K and I have a very hard time asking for help.
Part of it is that we are very independently minded people with a real love of self-sufficiency (voila, moving to the country to grow our own food and starting a two-person-only business to make our own jobs).
Part of it is that we’re both extremely afraid of failure. But since we’re also quite adventurous (read: likely to put ourselves in situations where at least partial failure is likely), we’ve both developed the coping mechanism of secrecy. We like to try without anyone watching, so that if and when we fail, no one is there to see it, and we can cry about it in secret, and get over it and come up with a cover story before anyone is the wiser. We don’t think this is a very good way of being, and we are trying to do things to get over it, but it is still what feels safest to us.
Part of it is we both have amazing accounting systems in our head that keep track of whom we owe favors to. It’s not a big deal if I did something for you and you never did something back for me, because I’m a nice person and won’t mind, but to assume that you’d feel the same somehow doesn’t work for me. If I’m asking something of you, I want to be able to pay you back somehow. It is important to me. Which means that day you lent me that whatever or made that tasty whatever that I ate some of? Those are all carefully recorded in my head, and if I can’t keep up doing nice things back for you, I feel stressed out and might never want to see you again for fear that you’ll do something else nice to increase my indebtedness even farther. Again, it is not that I think this is a good way of being. I don’t know how to turn it off.
That isn’t to say we aren’t surrounded (both geographically and metaphorically) by really amazing folks who do all kinds of nice things for us all the time. And mostly, it’s great. And we’re getting much better at accepting help when it is offered. But when we have to initiate it by asking? Man, that’s hard.
So today was a big day for us.
You see, the gutters of this, our house, have needed cleaning since we moved in, almost a year ago. At this point, the rain cascaded over the sides of them, splashing everywhere down below. We also had an insane number of flies around the house this fall, which I am suspicious might have all been breeding in the decomposing scum that filled the clogged gutters. It had gotten bad.
The problem was, our house is two stories. We only have a step ladder.
At some point this fall (in the middle of the fly invasion), I was moved to buy us a long extension ladder, even though it was expensive and would have to be shipped as the local stores didn’t have any in stock, and the shipping made it even more expensive. It arrived at the local distribution center damaged, and they sent it back. We got a full refund, but no ladder. I felt like the universe was telling me to give up. I got busy with other things and more or less forgot about it. Or at least I felt bad enough about it (ie like a failure) that I was unwilling to let it come to the surface of my consciousness.
Then winter came, and snow, and now precipitation was not only backing the gutters up, but then freezing there, and so backing up even more. And so when this week arrived, with thawing temps in the 40′s and more rain, but more snow and freezing surely not far off, I finally did it.
I emailed our neighbors Connie and Gary. They’ve been nothing but nice to us, and tell us we should let them know if we need anything every time we see them. And there isn’t a doubt in our minds that they’re the kind of people who really mean it. (They’re also the ones who took us for a ride in the combine!). I asked if they had an extension ladder we could borrow. That’s right, I asked for help.
Connie offered us our choice of ladders and a leaf blower if we thought it could help. Gary brought the perfect sized ladder by this afternoon. We cleaned the gutters. That’s right, after almost a year, we finally cleaned the gutters. And I feel great.
(By the way, a big Thank You to Connie and Gary. And as my accounting system has not gone offline, expect something nice, probably nice and sweet and gooey, in return soon.)