Asking for help can be incredibly challenging. It is humbling to admit that you are struggling. It is hard to look at your situation and realize that it is more than you manage. Sharing these vulnerable moments with another person can seem impossible. This is especially true for someone in survival mode.
When my dear son was two years old, when I filed for divorce from his dad. This was one of the hardest things I have done in my life. I was thrown into a world where I needed to build a life for me and my son on our own. I needed to prove to myself that I could do it. So, the idea of asking for help did not seem like an option. I am blessed to have a wonderful support system in this life. And yet it was still hard to tell anyone I was struggling. I was FINE. I was FINE all the time.
One day I pulled into my driveway and noticed that the grass had gotten to a point where it needed to be mowed, now. It was not going to hold off until winter. As I put the car in park, I looked in the review mirror at my hungry and tired toddler. I could not leave him alone in the house. I could not keep an eye on him outside while I mowed. He was too big for a carrier. How are you going to make this one work, Ms. FINE?
I got him inside and curled up on the couch with a tv show and a snack. I went upstairs to change my clothes. I was somewhere between insistent, grief stricken, angry, sad, scared, frustrated, and mad. As I put my hair up, I looked in the mirror. I have always had real talk with myself in the mirror. I asked, “How are you going to do this?” and the answer back in my head so loud I thought someone was with me. “Not alone!” The voice said with a sense of obviousness and sarcasm that only one person in my life can carry. I knew who I needed to call.
I walked over to the phone and called my dear childhood friend who I refer to as my sister. Her, her brothers, and parents had moved across the street when I was eight years old. Our families had grown up together. We became a family and even today still refer to each other as sister, brother, momma, daughter, son, and dad. My dear sister is only seven months younger than me. Growing up we shared everything including clothes, bedrooms, friends, chores, and even boys.
We pushed and pulled each other growing up in ways that only sisters can understand. We could hate the sight of each other one moment and then be jumping to defend each other the next. My dear sister is strong, beautiful, smart, stubborn, funny, and sarcastic. She is a bad ass. She had been through everything with me and yet I was so hesitant to pick up the phone. My voice cracked and I had tears rolling down my cheeks just saying the words, “Can you come over?”
She must have heard the pain in my voice. I am quite sure she felt it. She did not even ask why. She just said, “I’m on my way.” I went down to sit with my dear son and explain to him that his aunt was coming over to help us. I told him I was going to get the lawn mowed while they played. At two years old my dear son looked at me in surprise and asked, “You are going to mow the lawn, mommy?”
This was usually his dad’s task while him and I played or cleaned outside. The fact that I was going to tackle the activity was so surprising and out of the ordinary that even a toddler could see something was different. Him and I went to the garage to prepare the toys and tools he used outside. We got the mower out. And we were about done when my dear sister showed up.
She gave me a huge hug. Loved on my dear son and then stood up to assess the situation. She headed over to start the mower. I shook my head and explained I needed to do it. I told her I needed her help with my dear son while I did the mowing. She looked at me in shock greater than my dear son had.
As we were growing up the mowing was one chore I always wiggled out of. Remember, we had two lawns between the two houses. As a young girl I could never get the mower started. I hated the deafening loud roar of the mower. I did not care for the lifting and hauling to empty the bag. My dear sister always took my turn on this task and just assumed I called her over to mow. The thing I disliked the most about mowing… It forces a person to be alone in their thoughts. It is an isolating chore.
But this was all different. I needed to do it myself. I needed to prove that I could do all the things necessary to take care of me and my son. I needed to tackle this just like everything else I was doing that was unnatural, challenging, and seemingly impossible. I needed to know I could make everything okay and not just be FINE.
My dear sister and my dear son headed off to play and straighten up the yard. She reluctantly looked back at me as I made my second attempt to start this infuriating machine. By the fifth attempt she almost came over to do it for me. I shot a dagger look at her that screamed, “I’M FINE!” She went back to playing with my dear son while I tried to argue and negotiate with the inanimate piece of machinery. I then took a deep breath and looked up at the sky. A scene from one of my favorite Sandra Bullock movies came to mind. And in more of a prayer than a plead said, “I just need a little help.”
I shook my whole body like I was loosening up, but I was really just tried to shake out the bad energy. I wanted to get rid of the anger, the frustration, the hurt, all of it. I took another deep breath and said it again, “I just need a little help.” The mower started right up.
I spent the next couple of hours alone in my own thoughts. I watched my dear sister helping my dear son around the yard. I let my mind get comfortable with the idea that I was NOT FINE but if I asked for help, I and, We would be okay. I could feel with each pass of the mower the pressure lifting. I knew that what came next in our lives would be hard, but I did not have to do it alone.
My dear sister stayed until after I got my dear son to bed that night. When I went to tuck in my dear son, he said something that has just stuck with me, “Mommies can do anything daddies can do, right mommy?” Here I was caught up in my head and had not even realized that by pushing through that afternoon I was leaving an example for him. I was showing him that while things were changing, we would be okay. I was showing him that chores are not just for a mommy or a daddy.
After I got my dear son tucked in, I went downstairs and just lost it with my sister. My feelings of grief, anger, sadness, fear, frustration, and anger had started to give way. I was feeling proud, encouraged, and accomplished. I had moved from FINE to – it will be okay.
Ask for help – it is going to be okay. Offer help – you never know how many lives you are changing.