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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Do You Dare Ask for Help?

A little boy was having difficulty lifting a heavy stone. His father came along just then. Noting the boy’s failure, he asked, “Are you using all your strength?”

“Yes, I am,” the little boy said impatiently.

“No, you are not,” the father answered. “I am right here just waiting, and you haven’t asked me to help you.” 
- Anon

Help. How often do we ask for it when we need it? I confess that I once measured myself by how often I did not need help for most everything. I did careless things like carry a piece of furniture twice my size inside from the car, rather than asking for help from a person in the next room. "There, I did it." I would think. And I would feel so satisfied.

But there was a problem. I took credit, and pride points, for everything that I did well, particularly scoring a good job when I didn't have the right experience, starting my own business, moving across country to San Francisco without any friends in the area, recovering from a failed relationship and finding someone so much better. I took the credit for my blessings. I forgot that God was there with me, probably chuckling at my ignorance. Or maybe he was really miffed? I was not doing it alone. But I didn't recognize it. I just sprinted along, believing that I was one of those "resilient" people. When I wasn't feeling insecure and trying to prove myself, well, I felt kind of proud.

Then I became a mom.

I had it in my head that if my husband and I were good parents, we wouldn't need any help. We would read and follow the best parenting books, and "poof" we would become picture book parents with compassionate, intelligent, well-behaved kids. We were educated entrepenuers and we loved each other. With the right amount of nourishment, love, discipline and structure we could "create" (as though we were the creators) great kids. Right?

Of course not! When our son T started walking at 13 months, one month before my second baby was due, my life took a distinct turn toward CHAOS... And boy did I need HELP. You would think we could have handled anything at that point. We had just taken T off of his heart medication, his open heart surgery and atrial flutter were behind us. We had moved back to our beloved Marin from New York. We were remodeling a new home. It was time for the dream life. Two kids? We thought, "No big deal!"

Then T  became mobile, his new brother N entered the picture, and T began DESTROYING everything. He tore books, cleared shelves and drawers, threw objects. He wrecked everything in his path. He responded to no consequences, even natural ones, and became defiant-- about everything. He talked non-stop and never stopped moving. Food would fly. If another child came into his vicinity, he would offer a smile and then a quick-like-lighting SHOVE. Faces transformed from smiles to alarm, then disgust. He started throwing things at little N. And when N tried to walk, he could barely get a step in before T would intercept. N became exceptional at finding the ground just in time to avoid a push. I remember sitting in my living room, helplessly nursing N, watching T wreck everything in sight. I learned that my sense of peace relied on visual order. I felt unraveled, all day and night.

So I stopped sleeping. Many nights I got 2-3 hours of sleep. I felt terrified for the next day of chaos. Especially frightening was the expectation, the uncertainty, of dealing with the next day. Alone. Without sleep. Guilt. Instead of feeling the joy of motherhood, there was misery, fear and lonliness. The blessing of the day was a walk to the market without a major episode. A moment when I could feel in control. We could not consider going to church because we couldn't imagine leaving T with any Sunday school teacher, or sitting through a service. We were trapped.

No one was knocking on the door, offering to help. And I didn't have the skills, the courage, the humble heart to ask. Honestly, I didn't know who could have helped me at that point. When things were really bad, and I hadn't slept for nights, I would break down. I would ask my husband to stay home from work. It was only when I reached real darkness (fear for my children's safety and my sanity) that I started searching for help... I called Easter Seals and they visited and told me that T needed an OT. Simple, right?

Of course not! I spent six months calling OTs. Trying to get someone in Marin to help me. No one had time. No one returned calls. I hired a nanny to help me for six hours a week. But after a few weeks in our house, it became apparent that she could not help me with T. So she helped with housework and my little baby N. I missed my time with him.

I know that many people cannot afford 6 hours of nanny time weekly and an OT. I understand that I was blessed. But sadly our life was still so far from healthy. I was overwhelmed by T. Almost all of the time. I was not getting a break. I needed more help.

Then I got pregnant. And for some reason, when I had my third child, I truly could accept my need for help. Help! I asked Ross Academy, the preschool where we had been on the waitlist for over a year, to take T for five mornings a week to provide him with consistency. I  informed them about his challenges. They met him. They accepted him. They commited to our family. I hired a nanny full time. On my way to help, right?

