Do you feel better?

We think there must be a word, probably in German, that means how much effort you have to put in to let other people help you.

I remember the call from my mother when she was letting all her kids know that she’d been diagnosed with Liver Cancer and given 3 months to live. There she was, dealing with impending death (and the pain and whatever else was going to come with the cancer), and she was consoling her kids for the loss of her mother, when no doubt she could have used a shoulder to cry on herself.

That’s sort of how this feels- I am in (temporarily, I hope) a position where I need help. Not just a little help, a lot of help. At this point I can’t cook for myself, clean for myself, drive, make many arrangements. So I have to ask, and learn to wait on others’ convenience. (That’s probably good for me.)

But there are so many people who want to help, they care for me and would like to help. Lyrion showed up last Saturday with a jar of soup from a “stone soup” gathering. It was nearly unpalatable- which was totally not her fault. (Someone had added fresh apple chunks, we assumed that they were red skinned potatoes, but they weren’t. I added noodles because it was so greasy, salt, onions and garlic, and was able to eat some- but she’d brought a gallon and the kids wouldn’t touch it after tasting it. It’s so sad.

Having the well go dry, I asked to take a shower over there, but due to not tracking Willow’s schedule missed the first time we set, then when she called the next day, didn’t have time to do more than pick up the 5 gallon container and emergency commode (from Y2K) she loaned us. I felt so badly that this sweet woman had totally scrubbed and bleached her shower for me, but I had no time to use it. (Boy! would I love a shower!!) But I couldn’t stay and let Willow be late for work. I could have, but I really didn’t feel up to the challenge of Lyrion’s stairs at that point. So Lyrion put in all that work, and I didn’t accept the gift. I feel awful about that.

I think many of the things “kids don’t know how to do” these days is because Mothers who work outside the home don’t have the time to teach them. It takes a lot more time to teach a kid to do laundry, or iron, or cook, or sew or clean up than it does to just do it yourself. This is very similar. When a three year old wants to help, it takes ingenuity and extra time and effort to come up with something they can do to help- something that at least has the appearance of helping even if it cost extra effort to set them up with their own scaled down work station and clean up after they use it. But that makes the kid feel good about helping, which is valuable when they are bigger and have actually learned how.

In this case, people want to help, but neither they nor I can think of something they can do that would be useful long distance. (OK, people who contributed to the Go-fund me are lifesavers! I am blown away by people who donated large amounts, but when someone I know has almost no money puts in $5 I know they will have to work to make up, I am SO grateful.) Lyrion has her own problems- the sorority of people over 60 pretty much guarantees that, but brought food, scrubbed her shower for me. I don’t want her to feel as though any of her contributions were a waste of her time. I don’t want anyone to help us and feel that their efforts were not worth it. So, as with finding something a kid who wants to help CAN do, I try to find things people can help with. Willow and I try to combine her trips for me with errands she needs to do. Poor John is stuck. He’s the only one around here who can lift heavy objects, and he gets stuck doing everything simply because he’s here.

And so often because of the autism twist to his thinking, he doesn’t quite get what I’ve asked of him. Because of the Bells Palsy, I cannot speak very clearly and for everyone I have to repeat myself often, which is frustrating for both me and my listeners. But with John, sometimes he doesn’t understand the way the non-autistic express ourselves. Sadly, after he’s pondered it for a while, he tends to give up and go back to what he was doing, leaving me assuming that whatever I’d asked was going to happen- until it doesn’t. I have similar problems with others as well, it’s the one says pot the other says pan, one says sock the other says stocking situation. My mother had used those two terms interchangably, but when my grandmother told me to put on stockings (long) and I put on socks (short), she thought I was being disobedient and defiant. Words are taken very seriously. If you use words differently, it can seem that you are challenging the way the other person uses them. And when you can’t just do the simple thing yourself, ask someone else to, and they do ALMOST what you wanted, but not quite, it’s frustrating.

I had been craving some nice chicken soup for days and ordered some when we went to dinner up at GNEW. Sadly when it got there, it was heavily flavored with sage. I couldn’t eat it and almost wept. No one’s fault. It never would have occurred to me to put sage in chicken soup (a touch in turkey gravy maybe). But these assumptions are what makes being dependent on others world views so difficult.

I probably have so many friends because I care about them. I want them to feel good. They want to help me. I want them to be able to have that good feeling, and have the things done for me that I need. But when one little thing that went unmentioned because neither of us thought about it makes their gift not the comfort we’d both hoped it would be how do you let them know (and prevent recurrence), without hurting their feelings?

Do you feel better when you help someone? Of course you do. But helping friends help me can be exhausting. Is there a point to this? Perhaps some problems can be by-passed with extra care given to communicating about under lying assumptions. I don’t know, because the ones we never consider seem to keep slipping in.