ‘stuff’ going on.  Because this is my blog and we’re talking about me, you’ll forgive me that the next statement sounds somewhat narcissistic.  I don’t give hollow platitudes.  When I say ‘If you ever need anything, let me know’, it’s often followed by ‘I know people say that like they say good morning, but I mean it.  Anything.  Ever.  If I don’t want to be on the hook for that kind of support then I don’t say it.  It’s not just a nice thing to say, it’s a commitment to the person that potentially needs the help, or the talk or whatever.
 
The problem for me, is I’ve learned that for the most part, it’s a hollow gesture, a platitude and it doesn’t mean anything.  I’ve tried to take people at face value for meaning what they say, but I’ve been burned in the past… not burned as in hurt by it, necessarily, but burned because I’m expecting support and what I often end up with is a pile of THEIR stuff… the way my personality works is that I put myself aside for others… so my seeking of support turns into an offering of support and then I’m more diminished than when I went looking.
 
This historical pattern and the last four years of being in a negative relationship have meant that I no longer seek help.  I no longer want or expect anyone to do anything for me and I do ‘it’ myself.  I’ve made my bed a luxurious comforting space, I protect my home from negativity and I have a hobby that appeals to the textural comfort that I seek out on a regular basis.  I have play lists for my every mood, tea pots and cups for whatever I want at the time, bubbles and candles to make a nice bath and aromatherapy to soothe and calm me.  My home is a haven and it gives me strength and power and comfort.  Sometimes that’s not enough tho.  Sometimes the voice in my head says ‘I wish someone would save me’.  ‘I wish someone would come and take over and just let me fall… for a minute…’  Seems like a reasonable request but here’s where my own psyche throws a wrench into the plans.  IF I had a person that would come over, tuck me into my bed and stand vigal while I slept… (which for some reason, even tho it’s never ever happened, seems like THE MOST comforting thing), IF I had someone that would come to my house, make tea and chat and giggle and cry and console on my couch… IF I had someone that would go to the ends of the earth to make me feel better…. get this… I would turn them down.  I would gather myself before they got to my house… I’d make them tea and ask them about their day.  I’d run THEM a bath and have a nest of blankets and pillows on the sofa.  It’s almost physically impossible for me to let someone care for me.
 
This in fact happened on Tuesday, from beginning to end and I was shocked in my counsellors office when I told her the story… through my tears and realized that I refused the exact thing that I wanted.
I went to a meeting on Tuesday morning… I ran from my house to my car to the hospital, up 9 flights of stairs, had a somewhat conflicted meeting and then ran down 9 stories and three blocks to my car… By the time I got back to my office, my blood sugar had bottomed out and my appendages were overcooked spagetti.  A friend of mine I work with sits right behind me and I mentioned to him that I wasn’t feeling that well.  And then the scenario that has played itself out over and over in my life played again:
 
Friend: Do you want me to go to [grocery store across the street] and get you something?
Me:  No no, definitely not.  I’ll be fine
Friend: Are you sure?
Me: Yes, but thank you for asking.
 
Not a big deal right?  Only the second he asked if he could go out of his way to get me something… something that I REALLY needed, I was overcome with guilt and terrified that he might actually get ‘it’ for me.  I’m not helpless or useless and if I needed something from the grocery, I could certainly get it myself, right?  I felt that he must certainly think I was ‘attention-seeking’ and view me as useless.  Never want to have a conversation with me again about anything because I would constantly be ‘needing’ something from him.  In retrospect, what a ridiculous reaction.  I actually COULDN’T go across the street and get myself something.  I said to my counsellor that if he had said ‘Do you want me to walk over to the store with you’, I would have probably jumped on that.  But the idea of me sitting in my chair while someone goes out of their way for me…. to attend to me, makes me feel so uncomfortable that I wished I could disappear.  It makes me feel small and useless.  And worst of all, I feel that everyone must think I ‘made up’ my trouble so that I could garner this special attention.  The real and rational answer to what was actually happening for him was that he cares about me and cared enough to want me to feel better.  To him, ten minutes of his time would have been well spent, caring for another human being.  He wanted to do for me the exact thing I would do for someone I cared about.  I wouldn’t judge a person if they accepted my help.  I wouldn’t presume them to be useless, helpless or attention seeking.  In fact I’ve gone out of my way countless times for countless people.  It’s what I want someone to care enough about me to do and when it happens, it makes me feel so awkward that I turn tail and run as fast as I can.  And that is a lonely place to be.
 
So my task is that if someone offers me something that historically I decline because it makes me feel uncomfortable, to accept the help anyway.  Not from just anyone, but someone that I trust my relationship with.  Because needing help isn’t attention seeking.  It doesn’t mean I’m faking my need in order to gain something.  It doesn’t mean that I’m helpless, useless or a loser.  It simply means that I can not be all things to all people and I can not be all things to myself.  According to my counsellor, it’s a human condition to need support from your inner circle.
 
Funny enough, I spoke to my friend last night about this.  I wanted to thank him for his kind offer (because I actually was so uncomfortable that I couldn’t remember whether I was polite or not) and explain to him what had happened.  Part of me being able to trust someone is telling them my fear… the immediate reaction I have, because I believe someone worth my trust will remember.  Someone worth my trust and worth bringing in to my inner circle will care enough to remember how uncomfortable it makes me and offer anyway.  Know that it’s a struggle and want to go there anyway.  Someone worth my trust and worth my time will know why I jump to ‘I’m fine’ and give that little pause… will be okay with saying ‘let me help you’ and mean it.
 
