I am sitting with intense gratitude right now. Of course, that is popular this time of year, but I must admit that this is the kind of gratitude that sometimes comes with a side of guilt and anxiety. I have been generously supported by others in almost every way possible this year. Isn’t it strange that my inclination when receiving the support that I need is to feel badly? I think it’s completely ridiculous, yet sadly perhaps not all that uncommon. In fact, I have been in a huge struggle all year with my very real need to receive help in many forms, and my sheer terror and immense shame around asking for that support.
I have had two knee surgeries this year, which really put a damper on my ability to work since the work I do is physical. I have needed people to help me move around, drive me, bring me food, help me dress, clean my house, and do the thousand tiny things I would normally take for granted. I needed a place to rent in Colorado, where I stayed for a month after surgery. I am paying out of pocket for physical therapy. I am stepping down as owner of my yoga studio, but I have needed a ton of help running the business this year as I was unable to be very present. Basically, this has been a year of needing both help and understanding from everyone I know -- family, friends, coworkers, and strangers. And while offering support to others really lights me up, asking for support is my nightmare. How silly is that?!
Self-sufficiency and fierce independence are certainly valued in the society in which I have lived my life, but there is a shadow side to over-emphasis on those traits. This shadow reveals itself in several ways, I’m sure, but I’ve noticed the harm that can be done both to self and to other people through an unwillingness to receive help open-heartedly.
I actually think that in pressuring ourselves to be self-sufficient, we become extremely fearful of scarcity. After all, if you can’t take care of your basic needs on your own, and you can’t ask for help, you’re lost. The problem with living in fear of scarcity, though, is that it blocks connection. Scarcity mentality causes us to view other people as competition, or as drains on our resources, rather than as assets and sources of support. In addition, when we inevitably require support, there can be major resistance, guilt, and shame associated with receiving that help. This was, and sometimes still is, me!
I harbored such discomfort around asking for help, that it began to cause significant anxiety and feelings of uselessness when I had no choice but to rely on others. I was so consumed by this guilt and anxiety that it left me unable to lean into gratitude -- which is sad, because gratitude without guilt, is a really wonderful feeling!
On top of this, though, by denying others the opportunity to help me, I was also denying them the joy that comes from giving support. My mom told me that. The truth is, I already knew it, but I was too busy feeling guilty to remember. In fact, I realized later, that by refusing to reach out to my network of the best people in the world, I was causing people really close to me, like my husband, to incur a greater burden in caring for me. Basically, by stubbornly refusing to ask for what I needed, I was making things harder on everyone while denying everyone the good feelings that can come from giving and receiving support.
I think I am doing better now. But if I did not accept support from you in the past, please know that it was me, not you, and I am sorry. More than that, I have recognized and been so moved by every single offer of help you have given me. Thank you. To everyone who has helped me, physically, emotionally, financially, energetically, or in any other way imaginable, my gratitude runs deep and untempered. No gesture was too small or forgotten. I am so fortunate to feel this kind of gratitude because I know that it will only move me to do as much as I can for as many people as I can in the future. You have taught me what support looks like, and it looks like love.
Nothing stays the same forever, and giving and receiving are fluid. They are an inalienable part of the human experience. The ebb and flow of giving and receiving amongst family, friends, colleagues, and strangers, is a key ingredient of joy, and, as it turns out, is the part of life for which I am always most grateful.