I’ve already shown off the wrist x-ray that signifies my past summer of “oh yeah you are middle aged, not a figure skater.” You know, this one:
(Good news side note: the x ray was clean. It was just nerve damage!)
But there’s a part two to that story.
Several weeks past the injury, I was still in major pain. Texting and typing and carrying anything at all in my left hand were impacted in a way that made me wince constantly. I remember at one point trying to cut vegetables for stir fry for my family and bursting into tears because, even with every smart modification I could attempt, I couldn’t make it happen.
Lucy and Justin (it’s always Lucy and Justin) rushed to the kitchen. “Ask for help,” they admonished me, taking the knife gently out of my hands and becoming my on-demand sous chefs.
A few days later, I was lamenting to my office neighbor buddy Annie that I had a work trip coming up and I, for the life of me, couldn’t figure out how I was going to manage the carrying of luggage required for flight. I had tried to call a few orthopedists to see if they could fit me in before the trip, but no one had a slot earlier than two weeks away.
“What about [one of our co-worker’s] husband? Do you have her text?”
I hesitated. I knew this colleague peripherally, as a beloved member of our community, but she wasn’t a bestie I had in my contacts. Also, I wasn’t that kind of person, ya know, the kind of person that jumps the line because of a connection I have. Also also I didn’t want to bug her. I imagined her confusion if I texted: “who is that weird woman texting me?” and “doesn’t she know my husband is super busy?”
Annie (as she often does in a way that I so admire) took matters in her own hands. She sent a quick text to Leah connecting us. Approximately 53 seconds later, my phone dinged. “I’m going to go ahead and have my husband’s nurse call you. I bet he can fit you in Monday morning first thing.” 33 seconds later the nurse messaged. I was speechless. Suddenly this big, insurmountable problem was fixed. Just like that.
I thanked Annie profusely. I also articulated how unlike me it felt to take advantage of a connection. She laughed. “Julie, you know that good feeling you get when you help people? Guess what? Other people get that same feeling when they help you. Don’t take away their chance at that good feeling.”
Asking for help is more than just taking advantage of all the doctors that are part of our St. Andrew’s community. It has a lot to do, for me, about becoming a better teacher. And the first step is being real and vulnerable about my teaching struggles. When I mention a mistake or tension that I face in my Tuesday Teaching Tips, I am always met with grace, commiseration, and help, and often a mixture of all three.
I think my October new year’s resolution (that should be a thing) is to ask ask ask for help. I think the work we do is too difficult and too potentially isolating not to. And I know I am surrounded by a community-network of helpers. We are literally in this profession because we are professional helpers.
But people can’t help if they don’t know I need it. So maybe we can all work to make spaces in which it is possible to say how this thing is hard. I’ll raise my hand first.
THIS THING IS HARD! I AM SO NOT PERFECT AT IT! HELP!
There. I feel better. Now if you can help me do a better job of scaffolding deadlines with seniors, I’m all ears.