In my previous blog post, I shared about the importance of restoration and how the North Shore of Minnesota is one of those places I journey to in order to feel restored. I would like to share another story about my recent trip up north, and it relates to a theme that I often see in the therapy room – asking for help.
It may seem counterintuitive. Clearly a person who is coming to therapy must have some degree of comfort in asking for help or they wouldn’t be there, right? But here is what I often hear when I explore this topic with some of my clients:
- “I am independent, I don’t generally need anyone else’s help.”
- “It’s hard to ask for help because I cling to my self-sufficiency label.”
- “I don’t want to burden anyone else.”
- “My friends are too busy with all of their own problems, I can’t dump mine on them too!”
- “If I ask for help, I’ll just get let down again, so it’s easier if I don’t.”
Do any of those sound familiar to you? I will say truthfully and honestly that I have said, felt and can completely relate to every single one of those statements. How funny is that? I’m a THERAPIST and I don’t like to ask for HELP? Yikes. Don’t let that one get out! Well, let’s just say I’m trying to learn a different way of being in this world (and yes, I have my own therapist too!).
So, what does this have to do with the North Shore? Well, I LOVE and am comforted by the smell, sound and warmth of a crackling, robust bonfire. It is a vital part of my nightly routine when I’m retreating up North. But guess what? I can’t make a fire to save my life. Yes, I know how – I’ve researched the heck out of it, consulted with the bonfire experts, collected the best and driest paper and kindling – only to result in smoke, smoke and more smoke. No fire. Not this girl.
My first memory of bonfire failure brings me back to a time when I hosted a summer camp-out sleepover for my daughter and a huge group of her giggly BFFs. I set up a huge tent in the backyard (by myself of course!). There was dancing, singing, yard games and silly string wars, and then – time for S’mores! I tried forever to make a bonfire and just couldn’t get it going. Defeated, sad and a bit embarrassed to let this tribe of beautiful girls down (and there was NO WAY I was calling a neighbor to ask for help), all of the sudden a voice perked up from the crowd, “Miss Jill, It’s ok. Did you know that you that you can make S’mores in the microwave?” Thank you sweet Alyssa! No, as a matter of fact, I had no idea you could make S’mores in the microwave! The party was saved, and we all went inside and watched marshmallows blow up to approximately the size of my head in the microwave. Fire? Who needs a bonfire for a great camp-out? Everyone completely forgot about my fire making failure (except me, of course).
Insert a few hundred other failed fire making attempts between then and now, and I find myself on the North Shore, sitting in one of the Adirondack chairs that circle the fire pit. The ashy, empty fire pit just kept staring at me, whispering, “Try again, Jill.” Perhaps another day I will write about how I finally learned to make a bonfire, but not today. Today is about how I decided to ask for help.
The self-talk was insane. You would think I was trying to negotiate world peace in my own head. “You can call.” (what if they’re too busy to answer?) “Lots of people need help making fires” (just no one that I know) “That’s their job to help you” (there are other people here that need help way more than I do). Well, after the right and left shoulder characters debated for what felt like longer than last year’s winter season, I put on my big girl pants, took a deep breath to calm my silly racing heart, and I called the front desk. “Umm, Hi! Do you have anyone who could come down to the bonfire area by Unit 252 and help me make a fire?” And within a few minutes here comes Johnny Bonfire maker with a golf cart full of kindling and firewood, and a happy, helpful heart to boot! He could not have been more pleased to help me, and he had a brilliant, blazing fire going in less than 5 minutes. How did he do that?!?! I was in awe and a bit envious of his skill, but gratefulness dominated my heart. It was one of the best fires ever, and I relaxed in its warmth and beautify for the entire evening.
It is quite extraordinary what can result when we acknowledge our need for help and act on it. We get blessed. We get to bless others by allowing THEM to use THEIR strengths. We are humbled. We can relax. We can spend our energy on other things (which at that moment, for me, was to simply relax). I dare you. Ask for help and see what happens! And if you’re let down by the response, try it again anyway. You don’t have to do life on your own no matter how strong or independent you are. Let’s tribe-up and do this life together. Let’s help one another. Let’s ease each other’s burdens. Let’s express what we need and let other people help. It doesn’t mean you’re weak or can’t handle life on your own! It’s quite the opposite. When you know you can do something yourself (unless, in my case, it happens to be making a bonfire!), but also are in touch with your limitations and can ask for relief or help – THAT is incredible strength.