There is a scene in the 1989 movie Parenthood where this little kid gets his head stuck in the banister and and the camera pans to his squished little face and he says, "help, help, help!" My daughter and I thought this was really funny, and for years we've been saying help, help, help for everything: when one of us needs a coffee warm up, when people are driving crazy, when I can't get the tv to do what I want it to do...
But genuinely asking for help, I'm realizing, is not something I do. Not easily, anyway. Genuinely asking for help requires being willing to be seen. It's risky and vulnerable and implies need, which implies weakness, which leaves you open. Yikes, Diane! The first part is true, the second part is learned. Asking for help is vulnerable and you do need something, but that doesn't make you weak, that makes you real. And open to what? All I know is there is something deep in me that says don't leave yourself open. And the only thing that challenges that belief is the very thing I don't want to do: Ask For Help.
I desperately needed help five years ago when I first contacted my coach, and, honestly, one of the most courageous things I've ever done was to actually keep that first appointment. To get into my car, drive to the gym, park, get out, and walk through the door was a show of bravery that will likely sit in the top five bravest things I will do in my life. It will for me, anyway, because that level of vulnerability, that act of essentially announcing I'm here and I need help was epic for me. Not being able to do that is how I got myself into that position in the first place.
Gratefully, I have been coached by someone who encouraged asking for help and encouraged open communication about the process. And gratefully, by some act of god, I obliged, and it has transformed not just my fitness, but my life. But I'm realizing that just like you can lose your running fitness if you go too long without doing it, you can also lose your ability to ask for help if you don't practice that when you need it. You can't attend to it now and then and then expect to be able to put it into play when something big comes knocking at the door. It's exactly like fitness and running in that way. The daily commitment to fitness adds up to big gains over time, and gives you the ability to call on it at the drop of a hat. I remember recently a neighbor knocked on our door to say that they were coming to clean the streets and our cars were going to be towed. I had completely forgotten about this and within seconds I was out the door, across the yard, and moved my car around the corner. I ran back to the porch, grabbed my husband's keys and repeated the whole thing as the tow truck was coming down the street. After I moved my husband's car I ran back home because I could. I was so pleased with myself at 54 years old--my leaping, my running, my fitness saving us a few hundred dollars and a big headache. It was suddenly go time and my fitness was there because I build it every day.
But it's come to my attention recently that I have possibly neglected the practice of asking for help. The practice for building this isn't as clear or tangible as it is for running; but running, again, has been the tool that highlights the big things in life that need attention. I hope to god that I never again abandon my body, for the sake of my health but also for the sake of my soul. Running keeps me fit, but it also keeps me honest and real. I have to show up for it, because it's obvious when I don't. And when I show up, it fills my whole life with gifts.
"Daring greatly means the courage to be vulnerable. It means to show up and be seen, to ask for what you need." Brene Brown