Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Embarrassment and humility

I remember a few of my girlfriends in fifth and sixth grade spraining their ankles. I was fascinated by their experiences, especially with their use of crutches. I wished I needed crutches, too.

Sick and twisted?


I envied these girls because everyone saw what was wrong with them and rallied to help them. They were able to have their books carried, their lunches delivered, their needs met with a kind smile and no questions asked. The girls that were afflicted with sprained ankles were popular and beautiful, graceful - deserving of the attention and care. This solidified in my mind my unworthiness. In my mind, I was neither beautiful nor graceful and thus, it made sense to me that my needs were not met unconditionally.

So I learned to rely on myself. "I can do it," was (is) my motto. "Yes, I can." Because if I was undeserving of care, then I better be able to care for others (and myself, when everyone else's needs are met.)

So how ironic is it, now that I've accepted that my childhood was less than ideal and it's one of the reasons that I've become the fiercely independent woman before you, that I find myself with a sprained ankle and subsequently, on crutches?

As the strong, fiercely independent woman that I am, I am incredibly humiliated. Not only of how I sprained my ankle (I was jogging across the street, pushing my son in his stroller, when my foot landed on the back wheel of the stroller which grabbed and yanked, hard,) but also with the sheer mechanics of mobility on crutches. (Thud, thud, thud...)

But you know what I find even more embarrassing than asking my five-year-old son to carry a glass of milk to the table for me?

Having my husband help me do the things that up until Saturday night, I did without thinking - like carry food from the kitchen to the table, or take our dog outside to pee.

I can explain away my son's help by saying that I am empowering him to be self-reliant.

I have no such recourse to use with adults.

My husband has been amazing the past few days - offering help left and right. The more I said "no, thank you, I can do it," the more he offered, until he realized just how hard this situation is for me.

I am the consummate caregiver, ready to shower a person with his/her every need, and within reason, his/her every wish, and suddenly I'm not able to fulfill this role. Flounder - it's what's for dinner.

But through my recovery, I have learned that it is more than okay for me to ask for what I need. So, I do ask for help - when I absolutely can think of no other way to work the situation so I can do it myself. But I do ask even though I feel like the embarrassment will slay me. I ask even though the little girl inside cringes in fear of being denied her request, ridiculed for her audacity for asking, and/or harrumphed with the annoyance of her (petty) needs.

Spraining my ankle is a true lesson in humility for me.

Humility is defined as "the state of being humble" where a humble person is then defined as "someone who does not think that he or she is better or more important than others." (Definition from wikipedia)

For many people, this means that they need to come off their self-built pedastals and mingle with the great "unwashed."

For me though, this experience is bringin hom the fact that I am just as important as others - I am deserving of help when I need it.

And true, it is embarrassing to not be full-bodied and able, but most people have these moments. It doesn't make me unworthy; it just makes me human.

So I will rise up to take my place among the other mortals and hobble my way around on crutches, until I can stand up on my own.


Sarah said...

"I am just as important as others - I am deserving of help when I need it."

Oh, WOW. That is a great thing to read. I feel like I'm constantly making sure everyone else has enough. Then I get angry because there isn't enough left for me.

I hope your ankle is feeling better. Crutches are the worst.


Jeanne said...

Thanks, Sarah. Crutches (both physical and mental) are the worst, to be sure.

I definitely relate to how you feel, Sarah - that there isn't enough to go around and I'm always the one with the shortest stick.

I have a long ways to go before I take care of myself first and foremost, but I've at least put myself higher on the priority list that I used to. ;-)

Faith said...

Jeanne - I was really sick as a kid and I admit that I felt a certain sense of joy when I was hospitalized because there was proof I was really sick and people were taking care of me. I've forgiven my little self for that now but I totally understand the feeling.


Jeanne said...

Faith, I'm glad you've forgiven your little self. I think it's rather natural to want attention as proof that we are loved and worthy of being cared for.

hungry for hunger said...

I've thought about this particular topic a lot, as my wife felt really, really bad that myself, and other people in her life essentially stopped everything for a year to help her.

And I keep telling her that hey, it's a long life, someday I'll make some giant fuck-up, or have a career meltdown, or break many, many bones and she'll take care of me in exactly the same way I take care of her - because that's what people do who care for each other do. Until then I'm just banking up future sponge baths.

Jeanne said...

h4h -
My hubby tells me the same thing, except that he also mentions all the times that I have taken care of him when he's been both full- and less-bodied/able. (Like the night he had bad-Whopper poisoning. Or the night when he was the control for an investigative news story on legal blood alcohol levels and the effect not eating has on one's BAC and alcohol consumption... Both nights in all the technicolor glory that even Ted Turner couldn't match.)

I hear his words. I remember tenderly taking care of him.

But it still doesn't feel "right" to me. It feels absolutely unnatural to be the one needing care instead of being the caretaker.

I feel decidedly un-wonder-womanish. Hmmm... I think I have another post brewing...

Keep banking up those sponge baths, h4h!! May you be able to enjoy them, without the pain and suffering generally attached. ;-)