The last three weeks, I’ve been in bed. For daysonend. First, I had bronchitis and then, pneumonia. (A helpful hint: do whatever you can to avoid getting pneumonia. It’s a diabolical infection that basically flattens you for three to six weeks. I can’t work out. Small errands exhaust me. My lungs HURT and my brain is a cluttered plane of fuzz and lethargy.)
So as I was in bed, I watched hours of HGTV, specifically Dear Genevieve (I have a HUGE girl crush on Genevieve Gorder–not only are her designs refreshing and fabulous, she wears Frye boots with sundresses. My kinda girl). As I lay in my pajamas and tried to heal my lungs, I developed fantastical plans to redesign and redecorate at least five rooms in my house.
A new craft space with floor-to-ceiling apothecary shelves.
New mantel and built-ins for my family room fireplace.
Cozy nooks for my children.
I’m making it sound kinda fun but truly, it wasn’t. I despised it. One or two sick days offer a nice break. But this? Awful.
The hardest part of being sick wasn’t actually the being-sick part. Naturally, I was miserable. Of course, I felt like someone wearing steel-toed boots kicked me in the chest and the back. But that wasn’t the hardest part. Nope. It was the accepting-help part. I had to accept help for THREE weeks. Help with getting the kids to and from school. Help with after-school activities for the kids. Help with grocery runs and dinner. Help with bedtime and hugs and homework.
My life is full of amazing rock-star friends. When one of our own are in need, these women are there. Women tuck each other’s children under their arms and treat them as one of their own. They put more tacos on the table. They deliver wine. They call your husband at work to let him know that he can stay at work because they’ve arranged activities for his children for the next five hours. They send text messages letting you know that they WILL be at your house the next morning and they WILL be taking your kids to school so you can heal (and they don’t give you an opportunity to even say No). They drop off home-cooked meals and trashy magazines. And Reeces Peanut Butter Easter Eggs. They call each other and arrange tag-team play dates and car pooling.
I was lifted by the outpouring of support. Because of these sheroes, I did what I needed to do. I slept and rested and took numerous steam showers. I was steeped in gratitude for the generosity and thoughtfulness that surrounded me. But a nagging emotion accompanied my gratitude. The nagging sounded something like this:
I can’t believe you’re accepting help again. Seriously. Just get healthy so you can stop being so needy and can do it all yourself. Weak weak weak blah blah blah.
Hmmm. It’s helpful, right, to beat yourself up for needing and accepting help?
Ironically, I love giving help. I feel all sunshiney and warm when I can help a friend (or even a stranger). And when friends actually ask for help, I am so thankful (and envious) of their ability to request assistance. Why is it so hard to be the one receiving the help?
Fortunately, last three weeks offered multiple chances to practice the art of acceptance. Acceptance of me and my pneumonia. Acceptance of help. Acceptance of Needing. And you know what? It got just a tiny bit easier each time. And you know what else? The help kept pouring in.
Rilke wrote this in Letters to a Young Poet,
What should I say about your tendency to doubt your struggle or to harmonize your inner and outer life? My wish is ever strong that you find enough patience within you and enough simplicity to have faith. May you gain more and more trust in what is challenging, and confidence in the solitude you bear. Let life happen to you. Believe me: life is in the right in any case.
I tried to stopped doubting. I started extending myself the same patience I extend to others. I started to lean into the help. And it felt good.
Do you ever feel this way? What is it about us, or about our societal programming, that makes it so hard for us to accept help, even when, or especially when, we clearly need it?