The Art of Being Helpless

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We promise to love through better or worse. Confidently, I tell my husband that I will take care of him if he gets sick, will stick with him when he gets old. I know I can take care of him.

I just never figured how hard it would be to be the one needing help.

We’ve all seen the homeless on the side of the road with hand-lettered signs, asking for help. Asking even though they know that most of those driving by won’t even meet their eyes, much less help. How do they do it? I suppose the answer must be that they have no choice, because I find it amazingly hard to ask for help, even from one who has promised to care for me for life.

My husband and I are both equally pig-headed, type-A dominants. We’ve learned to step up if one or the other is going through a crisis, but overall, it would be hard to name the leader in our marriage. Equals.

Except, a few weeks ago, I had foot surgery. On both feet. Which has left me asking for permission and help to go to the bathroom, begging for the treats from the grocery store that I normally buy myself, directing my husband to find the precise piece of clothing I want to wear that day.

Uncomfortable, I fall into the default boss tone. You know the one: this is a request because it’s phrased politely, but not really, because the only answer is “yes.”

“Why do you feel like you have to keep giving orders?” my husband asks, stopping me cold.

Why?

Because the truth – that this is a situation where I have no power, where the answer to my request could be “no” and I could do nothing about it – is just uncharted territory. I don’t have the tools to navigate this territory.

I think this may be some of the “worse” we promised to live through in our wedding vows. But my husband is caretaking like a champ. I’m the one falling short of the saintly invalid I always envisioned.

I think I need help asking for help.

Help