Recently, a friend approached me after church and asked if I would like to have lunch with her. I very quickly, and probably with a little too much enthusiasm, agreed. That’s when I realized that she meant right then, a lovely spur of the moment invitation. Back-pedaling, I explained that I just wasn’t available that day. My disappointment was reflected in her eyes, and I heard the all too familiar, “maybe another time.” I know what that means. I know that I won’t be asked again for months, if at all. You can only say no so many times before the invitations stop.
What many of my friends don’t understand is that my life doesn’t manage “spur of the moment”. I need planning time, for him and me. A simple lunch invitation requires time to coordinate a caregiver for my son, creative manipulation of finances to afford lunch and said caregiver, as well as a detailed schedule, at least 24 hours in advance, for my son to be comfortable. Sometimes, just the thought of putting all of that together precludes me from saying “yes” to those well-intentioned invitations. This leads to greater isolation, loss of friends, and a very cranky Amy.
I’m sure many of you can relate to this feeling. I’m sure many of you have thought, “if they just knew…” I have struggled with my need for more social interaction, and my inability to maintain friendships due to the needs of my son. I have felt abandoned, ignored, and even forgotten at times. I get jealous when I realize my peers are out enjoying a movie or community event, when I’m alone in my home, caring for a child that rarely shows appreciation, and then I feel guilty for thinking such a thing! It’s easy to get lost in those emotions, to sink into a pity pit.
So, how do we climb out of that pit? We ask for what we need. Oh, the horror! Admit to needs unmet? Admit that we might need help? Admit that caring for our child, which we are often lauded for, is not the main goal of our existence?
Yes, exactly. We live in a society that reminds us daily that only the weak ask for help or admit to an imperfect life. I challenge that belief. It is actually the strong who ask for help, who let their friends know exactly what they need. How brave it is to call your sister and ask her to come help with your laundry. How courageous to tell your friends about the difficulties in scheduling last minute plans. How daring to admit that you miss those simple moments spent over a cup of coffee. How gutsy to simply ask for a hug.
Asking for what you need, whether it be time, friendship, financial assistance, or help with the dishes, should not create guilt or shame. Asking for help should build you up by creating a support network that understands, empathizes and works creatively to help you achieve your life goals. By admitting to your needs, you break down the barriers that keep you isolated, fenced off from life.
So, I challenge each of you. Spend one day asking for what you need. Just one day. Love yourself enough to make those requests. Respect yourself enough to follow through. The world will surprise you.