Friday, May 4, 2012

Help? No thanks.

I never ask for help. I've learned over the years that it's rather pointless. At least it is in my case, I know plenty of people who ask for  help and get it.

Oh, I should warn you, my inner cynic is in full force these days so if you don't want to be bombarded by negativity you should probably stop reading now.

When I was in high school my parents started having health problems. We belonged to a lovely church and frequently I would be there by myself on Sundays because one or both of my parents didn't feel up to attending. The people of the church always said 2 things to me -

How are your parents doing?


If there's anything we can do to help, just let us know.

I soon learned that last phrase is the most useless one in the English language. If I ever called someone to ask for a specific bit of help I would always get the same response - the pause. I learned to dread THE PAUSE on the other end of the phone. I could hear the other person's eyes darting back and forth as they tried to come up with an excuse because they didn't actually want to bother themselves to help, they had just wanted to make themselves feel better by offering.

I soon stopped asking.

To this day I will never say "just let me know what I can do to help" to someone else. I know no one MEANS to be insincere when they say it but their good intentions aren't much help when you are facing THE PAUSE. Nowadays when I offer help, I always try to come up with a specific thing I can do - how about if I bring over some meals for your freezer? Do you need someone to babysit while you get some time for yourself? Can I help you pick out pictures for the slideshow at the funeral? That way we all know I'm sincerely offering to help, not just speaking meaningless words to make myself feel virtuous.

The first "church people" phrase - how are your parents doing? - there's nothing wrong with that. It was nice of them to care enough to ask about my folks and I appreciated it. But, just once, I would have appreciated it being followed up by asking how I was. It was a big burden for a teenager to carry, dealing with parents who were facing life threatening conditions. I grew up fast and I often felt like I was dealing with it all on my own. Nobody meant to be unkind but because I wasn't one to moan and wail about things, people assumed I was just a naturally cheerful person and didn't need any emotional support.

It made me bitter. It made me assume that nobody cared enough to help and I've got to tell you, not much in the last few decades has come along to convince me to change that position.

It made me strong. So if nobody is going to exert any effort on my behalf, it doesn't matter because I can take care of myself. I have a friend who is always on the edge of disaster but she's very vocal about it and so she now drives a "borrowed" car and often has her rent paid by friends. Yeah, a part of me is jealous. A big part. But I wouldn't want to rely on help on a permanent basis so at least I've learned to take care of myself. My family has never bailed me out, bought me a car, paid for my school, contributed to my upkeep, paid for my vacations, paid my mortgage, bought me a computer or any of the other situations that most of my friends have found themselves in. I have never asked a friend for a loan, I've rarely even asked a friend for a favor. It never occurs to me to ask for help because the few times I've tried have been a let-down. But that's ok, I've learned what I can endure over the years and I know I'm a strong person. I'm not going to be incapacitated by panic attacks just because life got screwy.

So what brought on all this, you ask? Some stupid little thing. I asked for something recently, something really simple and easy that required no effort at all and 3 people responded. A friend asked for the very same thing and 60 people responded.

You just have to laugh sometimes..

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