This past weekend I somehow stumbled across a book by Amanda Palmer called The Art of Asking or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help. Amanda Palmer is a musician who caught attention for raising 1.2 million dollars over on Kickstarter to fund her latest album. She maintains that she learned the most about creating connections and community from her days standing on a milk crate as a human statue handing out flowers in Harvard Square. I immediately felt possessed to click that Amazon Prime purchase button. My brain was screaming - um you need this book and you need it now. I was so overcome that I even paid the extra $3.99 in order to receive one-day shipping. You see, in my mind, this book was promising me I could easily learn how to ask for help. I suspect I’m not the only one who fails miserably at this everyday task since apparently a whole book has been published on the topic. Growing up with an illness, you might think "wait, don’t you ask for help like, I don’t know all the damn time?" And you’d be right. Sort of. Asking for help has always made me feel like a huge burden though and strangely sometimes even harder than asking for the help was actually receiving it. I remember once in college I was hanging out in the library with this guy from my class. I had just whipped out my stapler and was attempting to staple twenty pages together. The pile was thick and I was fumbling majorly. He kindly said “here Corinne, let me get that for you.” And I was mortified. And offended. What makes you think I cant do this on my own? I mean apart from the fact that I can’t but that’s soo not the point jeez. If you begin to dig a little deeper, which time and distance sometimes allows for, beyond the defensiveness, shame and vulnerability were laying in wait. It was the feeling of "oh shit." My carefully and painstakingly painted veneer was cracked. He could see I needed help, and instead of feeling grateful I was left feeling pathetic.
But this is just one small example. We all need help in big ways and small. From asking if our neighbor would watch our dog to asking our partner if they will love us for the rest of their lives. We all ask of each other and in the asking lies the wonderful gift of being able to connect with and assist others. It is how we create community and connection. And when we ask “has anyone else felt this way?" we allow for the collective sigh of a “Me too”. I thought I was alone, but me too.
Lest you sit there though and think wow Corinne is such a fast learner, I’m jealous. Fear not. Just two hours ago, I texted a friend to ask her if I should email my doctor to ask for help with something or if that would be too annoying… Womp womp. Hey I asked my friend for advice though that’s something right? Work with me here. Awareness is half the battle. Asking isn't always easy. We may ask the “wrong” person, we may ask at an inopportune time. But we can never ask for the wrong thing. Because what a person needs should never feel bad, or too big, or wrong. So that thing you’ve been meaning to ask for, go ahead. Do it. Just Ask! Unless you’re asking to eat the last of the ice cream in the freezer. Don’t be a dick.
P.S. Here’s Amanda Palmer’s Ted Talk, it’s worth the watch.