Meaning Mondays: The Stuck in the Mud Edition

ME. DRIVING. IN A RAINSTORM.

As I’m just about to make the final turn up the hill to my little getaway place, I see my neighbor’s truck starting down the road.

Did I mention it’s a one lane road? And it’s raining?

Both my vehicle and brain go into overdrive: What am I supposed to do now? What’s the rule on a one lane road? Do I back up? Does he back up? Why am I here?

But wait.

There’s a clearing to my right. Another driveway. That’s it! How silly of me not to notice sooner. I’ll just pull into that driveway so Jesse, my neighbor, can get by.

Bad choice.

And of course, by now Jesse has not only backed up to give me space to go forward, but kind soul that he is, has started walking down the hill to see what’s up with me.

He’s got good instincts, because what’s up with me is that my stomach is sinking as I realize my right wheels have veered off the pavement and stuck in layers of old leaves, sticks, rocks, and mud.

So, I do what any red-blooded American would do. I give it some gas.

Nothing happens. Except the sad whir of wheels turning with nothing to grab on to and no place to go.

More gas. More whir. And something else now. A strange burning smell.

Jesse reaches me and we both come to the same conclusion. I must back up rather than go forward. Momentum will carry me down the hill and when I’m on flatter ground, I’ll make it up again.

Yes, I can do that!

With Jesse spotting me, I do indeed back down, but in a surreal kind of way. Sort of like I’m backing up in an isolation tank. Remember the movie, Altered States, with William Hurt? Probably not. But check it out if you want some good isolation tank action. And lots of other freaky, alternate reality stuff, which is what I felt like backing down that hill.

At any rate, I’ve stopped the car again. Awfully close to a tree this time. Only to discover that I’ve once more veered off the pavement, this time on the other side of the road. Now my left wheels are stuck.

Jesse appears at the window of my isolation tank. I get out. I need air. I look at my sad wheels. My hair is really wet now.

Yet Jesse, ever the optimist, encourages me: “Just back up some more, and you’ll be good.”

A moment of silence  hangs between us. And without even thinking, I blurt out, “Could you do it for me?”

THERE ARE TIMES WHEN WE JUST NEED TO ASK FOR HELP.

I admit, I haven’t always been good at asking for help (except from my husband). But to the rest of world I can come off as having my act together. Quite independent. Got it all figured out. A very capable woman.

Many times, I’m not.

So I consider this a small personal victory, giving up and asking Jesse to help me. It reinforces that I need to be aware of and acknowledge when I’m facing overwhelm. I need to recognize what I’m not good at.

Clearly, backing up a minivan on a steep, slick, pot-holed, one lane country road, in the midst of a redwood forest, on a dark and rainy afternoon in early spring, is not in my skill set.

And when I began to consider writing this, I thought it would be about how we need to be willing to ask for help. Because so often people tell me they’re uncomfortable doing so. Imposing on someone. Being a pest. So on and so forth. You know the story. I’m sure you’ve heard it or lived it at some point in your own life. And it’s certainly been written many times over.

As I pondered, however, something opened up. The story began to work its way through me, suggesting that it was about more than just the good sense of knowing when to seek assistance.

Because asking for help is about so much more than admitting our challenges and difficulties.

ASKING FOR HELP IS A MEANINGFUL ACT OF TRUSTING AND BONDING.

Now, neither Jesse nor I were likely thinking about bonding when we jumped back in the van, me in the passenger seat, him driving. Maybe he was even mildly surprised that a woman he hardly knows handed over her keys without a second thought.

Whatever the truth, though, he took it in stride, reacting with grace and confidence.

And then something shifted. We started talking. Revealing the tiniest bits of personal information.

Turns out that Jesse and I share some common interests. And next time I visit, perhaps we’ll drink a cup of tea together and talk some more.

So in the end, the day dropped a trace of magic in our laps, along with the rain.

Which probably wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t leaned on him for help.

LEAN ON ME.

It reminded me that we want to be asked for help. We want the opportunity to engage with one another on that level. We want to be needed and be needy sometimes.

