Recovering from painful surgery is tough. Needing help with everything is so hard. My wife is amazing, my kids are thoughtful and my family and friends are fantastic. But, it’s still really, really hard to be in pain and need so much.
Plus, pain meds make me contemplative (when not knocking me out). So I’m lying here overthinking things…
Think about how hard it is to ask for help on a good day. Do you yell out to ask someone to hold the elevator? Accept the grocery clerk’s offer of help to your car? Let someone know you really do need help putting up that ceiling fan? If you are like most Americans, I doubt it.
I add “Americans” here not because I think this is in anyway a unique American experience. I add it here simply because I’ve no idea how the rest of the world works in this regard and I wouldn’t want to assume that people of all nations are as awful as Americans are about asking for, and accepting, help. Also, note I said asking for and accepting help. Not offering. I think most of us are genuine and sincere in our offers to help. There are lots of offers. So, why do we have so much trouble accepting those offers?
I’m not new to needing more help than I’d like. But since Friday, it’s a fresh round of full time need. I had foot surgery (to fuse a very painful, arthritic joint in my foot), and cannot put any weight on my left foot. I have a big splint on it just now to allow the swelling to go down before getting my cast. Then it’s 6 weeks non-weight bearing, followed by another long chunk of time in a walking boot.
That means I am hobbling around on crutches, with a giant lump of a splint making me unbalanced. Add to that the constant pain meds to manage the pain and I’m like a teetering top. I need help with everything. Dressing, eating, maneuvering, you name it. Yes, getting to the toilet. Plus, my legs are bad in general so it’s a little hard for me to drop down to sitting using only my right leg and to launch myself back up. Sigh.
My wife is ever ready and present with strong, warm arms to help me. She arranged her life just so she could come home from many months away to be here for the surgery and to help me. So, why is it so hard to accept her help? When she breathes a deep sigh, why do I worry I’m too much for her, instead of gathering that’s she’s tired, or has many things on her mind?
I don’t know.
Yesterday, my wife took my son out for some special birthday time. We knew I wasn’t ready to be alone yet for an afternoon and so I asked my best friend if she would come and hang out with me and my daughter while my wife and son went out. “Glad you reached out,” she said first, and yes, of course she was available. Perfect answer to prove my theory here. We need help; we need to ask for it; and those who love us will be happy to give the help we need.
My mom says it’s really hard for her clients to ask for help. [I know my mom would have totally made herself available, but I knew she had client meetings all afternoon.] She also says that it is really important for us to ask. Why? Because we all have family and friends ready to help us with whatever need we have, but we don’t let them in. When we ask for help, we give the people we ask the chance to Do Something. To care for us. To make it better in some small or big way. Those things make people feel better. So, instead of saying: “Kind of you to offer, but now, we don’t need anything,” consider saying: “Yes, please bring us a casserole.” Maybe you’ll get 7 casseroles, but, can you really ever have to many?
Doing things – big or small – for someone you love makes you feel good. Does this mean it’s magically easy for me to ask my wife to walk me to the toilet? No. But, I try hard to remember she wants to help. Helping me probably makes her feel good. I love it when a friend or family member asks me for help with something and I can give it. I need to remember that when someone offers a hand to help me up.