The intimacy of asking for help.
In the springtime space between Valentine's Day and wedding season, many ladies and gents are busy preparing for a summer wedding. This season always makes me think of how we pulled off a fairly traditional wedding and reception, full of big love, good food, raucous merriment, and spirited dancing on a relatively small budget in 2015.
Planning the wedding we wanted at a price we could afford required more than bargain hunting, careful site selection, and a slew of DIY tricks (although we did all those things). It required something much harder than a detailed to-do list and meticulously maintained expense tracking worksheet. It required asking for help.
Asking for help has always ranked right up there with paper cuts and root canals for me. I am one of those self-reliant people who want to carry my own weight and then some -- to never be a burden while always being a good friend, effective public servant, devoted mother, loving wife, supportive boss, decent housekeeper, and healthy eater (all while remaining well-read, exercising, and giving back to the community of course). Because I am predisposed to try and do the impossible all on my own, seeking assistance in even relatively comfortable situations was a skill I had to learn.
The power of asking for help
is bigger than the practical benefit of saving money.
Asking for help was especially difficult when preparing for our 2015 wedding. I am acutely aware that many people never get to experience a day of wedding bliss, and this would be a second marriage for both my husband and me. I was uncertain whether or not I had the support of my friends and family, and this made asking for their help terrifying.
While I might have felt stigmatized by the badge of my divorce, the people in my life didn't hold back in their generosity. Our delicious reception food, flowers, invitation design, wedding photography, setup, clean up, officiant services, a beautiful classic car to drive me through the open field to the aisle, handcrafted decor, dessert bar goodies, and so much more were provided lovingly by friends and family. Many of these things required us to do the hard work of reaching out and asking for help directly. Other parts were provided generously and unexpectedly as gifts. I can't speak to how they felt about second weddings in general, but the huge response we received from our family and friends more than assured us that we were deeply supported and loved.
When we ask for help there are some obvious tangible benefits (an inexpensive car or computer repair, childcare, homemade food, an errand completed, etc), but it also relates directly to the quality of our relationships. When we allow the people we love to see us in our time of need, it is an important kind of intimacy. (In fact, always being positive, strong, and perfectly put together can be signs of a fear of intimacy.) Revealing our true selves (not just the impressive self-reliant parts), increases the depths of our relationships and makes us a more effective workplace leader. Accepting help can remind us that we are loved for reasons that run much deeper than convenience.
Asking for help doesn't make you a burden
(as long as you are adulting).
Before I got married in 2015, I realized that my husband-to-be was the sensitive sort. I could totally neglect self-care and cover it up with past partners and most friends, but he could not be duped. I was no longer the only person who I impacted if I let myself get stressed out, overly tired, or depleted. I realized that I would have to begin sleeping better, eating well, and taking time for the things that made me feel most alive if I was going to be a good partner. The alternative was to burden my partner with an undue level of ongoing daily tension.
I'm getting a lot better at many of those self-care/adulting things (although it takes an awful lot of willpower to get enough sleep). Since I've taken personal responsibility to proactively take care of the things I can control, I don't feel guilty asking for help when something unexpected pops up or my workload becomes a heavier than normal. He is incredibly generous with me in my times of need. And when the world runs him a bit ragged, I am grateful for the opportunity to tend his needs with care and kindness. We each take responsibility for ourselves, but we don't hesitate to show up for one another.
It's important to each of us that we remain comfortable asking for what we need (like when I hold down the fort so that he can tour in support of a new album... or when he agrees to help unload the car because I can't stand the idea of bringing in the groceries by myself). Much like our vulnerable conversations about money, the hard conversations about when and how we need help are a necessary source of intimacy in our marriage.
The main benefit of asking for help with our wedding was not getting the ceremony and reception of our dreams at a cost we could afford (although it was a holy amazing day!). Accepting help deepened our relationships with friends and family at a time when I was unsure whether the people I loved approved of my choices. The generosity of everyone's contributions made the details of wedding day shine with extra meaning and warmth.
While I still struggle from time to time with asking for help, I can no longer blindly see extreme self-reliance as a kind of strength. I know the feeling of isolation that wells up when I'm trying to do everything on my own. A life of intimate friendships and deep love requires being brave and being seen; it requires asking for help.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A special thank you to my lifelong friend (and sometimes surrogate family member) Jobyna for reminding me last week how essential accepting help is to our well-being.
Post photo cropped from a much lovelier shot by Scott Haydon Photography (Tacoma, WA).