Neediness, in fact, has gotten a bad reputation as far as I’m concerned.

It also reminded me of the final scene in the movie, Night of the Iguana. Richard Burton and Ava Gardner have come through a hellish night. It’s very late, and Ava suggests to Richard that they go down to the beach. It’s a fairly steep descent, but he figures he can make it down the hill. He’s not so sure about getting back up, though.

And in her inimitable way, Ava Gardner assures him, “I’ll get you back up, baby. I’ll always get you back up.”

OK, just for a second, put aside any giggles you might be having about the sexual innuendo in that line.

Then think about the startling connection of that moment. The humanity of leaning on someone. Or inviting someone to lean on you.

It’s one of the greatest gifts we human beings have to give each other.

HOW ABOUT YOU?

Have you had experiences when you were either asker or giver of help, and it actually deepened your relationship with another person? Made it more meaningful?

PLEASE HELP ME BY SHARING YOUR THOUGHTS!

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If you’re new here, you can click MEANING MONDAYS to catch up on my meaning making journey that started in January.

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WHY NOT START NOW?

45 thoughts on “Meaning Mondays: The Stuck in the Mud Edition

  1. I never used to ask for help before my accident (or very seldom anyway). Now, I don’t have a choice. But, I’ve learned that people yearn to be needed and recognized. I have the ability to make others feel good by asking them for their help. Well, that’s what I tell myself these days to make me feel better. *Smile*

    • Absolutely, Tracy. You may be telling it to yourself to feel better, but I know without a doubt that you make others feel good by asking for help. Doesn’t that sound bossy of me to say? And yet, I do know it. So thanks for putting up with my bossy self today!

  2. Patty, I was an unbearably needy person in my youth, and thus destroyed any long lasting friendships I might have had that way.

    Then unfortunately for 15 years or so I went in completely the opposite direction. I did not tend to ask for help at all because I didn’t want to seem needy. I didn’t care if people thought I wasn’t confident or reliable… as long as I wasn’t “the needy guy”.

    The last few years has seen me on a “quest” to just present myself as I am. If folks can’t handle what they see, then I’m just going to have to find a way to be okay with that… even when I’m not. In short, I ask for help now when I need it. Not an uncommon occurrence and probably a beneficial thing in the long term.

    I am hoping that the process of reaching out, just as I am, will humble me. And maybe, just maybe, people may find it easier to be around me because of it. Who knows? It’s worth a try!

    Another wonderful post. Thank you. 🙂

    • I love what you say, Tony. Finding the sweet spot in the middle between neediness and toughness. Reaching out just as the person you are. It’s very real, and I thank you so much for sharing that.

  3. Oh Patty, I can feel that sinking/half paniced feeling of getting your vehicle stuck in the mud. It’s hard to describe that feeling exaclty, but anyone that’s been through it knows the feeling. Krissa over at HalfAsstic.com had a post about getting stuck about a month ago. She had to get pulled out, but had a similar experience of growing some friendships.

    I think in addition to asking for help, sharring a harrowing experience helps grow bonds as well. It will forever be a “remember that time” moment.

    Personally, I think I react a bit like you did. I try it myself, then ask for help to do it myself, then have someone show me how or do it for me (depending on the situation.)

    • That’s a nice bit of serendipity, Eric, to hear that Krissa also made a connection by asking for help to get unstuck. And that is so true about sharing harrowing experiences. We come together that way, and often find our resilience through such an experience. Thanks so much for mentioning that!

  4. This post struck a cord with me this morning (as I am finding many of your posts do). I used to be not so great at asking for help. Now I find myself asking for help more than in the past – but probably not as much as I could. I love my independence and sometimes asking for help leaves me feeling more dependent than I am comfortable – especially if I can do it on my own.

    I find myself in an interesting situation though as sometimes I need help parenting my daughter. It is little things nothing huge, and nothing I can’t ask as friend to help out with – which is what I do. However, there is a part of me that wonders if I don’t need to be reaching out to my daughter’s father to ask him for help – to make him part of the parenting process? I mean, he lives right here and despite his saying that he “can’t help” he also says that he “wants to.”

