by Jan on April 20, 2021

I couldn’t get up off the couch. Every bone, muscle, and cell in my skin burned, ached, and when I moved, it felt as if a hot poker was digging into my back left shoulder blade. I couldn’t take a breath deep enough to fill my lungs. With my husband out of town, I needed help.

This was the day after I received my second Covid vaccine, which was effortlessly shot into my left arm. I felt a little sleepy that evening but had every confidence I would escape the negative symptoms I had heard about. Around 6 AM the next day, I felt a little achy, but no big deal. I figured I would just take it easy. Took some Tylenol, made some Muesli, and settled comfortably on my living room couch. A couple of hours later, I felt worse and sent out a Facebook post asking for recommendations for movies to watch. Getting lost watching would take my mind off.

Then Hell paid a visit, and I lay rendered. I can’t describe the sensations, but they were nothing I had ever experienced. To get off the couch to go to the bathroom, I had to roll onto the floor and crawl on my side until I could grab onto the coffee table to help me stand.

I needed help.

I have many people in my life that love me. I know I’m never alone unless I choose to be. But to ask for help when I am weakened and dependent feels just wrong to the integrity of who I believe myself to be: capable, independent, and always willing to help others. “I can do it myself,” I sharply declared at the age of four, swatting my mother’s hands away as I was trying to tie my shoes. I can do it myself. Oh, I’ll ask my husband for help. I’ll expect it and often nag. No problem there. But to impede on someone else’s time to attend to me feels humiliating.

It’s called Pride. A strong German characteristic and well modeled by my parents and extended family. I have cleaned entire houses of others without being asked. I have driven miles out of the way to help with chores of those in need. I have given money, food and spent long hours doing acts of kindness for friends. And truly, all this brings me so much joy. But for me to ask in a state of need grips me with a dreaded characteristic. Weakness.

My sister-in-law lives less than a mile away and offered to come. I considered it throughout the day but was sure she had other things to do. And I declined every offer from others who made themselves available. The next day, I was a bit better and could move, but I was hungry, weak, and with my sister-in-law’s insistence, I caved in. She made me homemade tortilla and sausage soup and cleaned my kitchen. And what did I do? I tried to help her. I felt guilty to sit and just receive. To let her experience that joy I get when I help others.

A few days later, my husband and I had a conversation about this. He has the same issues with asking for help and literally will hurt himself doing a task alone rather than ask a friend for assistance. Oh, and if I do ask for help, I always offer to pay. We both agree it is Pride. But the wrong kind. Not the kind that takes gratification in achievements, but the one that is arrogant and superior. The one that says, “You’ve got nothing to give that I can’t get myself.” And the one that’s a thief stealing the joy from others in their acts of service.

So there it is. But what am I supposed to do about it? This prideful independence so well embedded now feels flawed and diseased. I wish I could just get a shot to rid it out of me. I’m getting older, and in years to come, I’m going to need to learn to ask for help. And I’m going to need to learn to receive it graciously.

I don’t have any answers right now other than I see it. And sometimes, that’s a good enough start.

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