I’ve never been all that good at accepting help. My dad delights in frequently retelling anyone he can (hi Dad – I know you’ll be reading this!) that, aged 2, I got out of my buggy, went round behind it and insisted “Roro push”. Even at that tender age, I wanted to be doing the do, not being helped.
One of the things that my current situation is teaching me is to unlearn that behavioural trait. It ain’t easy. It feels like it’s hard wired. I don’t ask for or accept help. I give help. Until the day that Genghis arrived. Now I have to unlearn and relearn. So many people are now involved in helping me. Number 1 is my darling and wonderful husband. For the first 10 years of our marriage (almost) it felt like we helped each other and accepted each other’s help more or less evenly. There were times when that balance swung one way or the other, but overall we were on an even keel. A partnership. Now I feel that this has been rewritten. Like in our ketubah (our Jewish marriage contract), Elliot does all the doing and I silently accept. It is taking me time to come to terms with this, for all sorts of reasons. I am not the person my husband married and that makes me sad for him. I am not the strong woman he shared so many experiences with. I am leaning heavily on him, and that is no small burden. And when he reads this he will tell me that it isn’t a burden and that he loves me, but I know that things are different now. Not worse, not better, but different.
Help is flooding in from other quarters too and, again, I am learning to accept it. My darling sister in law became our temporary nanny for a fortnight – I accepted her offer without a quibble. My team at work are picking up my slack and again I accept without demurring. The lovely lady who has found spare time to give me reflexology. The prayers from all over the world. Family and friends are pulling together to offer assistance in all sorts of ways. It is a true outpouring of love and one that I am not able to resist.
And with this seismic shift in my attitude to self-sufficiency has come another change. Always the sceptic, I am now giving myself permission to explore those things that my rational brain has hitherto rejected. Religion. Acupuncture. Healing. Counselling. And so on. Not everything helps. Some things remain difficult for me to accept. Other things start to seem less unbelievable. Don’t get me wrong. There is still a loud voice in my brain shouting “Bah humbug”. But that voice is finding competition for the first time in the quieter, calmer but equally resolute voice which says “Maybe”. Maybe this will help. Maybe this is working. Maybe there is something to this. Maybe it is not all within our control. Maybe there is something stronger, more mysterious, more powerful that can help. Of course, I need the doctors and the drugs. But maybe – just maybe – there are some other pieces to this puzzle.
And then I start to see how the two factors are working together. By allowing myself to accept help and by realising that I am not a fortress, I am also realising that help comes in all shapes and sizes. It is not just the obvious things. It may not always be tangible. But my mind is now open to accepting help in any form. I will give anything a go. For all my self confidence and feeling that I know best, I now know that I don’t. So I am giving myself over to the doctors and the nurses and the pharmacists and the family members and the friends and the rabbi and the prayers and the healers and the complementary practitioners and I am asking them all to help me, please.