Everyone just go away and leave me alone; I wanted to scream. As these words bubbled up in the back of my throat, my friends hovered over me like vultures, waiting to swoop in and devour my decaying remains. I wasn’t dying, for God’s sake! I was just about to have a hip replacement. It was a surgery millions of people undergo every day.
“Jackie, stop being so stubborn,” my dear friend, Linda Maher, admonished. “You’re facing a major operation. You’re going to need help.”
Linda and I met twenty-nine years ago in the crying room of St. Simon Catholic Church in Los Altos. What started off as an acquaintance soon developed into a lifelong relationship. Over the following three decades, we had seven children between us, spent much time celebrating each other’s joys or feeling one another’s pain. We became extended family, and I constantly reveled in the happiness that came from the love true friendship provided. But her nagging insistence to commiserate with my situation and help me was crossing the line.
“Linda,” I said firmly. “I can handle this. I don’t need anyone’s help.”
Having spent years being completely self-sufficient and independent, taking care of my needs after a hip replacement, in my mind, was sure to be nothing. Even worse, the thought of burdening others with my care completely unraveled my nerves.
Then, as if she were Zenith, the Mighty Warrior reincarnated, she yelled, “Tough! I’m setting up a schedule, and you’re just going to have to accept it.”
Now, when Linda decrees something, it’s Gospel. She was ready to take me on and win at any cost. I had to accept defeat. I sat back in my chair, frustrated and annoyed. It was such an intrusion of my personal space. Having someone do my laundry, clean my toilets or empty my trash felt like a gross invasion of privacy. It was bad enough I had to touch all the so-called “sanitary” things that came as a result of an operation. I wasn’t about to let my friends handle them. And feeding me? I hardly ate to begin with. I was sure this was just some sort of ploy to make me fat. No, I was going to put my foot down and be obstinate. Then the phone rang.
“Mom,” my eldest daughter, Michelle, began, “you’re unfair to these people who care about you. Why is it okay for you to give, but torture to receive?” With an exasperated sigh, she continued, “it makes them feel good to help. Get over yourself.”
Realizing my child was 100% right, I resolved to super-glue my lips together and complain no more. I went into Stanford Hospital and came home utterly incapacitated. Hip replacements are no minor romp around the neighborhood. Linda was right. I needed help.
Each day, friends showed up bearing food, flowers, and encouragement. Gracious offers to run my errands kept things running smoothly, and I accepted it all with enormous gratitude. Of course, it made my healing process easier, but more importantly, it taught me that people are naturally altruistic creatures and have an innate need to be needed. A feeling I once thought was mine and mine alone.
In the past, I always felt it was better to give. Perhaps because I secretively hoped it would keep me from being selfish. Now I know it’s equally important to receive. Talk about learning to become unselfish! Why should I be privileged to have all the fun?
So, the next time I find myself in a precarious position and Linda comes calling, I plan to smile and say, “let the receiving party begin!” Everyone should be as lucky as I to have a compassionate nag in their life.
For many women, it’s awkward to ask for help. We’ve been conditioned from birth to stand on our own two feet and do everything for ourselves and our families. But, when we open that door just a crack to receiving, the world is in better balance. Have you ever been the helpless one? How did you handle needing someone else’s aid?