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Monday, November 19, 2012

Help! I Think I'm Drowning!

When you're drowning, you don't say 
'I would be incredibly pleased if someone would 
have the foresight to notice me drowning 
and come help me.' 
You just scream.

--John Lennon

Let me do it "MYSELF." How many times do I hear that phrase in a week? My 7, 6 and 4-year-old say it in all sorts of ways, almost every day. And I understand.

I like to do things myself. I always have. This week, I found myself thinking about what drives my need to be independent. Is independence my protection from disappointment or is it a visor from the glaring proof that "people don't really love me?" Absolutely. My need for control? Yes. My need to feel strong and successful? Probably. So I trot off to get things done-- by myself.

And what is the opposite of someone who wants to do it all solo? Someone who is dependent. I hate that word! Someone who needs others. Needy. Don't like that one either. Someone with lots of problems. Ewe...

But truly, I am needy, I am dependent, and I have a lot of problems. That is just the truth. 

Lets face it, I'm pretty sure we all have a lot of problems. And we are all needy, at times. We are all dependent on something or someone. Are we dependent on money, our intelligence, our reputations, our success, our child's success, our own strength, our spouse's...or are we dependent on God? 

Many times in the last seven years, I have felt like I was under water, gasping for air. And I learned that my independence doesn't save me when I'm drowning, and neither does my intelligence, my reputation or my success. I need God. I need help. I haven't quite screamed, but I have come pretty close. And I am grateful that I have found my way to a lifeline-- God who doesn't require my perfection, who gives me help, often through other people. He pulls me up, despite who I am. 

Very early on in motherhood, I learned the hard way that I needed help. It started in my first pregnancy with partial bedrest. I hated myself for having to ask my husband to do things for me while I sat there watching. I never felt that I deserved to sit. I felt useless. I couldn't show him what a beautiful, fit, cheerful pregnant woman I was. I was the opposite of that vision-- I was needy! My husband didn't seem to mind very much, but I felt like I was losing my independence by needing so much of his help. I also had to depend on him for finances because I couldn't work as much as I liked. I felt vulnerable.

Then after T was born, we rushed to the hospital with him, and slept there for weeks on end during his open heart surgery and other complications. And I had to accept help from my very devoted mother-in-law. She took care of our house, our dog, she even packed my clothes for me and brought them to the hospital. She knew every detail of my closet! She packed my underwear and nightgowns. I could not hide a thing. I had to accept her help and rely on her, whether I liked it or not. Given what we were going though at the time, it wasn't that hard. But it was a big step for me. I had to receive love and grace that I could not pay back, and that I felt I did not deserve. I had to let go of doing things all by myself. (And really, who was I fooling, I had never been doing things all by myself anyway...I just wanted to believe that.)  I think God was trying to tell me about grace. 

This need for help has followed (or haunted) me ever since. As soon as T's behavioral troubles started and I had my third child, I found that no matter how many ways I would plan and try to control things, that I could not manage without help. This realization terrified me. I was frightened of being alone with my children. How completely sad and humiliating was that? I was scared because when I was the only adult in the house, T would destroy things, create messes beyond imagination, terrorize a sibling, have tantrums, or he would disappear...The very worst part-- he would completely unnerve me. I felt like a tangle of hot nerves. All while my other children needed me. They were all babies!

I have lived in fear of the days when I will not have help. I still find it humiliating. Because often help (my nanny, or sometimes my husband if he has a late meeting...but he is rarely late) doesn't show up. This week I am looking for a new nanny, and I am not sure that I will find one by the time our current one leaves. She often doesn't show up for work. On those days when I am without help, I buckle up and prepare to accept the challenge. I might even squint. T requires so much attention that I often feel like I'm pumped full of adrenaline, ready for the next leap to grab a permanent marker from his hand, use "just the right words" to calm an episode, pull out a diversion, or sometimes just pick him up (he is very large now) and carry him to a different part of the house... while being kicked and hit... I'm always turned "on." This is not good for our family. So I ask for help. 

I have a nanny,  many therapists for T, a therapist for me, I have my husband (whom I lean on more than I would like), I have my church, I have friends, my family and I have God. I am not doing this parenting thing alone. I cannot take credit. I need people.

Sometimes I hear people say things like, "families need to take care of themselves." Or "have you heard about his dad? No wonder he has so much trouble in school!" And I understand that way of thinking. It is the same insidious need to be strong and independent that I have. To take credit for my own success. But I also now know that child, that mom, that family. They need me and need you. Heck, they are me and you. If we are strong enough to look down at another, then we are strong enough to hold out a hand and pull. To reach for something more beautiful. And if we are strong enough to be in the position to pull someone up, it is only because of our own metamorphosis, empowered by grace and those who have lifted us before. We have been blessed by the people who have helped us, the situations in our life, and by God, to be strong enough to help others. Look back. look closely. ..See what I mean?

It is another blessing, through my toughest child, I guess. Shedding my pride. Accepting help. And this act of receiving help has come in the backdoor of my heart as a gigantic opportunity to redefine my faith. I can openly (on a good day) admit my weaknesses. I can need God and his gifts (the people in my life) rather than try to be God. I can accept that I get a life ridiculously richer than I deserve, which is the nourishment I can pour out onto my children and to other people. I have been given so much. Only when I receive grace with open arms can I share it. I need help, I ask, and so I am so blessed.

1 comment :

Lynn Challenger said...

One of the hardest things for me to figure out is that people rely on me and how do I prioritize that need. Is my job and those late meetings more important than the needs of my family who rely on me to be home on time? The optimization equation is often difficult to compute because the variables are often dependent. For example, my job is important for my family, but how many meetings with people can I back out of before it starts to threaten my job?

The other challenge is that when life is hard, how do you know when to ask for help and when does it just add to the giant pile of stress? What I have learned is that if you do not communicate as a full member of a community - someone is shocked and surprised and ends up getting it your boss or your spouse.

Lastly, it is such a good point you make about pulling people up. Sometimes we elect to think more about our personal pleasure than other people. But what many people forget is that helping others and giving beyond yourself is the best source of fulfillment. When you are fulfilled, you have a deeper sense of joy than what pleasure can ever provide.

I have also found that when I hold back from my wife and do not "burden" her with my troubles, she does not have the opportunity to help me - and she misses that opportunity to give. Her giving helps distract her from her problems and gives her joy. Also, if I hold back, it ends up manifesting itself in less positive ways - like anger and resentment.

Thanks for writing!!! Always makes me stop and think and remember!

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