The Practice of Receiving

When I was six months pregnant, I had sciatica so bad that I couldn’t walk for almost a week. 

I was still living alone at the time and the pain came on fast.  In the evening I was a bit stiff and achey and by morning I couldn’t hold the weight of my body on my left leg. It hurt too much even to stand. I couldn’t get dressed, feed myself or even get to the bathroom.

My partner still lived too far away to offer the level of help I needed so my mom moved in until I improved enough to fend for myself again. She continued to bring me food for another week until I could drive.

It was incredibly hard to accept her love and care, even when it was being freely offered.

During this time, someone told me something wise that I have thought of often in the years since that painful week.  She said, “This is practice for when you become a mother. You won’t be able to do everything and you will need to ask for help.  This is the universe teaching you how to ask for help.”

This last week I have been laid low with a cold that attacked both my lungs and my sinuses.  I was lucky in the first two years of my child’s life that I hadn’t been terribly sick.  I’ve caught the same colds she has, but I’ve remained largely functional through them.

Not this time. This cold has had me flat out on the couch, sleeping through dinner, up all night coughing, my voice gone for days. I haven’t been able to manage the cooking or the shopping or the laundry, or really much of anything. Today is day seven and I’m just barely functioning again, but my energy is still low and I’m having to rest in between each accomplishment, even as small as filling and starting the dishwasher. And filling the dishwasher, today, feels like quite an accomplishment.

My wonderful man has, luckily, remained healthy through all of this and had been picking up the slack and taking wonderful, tender care of me.

And I feel totally guilty.

How ridiculous is that?  He has picked up groceries, fixed meals, done laundry, made sure our Bean is fed and dressed and dropped off at daycare, all of which are normally my jobs. He has done all of these things completely willingly and without me even having to ask. I still feel like I’m putting him out in some way. Even when I can barely lift my body from the couch, I feel like I should be able to do all of my regular responsibilities. That I do not have the right to simply rest.

I talk to moms all the time who struggle with asking for and accepting help from others.  Why do we do this? I spend all day taking care of my family’s needs. Why, then, do I resist when someone is offering to take care of mine?

While I was thinking about this today, I found this video on the new-to-me blog Well Grounded Life.

I love this image of giving as an out breath and receiving as an in breath. That practicing receiving is essential to my ability to give.

I suspect my discomfort in letting the LHM take over "my job" is related to sometimes feeling that I have lost my individual identity to mothering.  I fear that if he takes over my mothering tasks I am rendered invisible. If I am not the mother, in charge of the mothering, who am I? This is the root of my continuous struggle to pursue interests outside of my child, my home, my housework. Because I need to be more than just “mother.”  I need to be indelible, irreplaceable, individually myself.

The great irony here is that in order to make myself time and space to do that, to express that self, I need to ask for and accept help with the mothering and the housekeeping. I need to let that identity go a bit in order to have the bigger identity that I so need.

And I need to learn to receive that help not just when I'm sick, but when I'm well enough to do the other things that my heart so much craves. 

Is asking for help hard for you? What feelings does it stir up in your heart?