    Here is me, writing this as sometimes just voicing it or typing it is exactly the help that I need.

    • It’s such a balancing act, isn’t it? The pull between dependence and independence? I like the word “interdependence.” I’m not sure I live it as much as I would like to, but it speaks to me. I also like how you’ve written your way through your own questions, coming to a place where you found your own answer. Thank you for that!

  5. OK I can’t resist

    “I’ll get you back up, baby. I’ll always get you back up.”

    I have heard this before, but never in the context of climbing a mountain. Thank you for my morning snicker! (yes I did read your instructions about ignoring the sexual innuendo… but it was bigger than both of us… so I had too)

    Excellent post and cause for thought as always!

    Unfortunately I am going to respond cynically. I was cast out into the darkness at a very tender age, where I learned that the wolves always had something else in mind, when offering or responding to my call for help. Seeing the ulterior motives that were either of a sexual or power based motive, made me learn very young, that help came with a string attached. This led me to sceptically question human nature(A good thing). Being on the streets of Montreal as a minor in the sixties, was what I came to call the school of hard knocks. You quickly learned the game and (unfortunately) became what you detested.

    The road back was very difficult. At first I always looked at a request for help with a “what’s in it for me” attitude. I did not like myself when it was over none the less. When I began to read higher level thoughts, things began to change. I saw the parable of the “good Samaritan” as an act of higher power, rather than the “Con” was, as we used to call it. There began a conflict of spirit that still exists today and I have to continually remember myself, not to attach the self needs to any act of charity. An ongoing work for most people I surmise.

    The picture of the winding mountain road, looks just like roads up here. I drive a Ford F150 4×4 that we affectionately call “Blue Belle” She is a good ride, with power and stability. I carry a tow cable and jumper cables as part of my truck kit. Usually I am the one pulling people out of the ditch in nasty weather. When they do offer to compensate me, I do ask for one thing.

    I ask, that they remember this event, when they see someone else in the same predicament, that they stop and render assistance as best they can. This thereby carries forward the good favour.

    Yes I remember William Hurt in altered states! Thank you for the flashback. That film was and still is, of significant importance to me.

    Always a pleasure to read your post’s BTW do you like Chris de burgh?

    Eso

    • Ha! You’ve made me laugh even more – “bigger than both of us” – you’re a sly one, Eso. And quite a powerful story you share too. You beautifully bring it full circle when you come to present day and write of Blue Belle. I can just imagine the two of you coming to the aid of a rookie country driver (like me), and then asking them to pay it forward. It sounds like you have done a lot of inner work around asking and giving help. So thank you for sharing that story here. And I don’t know who Chris de burgh is, so I will have to look him up when I finish here tonight!

  6. Patty, great post. Very lyrical.

    We don’t use the most abundant resource around us, and that is all the people who surround us.

    Yes, I do remember Altered States. And Night of the Iguana. Both great movies!

    There’s another great line in that movie where Ava’s character accuses Burton’s character of going off to drink somewhere, and Burton responds if he had been drinking, he would still be drinking.

    • OK, Kaushik, now I’m wanting to watch the movie again just for that line. I don’t remember it, so what a joy it will be to see that scene. Reminds me how nice it can actually be to forget things, especially in a movie, because then we get to experience it all over again like it’s the first time. And now I’m thinking about people as “abundant natural resources.” That has such a ring to it. Love it. So thanks!

  7. Oh yes. The mud, driving off the pavement, spinning wheels are such great metaphors for this feeling. Sometimes I ask myself if a situation feels “slippery.” That sense of driving and hitting a patch of ice is so palpable for me.

    I’m very fortunate to have a husband I can lean on, and I think that’s a terribly important part of marriage.

    The asking for help that has been more difficult for me is with my parents. As soon as I left home and went to college, I was eager to be independent, to take care of things on my own, to be an adult. And for the most part, I’ve been able to. But there are times I’ve had to call my dad and mom and humbly ask for their help. And I think that is an important part of an adult relationship with my parents. At some point, they will ask me for help too.