What came of the conversation was a realization that I am certainly not alone.  ‘We’re nurturers’ he said.  We want to help people.  We don’t want people to help us.
 
Part of being a high functioning altruistic adult is being a pillar of strength.  Of being everything to everyone.  Of going out of your way to make others feel good, sometimes to the deterimint of yourself.  To always appear in control and ready to take on the next thing.  And part of that is neglectful of the basic human need to be cared for.
 
And everyONE can not be everyTHING to me.  I understand that.  There are always going to be hollow platitudes.  There will always be someone who genuinely offers support but then renegs in order to support themselves.  That’s okay.  But to keep trusting that there are people who care enough about me to WANT to help me.  To feel the pull in their hearts to in some small way, make my life fuller, richer and better.  Those people are out there… I just need to stop pushing them away when they try and give me what I need… what I deep down, save my life need.
 

I was also told by two different people that if I ever needed anything, that they would be there for me.
 
At the end of the night last night, I felt like I heard and understood… trusted that these two people genuinely meant what they said.  And even if it might feel like foreign territory… something to run from… I will try to let them both in…

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3 thoughts on “Letting them in

  1. There are people out there who want nothing more than to be a lame duck that everyone has to take care of. They want to be sick, they want to be weak and ailing and they are desperate to have people look after them. They want to shed responsibility for their actions with excuses upon excuse. They are fake and false and phony. They pretend to be dumb and useless. They think their 'problems' are epic and make sure everyone knows every minute detail of what horror they are struggling through. We both have people in our lives like this. These are the people that, eventually, you stop offering assistance to. That assistance and helping hand are met time and time again with no action or revision on their part. They keep doing and saying the same old stuff in order to try and garner a 'take care of me' reaction. You are not that lame duck. You're a rooster (well….whatever….I like roosters and we're using a bird analogy). Your friend who offered you a grocery store trip knows that. You didn't ask him to help you, HE asked YOU if you needed help. And the only reason he probably did so is because he more than likely has a respect for how you cope and keep everything together (maybe only on the outside) and keep moving forward and he wanted to take a little of the heat off of you. People, the majority of them, are not interested in becoming someone's 'assistant'. They are willing to lend a helping hand, not give you their whole arm. So when someone offers you some help, let them. They aren't doing it so that two weeks from now they'll be standing out on a busy intersection pointing and laughing with a banner that says "P'cess couldn't do it alone, I HAD to help her! She FAILED!". Obviously not. They're doing it because it makes THEM feel good and more than likely you may have done something nice for them in the past. Also, here's how you might want to look at turning down a genuine helping hand. We are going to our friend's for dinner tonight. They live 35 minutes away from us. We would like to drink with them, they are our camping buddies and we all get drunk very well together and have a hoot! But Ray and I have plans tomorrow, one of which includes an 8:30am fitness class. Stay with me here. Ray suggested to me that we take Goat (our motorhome) out to their house and then sleep in it and tomorrow morning when the booze has worn off, drive home and I can go to my fitness class. I told him that our friend would be highly offended if we did that and he didn't understand why. Here's the thing. These friends always offer us the use of their spare room when we go to their house. Always. We have never said yes. If we declined their hospitality in favour of sleeping in a cold motorhome on the street, Linda would be beside herself upset….obviously. Sometimes when someone makes an offer of help or hospitality, turning them down is hurtful. They WANT to help you. They want to make you comfortable and show off their care for you. They want to show you how much they appreciate you and want you to be happy. It's serving you and it's self serving to them. As much as people need to be helped and cared for, they also need to do that for their friends. If you never accept, guarantee you that people will eventually stop asking. Accept occassionally, it helps you and makes others feel good too.

  2. You didn't ask him to help you, HE asked YOU if you needed help. In all the introspection and thinking and mulling, I did not think of it this way. It's an interesting point of view.It's interesting because phrased that way, it's a lot less alarming.Friend: Do you need help?Me: yes.Friend: I will go and get you something from Grocery store.It's the exact same thing, but from a different point of view. Does the person need help. Yes. Then I will help them. I've often seen Sharon in the same predicament that I was in on Tuesday… weak, low blood sugar, a shell of herself. And I asked her if she needed help. She said yes, and I said 'I'm going to the store. Did you want, X, Y, or something else?'. Maybe it's hard because even tho someone else is offering the help, the idea of having to ask for what I need terrifies me. I think it's doable to trust that people are doing things for me out of the goodness of their hearts and not because they think I'm weak and useless. I don't want someone to think that I need to be carried… I sometimes just want a hand to hold to gain my balance as I climb over the driftwood of life… but my first instinct is that I'm a burden…

  3. Wow, I finally read this. This does sound familiar, offering you assistance in even the smallest way and you declining. I can picture your body language too that goes along with the polite decline to offers, im not just referring ti offers from me but even from a store clerk for example. It seems kind of obvious in retrospect, but hearing you talk about the turmoil a proposition to help puts you through definitely gives me a better understanding of where your coming from and also that maybe I need to hold your hand, not take no for an answer, and be more insistant.

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