Receiving, or letting people help you. Not easy in our independence-minded, survivalist, lone cowboy culture. I like to think of myself as above or outside of all that bs, but in fact, it has its tentacles in my psyche as much as anyone else. It’s a rewrite of the standard aphorism, but for me (and many of us, I think) it’s far easier to give than to receive. And I’m questioning why. Do I not want to admit weakness? Do I not want to become dependent? Or, horrors, am I afraid to be beholden to others?
Giving makes me feel good. I know, I’ve posted recently about the downside and dangers of care-taking. But when someone is in need, it is ‘instinctive’ (and what do I mean by that?) to want to help. Often that means cooking something: for someone who has been ill, had surgery, has a new baby or a death in the family. That’s old timey, neighborly, ‘we take care of each other’ giving. Akin to shoveling snow for someone who is elderly or giving someone a ride to the airport, right? And of course there is gift giving, something that can become a costly (in time and money) obsession at this time of year.
But that’s not what I’m trying to examine here. It’s hard for me to look at this ‘rejection of receiving’ issue. Makes me uncomfortable. What is it about wanting to believe that I am self-reliant and supremely competent? I’m searching for words and understanding, but I can tell that there is a defensiveness to this automatic stance. I’ve come to believe that it is ‘smart’ to hire professionals to do certain jobs for me. Where I might have once felt some embarrassment, I now see these as sensible choices. It’s the more personal help that is harder to accept and nearly impossible to request.
I think ‘should’ and ‘guilt’ are probably operative words here. I should be able to ‘handle this’ on my own. I feel guilty when I cannot. Or when my need is somehow visible, so obvious that a friend will offer to bring me a meal or take care of me in some way. Ah, there it is: a glimmer of, a dawn of understanding. It is about shame after all. The drive to hide any family imperfections was paramount in my childhood. Also known as the imperative to maintain proper appearances, even if that required creating an illusion. In reading some of my old writing last month, I came across a fabulous line. When I read it, I laughed out loud. Understated, but it captures the ethos: “You never share reality.”
That was written in a notebook, what I would consider private writing. Now I am putting it out there. Doesn’t matter who reads it; the impact for me comes from having ‘said’ it. It may be that a lot of the writing I have done and continue to do, certainly what I share here, is almost a direct response to that interdiction. The thing about ‘receiving’ is that to do so, you have to choose to let people see the real you. The drumbeat, the chant of all I have found helpful and healing over the years is this:
Share your reality.
Just “me having a bit of thought about this…”.