    • Oh, I so agree with you Eva. My husband has been there for me so many times. Sometimes I do tell him, though, that I’d like him to ask me for help more often too. He’s working on it. And I love how you bring it full circle with your parents, where you see that down the road they will be the receiver of your help. Thank you for that wisdom!

  8. Hi Patty, I love how you define asking for help. It is so much more than imposing on another. It’s a beautiful opportunity to share meaning with someone, a reminder of how we’re not alone, how we need others and how we have a role to play in caring for each other. Too often we work at becoming self-sufficient. We have back up plans for every little adventure/endeavor. Sure, we hone many important skills and achieve great things this way but when we ask for help, when we lean on others, when we reach out a hand and show vulnerability, it stimulates/satisfies many basic human needs of connecting with others that are good for the heart. Thank you for another beautiful post.

    • Wow, Belinda, I love how you’ve expanded on what I’ve written. I often think those basic human needs you speak of, around connecting and caring and sharing meaning, are kind of “it” in life. Or maybe that’s just me today. I had one of those days when everything else just seemed to fall away, and I felt so at peace. Like the rest of it was unimportant. So it’s wonderful to read your words tonight. Thank you!

  9. Hi Patti,
    I was laughing at the true blooded American thing…give it more gas! So true.

    We always hear when there is a big storm or traumatic event that people come together like never before and offer their help to those in need. I think helping one another is like glue that holds communities and neighborhoods together.

    Could it be that in order to heal the world we only need ask for, give and receive help? Hmmm

    • That’s a tremendously important point you’re making Tess, about the glue that holds it all together. So often these days we disappear into our suburban houses, and live behind the facade. We don’t have much sense of community and neighborliness. Nobody comes to me and asks to borrow a cup of sugar, that’s for sure. But I remember that as a kid. So I think that you’ve hit it about what we need to do to heal the world. Thanks for unveiling that here, and as I’ve said before, you have my vote if you ever run for Queen of the World!

  10. Hi Patty.
    I call this making requests and it is indeed another skill we seldom develop well just as driving on slippery country roads.
    Making requests is a skill and I am learning that it allows me to do things that I otherwise would not do. Making requests makes my world expand. If I only stuck to the things I independently can do, I make my world small and I lose out.
    There is an universal favor bank; when I assist others I deposit and when I ask I withdraw. Requests allows energy in life to flow and has wonderful consequences like intimacy.
    As the world has not learned the skills of request and the right of refusal – which means to say ‘no’ to requests with authenticity and to know how to take a ‘no’ gracefully, requests are still awkward and an undiscovered part of making our life less separate.
    At the moment requests can be seen as dangerous, as having a string attached and all the other bad things that come from our separateness.
    I am all for learning about requests, it adds enormously to life and our connectedness. It is one of the skills we learn on our WomenLikeMe program and having that skill has made me do more things then I had ever dreamed of. Go Patty and everyone go, learn about requests and expand, xox Wilma

  11. It’s funny, maybe it’s an age thing, or an experience thing or maybe I’ve just truly grown as a human being, but lately I have very few inhibitions about asking for help. Maybe because my parents tried so hard to make me independent by never offering help, by always making me take care of my own stuff as a child and adolescent, but I became so afraid of people, of being ridiculed, that I would rather have my teeth pulled than ask for help. But now, after a very traumatic several years, spending time in psychiatric hospitals, being in support groups, having to start life again as a single parent, I just ask. This morning I scored a free coffee at the cafeteria in my new job, because I had no cash and they had to money machine. So I asked, very nicely, if they could give me credit. Instead the nice young man got me a free coffee. My favourite movie quote is “You can always rely on the kindness of strangers”

    • Oh wow, Kate! That’s a quote from Streetcar Named Desire. I wrote a post about it in January: The Kindness of Strangers. So we’re on the same wavelength. I love hearing your story of doing a complete turn-around. Going through that trauma you speak of, being forced to reach out and rely upon strangers, is one of the surest ways to develop a capacity to ask for help. And that young man is a perfect example of what I’m talking about, because clearly, he wanted to help you. Thanks so much for sharing that!