Of course not! When our third child was born, Ross Academy called me in the hospital, the day after my C section, and informed me that T could not come back to school. They didn't have a specific reason-- just that he wasn't right for their school. Sorry! I cried non-stop for the next four days in the hospital, while calling every preschool in Marin. No space. Five weeks later, with three children under three years old, my new nanny quit too....

But I kept searching, seeking help. I knew I needed help. I became very comfortabe admiting, heck, proclaiming, that I could not do this alone. I just kept searching.

And four years later, I DO have the help that I need. I have survived. Honestly, without the people in our lives who have helped our family, I am not sure whether our family would be OK today. There is so much love here. And, I can tell you, that we have NOT survived alone.

This post has gotten way too long, so I'll continue some other time. My point is pretty simple. My special son T, along with his very special siblings, has taught me an incredible lesson...

Asking for help takes courage. Asking for help takes a humble heart. God hears our prayers, and I believe that God works through the people in our lives, too. So when we ask God, and we ask people for what we need, we have a chance to flourish. But if we never ask, if we suffer quietly, we overlook the greatest gift we have been given-- each other. God is in each one of us.

I'm so grateful for the people in my life who have helped my family -- occupational therapists, osteopaths, a pastor, a children's ministry leader, psychologists, psychiatrists, nannies, a housekeeper, pediatricians, integrative doctors, learning therapist, teachers, sisters, friends, and parents.

I'm also grateful for my unbelievable husband who has supported me when I have turned into a sleepless wife monster. (I know, I say it a lot, but he really is amazing.)

Help isn't easy to find-- especially the right help. But ask, be honest, and you might be surprised what you get. Grace (undeserved favor from God) is at your fingertips. I know that I do not deserve the amazing family and support that I have. But here I am. It is miraculous. And what has it done for me (other than making my life more peaceful?) I want to share it.  When you reach out to others, and you receive mercy (help that you do not deserve,) well, you want to give back. A lot. You can relate to others. You meet God. And there is much joy.

Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 
For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door shall be opened. 
Matthew 7:7 

Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one's weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart. 
Mahatma Gandhi 


1 comment :

Jamie Martin said...

This is making me remember a poem that really resonates with me, especially so when I was spending some time struggling through my own long dark night of the soul... Rumi always puts things into perspective for me. Anyway, I wanted to share this poem in particular with you:

Borrow the beloved’s eyes.
Look through them and you’ll see the beloved’s face
everywhere. No tiredness, no jaded boredom.
"I shall be your eye and your hand and your loving."
Let that happen, and things
you have hated will become helpers.

A certain preacher always prays long and with enthusiasm
for thieves and muggers that attack people
on the street. "Let your mercy, O Lord,
cover their insolence."
He doesn’t pray for the good,
but only for the blatantly cruel.
Why is this? his congregation asks.

"Because they have done me such generous favors.
Every time I turn back toward the things they want.
I run into them, they beat me, and leave me nearly dead
in the road, and I understand, again, that what they want
is not what I want. They keep me on the spiritual path.
That’s why I honor them and pray for them."

Those that make you return, for whatever reason,
to God’s solitude, be grateful to them.
Worry about the others, who give you
delicious comforts that keep you from prayer.
Friends are enemies sometimes,
and enemies friends.

There is an animal called an ushgur, a porcupine.
If you hit it with a stick, it extends its quills
and gets bigger. The soul is a porcupine,
made strong by stick-beating.

So a prophet’s soul is especially afflicted,
because it has to become so powerful.

A hide is soaked in tanning liquor and becomes leather.
If the tanner did not rub in the acid,
the hide would get foul-smelling and rotten.

The soul is a newly skinned hide, bloody and gross.
Work on it with manual discipline,
and the bitter tanning acid of grief,
and you’ll become lovely, and very strong.

If you can’t do this work yourself, don’t worry.
You don’t even have to make a decision,
one way or another, The Friend, who knows
a lot more than you do, will bring difficulties,
and grief, and sickness,
as medicine, as happiness,
as the essence of the moment when you’re beaten,
when you hear Checkmate, and can finally say,
with Hallaj’s voice,
I trust you to kill me.


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