These past couple of weeks have been very trying. For those who are unaware, I had extensive surgery on my left shoulder on March 12th. I realize that many of you and millions of others have had similar operations. No doubt we’ve all experienced the same terrible pain and inability to escape, even for a few hours, into a healing night’s sleep. Drugs were devastatingly inadequate and I found myself slipping into deep despair.
Though I am healing and sleeping better these days, I find myself for the second time in two years having to do something that, for me, feels nearly as painful as those early weeks … asking for help.
I was trained from earliest childhood that enduring hardships of all kinds was best done alone. Expressing pain, be it physical or emotional, meant that one was weak, cowardly, and downright unholy. Crying was all but forbidden. As the eldest child I witnessed it all … everything from the bad days to the tragedies that every family endures of one kind or another. Throughout we always kept up a happy public face allowing only special members of a large extended family to help and even then only when it was absolutely necessary. Perhaps this behavior was a generational or cultural/religious mode of dealing with hardship. I’m wondering if this scenario sounds achingly familiar to many of you.
After having surgery for spectacularly crushing the bones in my right arm and wrist in 2011, I was forced to ask for rides to a minimum of four appointments per week for nearly two months. My husband did what he could but his business is a demanding 12-hour-a-day job and my children are grown and no longer live nearby.
Though I was nearly paralyzed with anxiety about asking for help, I had no choice. I sent emails to all of my close and some not-so close-friends with details of times and places. Within hours messages came pouring in offering to take me everywhere. Some friends even drove me one or two times each week. I was overwhelmed and humbled.
Why were they all so willing to fit my needs into their busy schedules? It took a while but I gradually started to “get it.” Helping someone else feels really good. I should have known for that has always been my role. Wether it was by sending a card, collecting my neighbor’s mail, chaperoning children’s field trips, writing to soldiers, baking cookies, baby sitting, etc., etc., helping people was an essential and enriching part of my life.
By not asking for help, I was denying others the joy and satisfaction of serving a fellow human being. Author Dinesh Souza writes, “Our drive for compassion is embedded in our DNA. … Who of you, has never experienced when you have been gratuitously good, when you have been nice to someone when you needn’t have been. You have a wonderful glow inside of you. You really feel good.”
What do you do when you are physically sick, feeling emotionally drained, or find yourself in psychological pain? You needn’t suffer in silence. Give someone the opportunity to help. Ask.
“Nothing makes one feel so strong as a call for help.” — Pope Paul VI