I heard a story recently about an older woman who lived alone. She fell in the middle of the night and couldn’t get up. Instead of calling for help immediately, she waited for hours until she knew people would be awake. “She said that she didn’t want to bother anybody,” the story-teller said, shaking his head.
Looking at it from the outside, it’s easy to think that is ridiculous. Surely anybody, not least of which the EMTs, would have been happy to come help. But as I sat and thought about it, I realized I understood.
I thought about the time I drove myself to the hospital at 3 am with severe abdominal pain from an ovarian cyst. I thought about the time I moved my giant, temperamental dresser by myself. Sure, there are certain things I can do myself and things I genuinely want to learn how to do, hang a shelf using a toggle bolt for example. But there are also situations in which asking for help is the most reasonable thing we can do.
It’s hard, though. To ask for help is to admit we need it, to let people peek behind the curtain of our self-sufficiency. It can feel like an intrusion, a bother, and it’s not fun to have to rely on others who might (let’s be real) not come through.
I’ve found it helpful to give myself small opportunities to practice asking for help. As with anything, laying a foundation when things are semi-fine sets us up well for when things are very not fine. Not only that, but it has the potential to deepen trust between you and your friends.
To practice this in small ways, you can ask a friend to...
Hang onto your spare keys.
You probably have a friend who is responsible enough to put your keys in a safe place in case you ever lock yourself out of your apartment. If this feels weird, you could offer to hang onto theirs as well. A bit of mutually assured destruction can go a long way. Or you could call it a mutually beneficial arrangement, depending on how you see the proverbial glass.
Help you figure out how to hang a shelf, etc.
Choose a household activity that neither of you knows how to do and learn how to do it together. Whether it’s putting together an Ikea bookshelf or changing a tire, invite someone over, watch a YouTube video and get to work. You can always call in an expert if things go totally off the rails.
Show you how to make [insert baking trend you saw on their Insta].
Odds are that you have a friend who learned to make babka or sourdough during quarantine. Invite them over and ask them to show you their expert secrets. This also gives you someone to share the delicious treat with, because the quarantine fifteen is real.
Use their washer/dryer while you watch their kids.
Ok, maybe this isn’t the best trade-off. I rarely babysit, but they presumably nap at some point or have homework or something during which you could do your laundry. Mayhaps you live in an apartment that has a washer and dryer in unit and you don’t have to pay $5 in quarters to use the triple loader. It doesn’t have to be laundry, it could be their dope kitchen or piano or spare room. That might feel like a big ask, hence the trade-off of watching the children.
Pick up something you forgot at the store.
I don’t think I’ve ever gone to the store and actually made it out with everything I need. Even if I use a list. Chances are you have a friend going to the store in the near future who would be willing to snag that thing for you. And because Venmo is a thing, it’s really just a matter of picking that thing up and hitting a button to reimburse them.
Give you a hug.
If you’re like me, this whole isolation thing that’s been going on for the past seven months has meant some serious touch depravity. I’m not even a hugger, going ten weeks straight without touching another person is enough to mess anyone up. Be safe, wear your mask, and all that jazz. But every once in a while, as you are both comfortable, ask a friend if they’d be willing to exchange a hug.
Help you plan your next celebration.
Whether it’s a birthday, a lease signing, a promotion, or whatever, ask a friend to help you mark the moment. It can be as big or small as seems reasonable to you. You could meet up for ice cream and go for a walk, or you could plan to meet a group of friends at a local bar, or you could all attend a live event (assuming that is a thing we will be able to do in the near future).
Don’t do all of these things at once. Mayhaps just start with one thing per week or month. You might get some rejections, but you will probably get some positive responses as well.
Try it and let me know how it goes by leaving a comment below!