  12. We can offer help but truthfully, it sometimes means more to us when someone asks us for it. First, it shows the person asking knows him/herself and his/her limits. Second, it allows the person asking to keep some pride.

    How many times as parents do we just jump in and help when one of our children is having a hard time? Many times, the children do not mind but many times they would like to just know they can do it themselves.

    Hmmm, seem to be rambling so best get myself back on track. Great post, Patty!

    • No, you’re not rambling at all, Nicki. You make a great point, and I would actually say we have a responsibility to reach out and ask for help. Part of the give and take of humanity. But kids, who are flexing their independence, well, it might take them awhile to learn that. It reminds me of the cycle of life: needing help, becoming independent, embracing interdependence. Thank you!

  13. Hi Patty! Knowing when to ask for help – yes, what a valuable trait to have! I don’t know why we fight it – well, yes I do, it’s ego. I used to scream “I can DO this!” trying to be all independent. I was actually quick bristly about it. Dropping that facade and asking for help now and then (comes with knowing your true limitations I think and the ego doesn’t like it much) has softened my rough edges. It doesn’t mean I am weak, it means I am aware!

    I’m so glad you made lemonade out of the situation – what a lovely story and example!

    Hugs
    suZen

    • Oh yeah, I’ve been that bristly woman too, suZen. Sharp around the edges. I like the idea of framing it as awareness. But I think I’m OK with being weak too, because I know that the paradox of life is that I’m also strong. Not either/or, but both/and. So I’ll just close by saying I am BOTH delighted AND affirmed by your lovely comments. Hugs to you!

  14. Patty –

    I love this post because I know more about you and it makes an important point. I started out with my new business and tried for a long time to do it all on my own. I guess I was somewhere between the assumption that others wouldn’t help (wrong!) and the masochistic belief that we should do it all ourselves (double wrong!!). Since I’ve started to work with others and collaborate it has helped me in so many ways – I’ve got some great insight, some brilliant collaborations and had some amazing fun too! Asking for help opens us up to others and that can’t be a bad thing! Thanks for a lovely post.

    Phil

    • I love that you come around to fun, Phil. Because I do think that is a key part of asking for help and the connection that often comes from it. It was fun to talk with my neighbor, which came as a result of reaching out to him. Sounds like you have come a long way and had many insights about this topic, so I’m so pleased you stopped by to share them. Thank you!

  15. This is something I have learned to do. And I am not above going all Helpless Female if it solves the situation. If it involves engines, higher math, or brute strength, I’m gonna need the hand, and almost always, it leaves both parties feeling good and the problem addressed.

  16. Yes, yes, yes… I love to help out. But I have to admit that asking for help is difficult sometimes. We like to be independent and take care of ourselves. It is, as you say, a great way to bond with other people and let your boundaries down. I’ve been in the position where I’ve offered to help someone and being turned down felt pretty awkward.

    • Hmmm, now that’s something I didn’t consider when writing this, Davina. Seems like a pretty big omission. I’ve been rebuffed too when offering help. But I wonder, is that enough to stop us from trying? I guess it’s a delicate dance between asking and offering, accepting and declining. I’m trying to think right now of times when I’ve turned down help. They bring up a sort of closed up coldness in me. And I’m actually thinking that the most empowering experiences were when I let down my guard and simply asked for assistance. I’m gonna ponder this more, so thanks so much for expanding the conversation!

  17. Hi Patty,

    Great post! I’ve gotten good with asking for help. It humbles yet elevates at the same time. You’re so right that it’s an act of trust and bonding. Never looked at it that way. The more we “lean” on each other, the more we realize we’re in this together and that our real mission in life may be to help each other. Perhaps, when we learn that as a collective the mystery of life will be revealed.

