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March 13, 2012

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?

10 Comments leave one →
  1. March 13, 2012 12:54 pm

    Oh! Ouch Denise.You better accept that help. Pneumonia is something I would not wish on my worst enemy.

    This resonates, because I’m very much like you in the sense that I like to give but not receive. I had knee surgery in December right after Christmas and I needed help, and I was grateful. But I was also miserable accepting it. I’m a do it yourself kinda girl.

    So I hope you heal swiftly! I’m sending a virtual hug from Michigan.


  2. Cynthia Bellows permalink
    March 13, 2012 4:08 pm

    I too dread asking for help…. Yet, I am more than happy and feel most comfortable when I am helping others… Where I am in my life right now has me thinking about this a lot… Glad you were able to accept help and get better!!!

  3. Cindy permalink
    March 13, 2012 8:17 pm

    Totally agree with you. Lending help is so much easier to do than receiving it. There is a feeling of inadequacy when be on the receiving end.

  4. March 13, 2012 8:43 pm

    Ugh. I had pneumonia a couple of years ago. SO PAINFUL and exhausting and horrible. I hope you feel better!!!

    This post really hit home today. I love to help and have helped out a lot of moms with their kids this year and I loved being able to help. Tomorrow I need help for a short time and no one will help me. WAH!! I was totally unprepared for how horrible that feels. It was HARD enough to ask for help, much less get turned down. It felt like rejection.

    BUT I feel much better after reading this beautiful post and remembering why we help and knowing that there is a group of friends out there as wonderful and supportive as your friends. I KNOW they want to help you and I am sure it is a joy to them. Rest, rest, rest and feel better!!! xoxoox

  5. March 13, 2012 9:03 pm

    Oh Denise! Sending you plenty of hugs.
    I relate to what you said about giving vs. receiving help. It is so much easier to do the former. But I agree, sometimes we do need to lean in and accept what the world is offering us.
    That is one of my favorite Rilke quotes

  6. deb permalink
    March 13, 2012 10:22 pm

    The reason why you have awesome friends is because YOU are an awesome friend!!:) xoxoxoxo

  7. March 15, 2012 12:26 pm

    I hear every word loud and clear and you articulated so many of my feelings to a tee.
    I am glad you are on the mend but more importantly that you are surrounded by the good stuff in life: amazing friends

  8. March 22, 2012 2:33 pm

    As usual, I am late to the party. I hope by now you are feeling so much better.

    I do this too, by the way: I hate asking for help and I beat myself up when I do. Like you, I love to be the sacrificial one. I love to fall on my sword. But to have someone lift me up? That’s hard for me.

    But there’s a grace, I think, in accepting loving-kindness. And I suspect that the women who offer it are like us: they like to help. Maybe allowing them to is also an act of generosity?



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  2. Denise — The Kitchen Witch

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