As an only child, I always had a flair for independence. Even so, accepting help as a kid seemed natural and uncomplicated. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, my comfort level in allowing others to lighten my load has drastically changed. As an adult, accomplishment and the joy that follows is important to me. So when it comes to asking someone for help, I always think to myself, “If I have a problem that I am capable of fixing, then why would I involve anyone else?”
This question is my downfall, and the reason why I rarely take advantage of the support that surrounds me.
If there were a Best Family in the World award, my family would win, hands down. And I am not the only one who notices my tribe’s loveliness. At my wedding, one of my guests said, “When I get married, can I rent your family?” After celebrating Christmas Eve with my family, a friend commented, “You guys are like the Puerto Rican Brady Bunch.”
Although I formed a close bond with my cousins, aunts and uncles as a child, I didn’t truly value them until I was old enough to experience the families of friends, boyfriends and husbands. I can now appreciate the friendship, loyalty and support that we have always selflessly offered to each other. My family is like an internal whisper pulsating through my mind, confirming that our blood is our bond, and regardless of the circumstances in any given situation, we will be there for each other.
I now live thousands of miles away from the bulk of my family. The modernized support we offer has taken form via social media. If I need advice, they are all a Facebook message away. Being that writing is my preferred method of communication, this works out well for me…most of the time.
But when life gets harder than what the contents of a Facebook message could possibly provide, this is where I struggle. Being a contemplative introvert, thinking and overthinking can feel like a full-time job sometimes. I usually take to my laptop, write a blog, or I go “old-school” and write my thoughts down on paper. If this method of internalization doesn’t settle me, that is usually when the uncomfortable, “oh-no-I’m-going-to-have-to-ask-someone-for-help” doom sets in.
Although I have a strong support system in my husband and my parents, I still find it hard to use what is available to me. While expressing my opinion has never been difficult, vocalizing the need for anything that, in my mind, should only belong to me, has always been a challenge, regardless of the amount of support waiting in the wings. My husband gets upset sometimes because I don’t allow him to do simple tasks like taking my girls to school if I don’t feel well or changing a light bulb. So, you can probably guess that when there is something more serious sprinting through my mind, asking for any kind of assistance from him is a rarity.
Some people have used the word “strong” to describe me. I’m not sure this is accurate, as there are times when I need more than what I can offer myself, yet I fear asking for it. In times like these, I do not seek refuge in the amazing family structure I just described. I, instead, choose to find support in a place where it is not readily offered, but there nonetheless.
I find support in the gifts that are my daughters. Because they are eight and eleven, I don’t approach them and lay out my problems, hoping they will dissect them with me or give me their shoulders to cry on. I don’t expect answers.
I find encouragement when my girls let me hug them a little longer, when they help me without my having to ask, when they randomly tell me they love me without me saying it first, when they sense something is off and include me in a game or a story or whatever it is they are doing, when they look at me and offer a simple, yet beautiful smile. Although it may not fix everything that needs fixing, this is the type of support that I can readily accept. Their unconditional love for me lets me focus on what is important, leaving whatever is left over easier to tackle. Whether they know it or not, they are the support system I treasure most.
Through my girls, I’ve learned that support doesn’t just come in the form of actions like helping with a task or lending someone money or giving a friend advice. It doesn’t only come from people who are willing to give it. For me, the support I’ve found most useful has come from the invisible crutch that my daughters unknowingly, yet lovingly provide.