    Much Thx, Giulietta

    • Fascinating thought, Giulietta, that the mystery of life may be revealed through helping. Maybe that is the mystery of life??? In the last few years I’ve decided to be content with not knowing, figuring that maybe that in and of itself is the thing we’re planted here to learn, to be comfortable with the mystery, to embrace the unknown. But if it turns out you’re right, then I’m on board! Thanks for the comment.

  18. Dear sweet Patty, I’ve missed being here. I’m taking just a bit of time this AM to visit some of my favorite blogs. I REALLY relate to this post. I once was terrible at asking for help.

    A good friend of mine once kindly scolded me and said, “I get hurt when you won’t ask me for help. Did it ever occur to you that when you ask me for help and I am able to help you that it it makes ME feel good about myself? I feel shut out when when you won’t ask for help.”

    I never forgot that because I’d never looked at asking for help in that way. My friend went on to explain that when we let others help us we are actually giving THEM a gift in return. They get to feel GOOD about themselves. So it slowly is turning me around. My work load with my book has been so intense that I am really in place where I am HAVING to ask for help. And it amazing for me to actually SEE that people can take great pleasure it “helping”. But then it’s not so odd because I know I always feel good about myself when I can help someone else out.

    I also think what Giulietta said about asking for being a humbling experience is very important. I too feel that and it’s a good thing.

    Also dear Patty, thank you for all your kindness, your wisdom and encouragement. You comments are just amazing!! Sending you hugs and love.

    PS I need this post right now as it’s a VERY good reminder for me while getting my book out. A powerful reminder.

    • Hi Robin – How sweet of you to visit! I know how incredibly busy you are right now. I love what you say here, and your friend was very wise and brave and honest to tell you that. We need people like that in our lives! You’re soooo right, it does feel good help. I was in a place to unexpectedly give someone help today, with no strings attached. A brief moment, but one that just flowed and felt right. So thank you very much for your comment, and hugs and love to you too!

  19. Patty — How do you do it? You write one sensational post after another and always make me THINK.

    I loved this one because I also struggle sometimes to ask for help. Blogging has actually helped with this particular gremlin in me. I’m not very techie and I almost always have to ask for help if I want to learn something new for my site.

    Then again, as you pointed out with Jesse, I have met some wonderful people in the blogosphere by asking for help. The kindness and generosity I’ve found from people I’ve never met, except via their sites, is remarkable. I think you are right, we are happier when we help each other:~)

    • Aw, you’re very kind Sara. Thank you. And yes, I totally agree with you, there are so many gracious, kind, caring, helpful people in the blogosphere. I was just thinking of this after writing my post. My brain started spurting out all sorts of ways I could ask for help to bring to life some of the things that I’m working on right now. And it gave me a very warm, cozy feeling. Nice! So thanks for your lovely comment.

  20. I know I’m a bit late to the game here (I’m in Nashville working and I don’t have time to make my usual blog stops) but I LOVE this post. I know that’s not particularly helpful but I just love it. The post makes the most perfect little story and the fact that you and Jesse start talking and find some things in common is just delicious.

    • Nope, never too late here, Charlotte. I know all the stuff you’re up to these days, so I’m honored that you took a moment to stop in. And the fact that you loved it, well that’s just icing on the cake. And it is plenty helpful. Believe me. So thanks a bunch!

  21. Hi Patty,

    As I was reading your story, I thought, “she should just ask him to get her out of the ditch”. So glad you did. I know I would have, too.

    I’m enjoy helping others, but am hesitant to ask others for help. I find I like to learn things on my own, so what usually happens is if I get too frustrated or feel I hit a brick wall, then I’ll throw up my hands and yell “Help!”

    • Hi Barbara – Interesting you say you’re hesitant to ask for help when you mention that you would have asked Jesse too! So maybe it’s just about things that really fascinate you, especially if you like to learn things on your own. I’m like that too with certain things, but apparently not with driving steep roads in the rain! Thanks for the comment.

  22. Pingback: The Story of One Day, Just For You « Why Not Start Now?

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