Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A DIFFICULT LESSON TO LEARN


I just finished eating a delicious meal that one of my good friends brought over. A BIG thanks by-the-way! I am actually in awe that moments like these are happening in my life. It was only about 6-7 years ago that I was so private about my life that I even had a hard time letting my immediate family in to help, and they are the most loving and supportive family a person could ask for. Allowing others to help…why is this such a difficult lesson for me to learn? I’m not sure. I think it’s partly because I have equated suffering well with suffering alone…in silence. I have also felt insecure throughout my life and I haven’t wanted to reveal that I had weaknesses. I recently heard an interview with Brene Brown who wrote a book, “Daring Greatly”. (I still haven’t read the book, but it is definitely on my “to do” list.) In this interview she said something that really resonated with me, “If I look perfect, live perfect, and do it all perfectly, I can avoid shame, blame and judgment.” I have questioned, “Was this part of my motivation to keep people at a distance?” My journey of allowing people to help me and know me has been a slow, step by step process.


I still remember when I got engaged (a story for another day). I kept it from almost everyone for about a month. I even kept information about having a boyfriend (when I started dating my now husband) from my sister for a while, who was my biggest support at the time. We both lived in Hawaii and we spent every holiday and almost every single weekend together even though we lived on opposite ends of the island. After getting married, I tried to hide any sign of personal struggle I was having from my family. After years dealing with a particular trial, I finally started letting my family in…one by one. They loved me, they supported me, they helped me through. Once I let them in, I looked back and thought how foolish I was to keep this from them for so long.


You would think after these experiences I would be SOOO ready to let anyone and everyone help. This is NOT the case! Nami is nearing 4 years old and it’s only been in the last few months that we have really started to let people, outside of immediate family, help us. During the last month of this past summer, we had one emergency after another, leading to hospitalizations and Nami’s second life-flight. I was exhausted and would soon be heading back to work, teaching school. The day we returned from Nami’s hospitalization after his life-flight, Nami and I were lying down on the family room floor, completely exhausted. I wished and wished that someone would know of my desperation for help when I heard a knock at the door. I thought, “Wow, impeccable timing!” only to find an insurance salesman at my door. Standing there in my bathrobe, I tried to be patient, but as he continued to try to sell me insurance I finally blurted out, “You know, I just got back from the hospital after my son was life-flighted. I’m exhausted and I need to go lay down.” He apologized, wished us luck and went on his way. I was frustrated that I was there by myself, even though it was my own fault. I had not asked for help, I had reassured my family that I was fine. I didn’t want them doing any more for me, because they all put their lives on hold to help me any time I need it. They are the ones that had gotten me through the last 4 emergencies, one a week for a month.


A couple days after getting home from the hospital, one of my neighbors saw me outside and asked how I was doing. I told her what had happened to Nami. She said, “I know, our insurance agent told us he had gone to your house and then he told us what had happened.” She continued, “I’m bringing you dinner. I’m going to set up dinners for you for a while.” What a CRAZY turn of events. The insurance agent I was so annoyed with ended up being the reason I got help. This wonderful neighbor got five families to commit to bring me dinner, one of whom I’d never even met before. I was so happy to be eating! We have not eaten well for at least a couple years at our house because of all the chaos. I was so grateful for the help of all these generous people and for the kindness and love they showed my family. After a week of meals, our neighbor arranged for the food to continue coming and for our lawn to be mowed by her husband for the next month. I insisted that it NOT happen. Why? I told her I knew I would need her help again and that I thought we’d be okay for now. Inside I thought, “If I use people too much, they won’t want to help me again.” I also feel guilty allowing others to help me because I feel like the person offering help may be in a more difficult situation than me.


At the end of September, there was a walk for TSC that I had just found out about a week and a half before it was happening. We had been dealing with this disease long enough and I felt like I was finally ready to connect with other TSC families. I asked my family if they wanted to come, thinking that no one would want to give up their Saturday on such short notice. I don’t know why, but I was shocked that every single member of my family wanted to be there. All those that could, came and supported us on that walk, and it felt so good. Since then, I have had multiple people question why I hadn’t let them know about the walk and they let me know that they would really like to be there if we do it again. Why had I thought no one would want to come? Sometimes I think I put myself and my ideas down so low so that no one’s response to me will be any lower…maybe as a form of self-protection?
After the walk I got an email message from my older brother who lives in another state. Here is an excerpt from it:


“How was the walk? I’m sorry to have missed it.


I have been thinking about you and your family a lot after hearing that you were feeling overwhelmed and wouldn't be able to make it up to Mom's for dinner the last night I was [home visiting]. I know we talked a little bit about this, but I am really concerned about you and your family. Of course, Nami is a large issue that looms over all, but I hope that you will still be able to take time for yourself, Salesi, and Kope. 


One thing that came to mind upon reflection is that I don't think I know anyone who has grown as much as a person as you have. It is truly remarkable…. You are now one of the most giving people I know and have such a strong sense of who you are, as well as a deep understanding of the world and the people around you. I hope you are proud of how much you have accomplished. I say this now because I think it is time to give yourself a break and let others help you where they can (whether that be with time, money, or a listening ear). You have proven yourself. 


I'm sorry that I am not closer and don't have the financial means to be of much help now, but even something simple like watching a football game with Nami was a joyful experience for me. I hope that you will allow others to have similar types of experiences by being of service to you and your family. You and Salesi work so hard and deserve a break and should reward yourselves with some couple time now and again (obviously this is important for the sake of your marriage as well)…. You have so many people that care about you and would do anything to help you, but it is up to you to let them know how they can be of the most help.”

In part, I replied:


“The walk was so great. I'm sorry you weren't there too. My planning it on the wrong day just shows how I don't have a brain right now. I didn't know what to expect, but we felt so supported. I definitely think we will be making it a yearly tradition.
 

Thanks so much for this email. It really means a lot coming from you. I know there are a lot of things I need to change in my life. It's the getting it done that is difficult. I know I'm doing a lot better at letting people help me, but often times I am so tired and just trying to make it through the next hour that I can't even think about what to have someone do for me or who to tell and when to do it. I could have never imagined going through what we are going through now…. I feel I often lack the strength to be the mother Nami needs. I know that God intends for others to help me out...that is the way I am getting and will get through this….

I want you to know how much I look up to you. I care so much about your perspective on life and you are one person that I really feel I can take advice from and not feel defensive about it….”


When Jon speaks, I listen. One recurring theme in others’ advice to me is that I need to accept help from others and that it also helps other people to allow them to help me. I have worked on it. Since this email exchange I have tried even harder to allow people to help (especially those outside my immediate family as my family has already and continues to be my support system). I have a really difficult time ever missing work, but due to the support and encouragement of some of my coworkers, I have stayed home when I’ve been sick. I have come up with ways for two of my aunts to help me on a more consistent basis. In this past week or so, I have had four friends come to visit, a couple phone calls from friends, some delicious cookies left at my door, a gift basket full of treats left for my family, a box of oranges brought to us, and a tasty dinner made for us tonight. And, I have welcomed and been grateful for it all!


It’s been a LONG journey to get where I am, and I still have a long way to go. Letting people help me has been a difficult lesson to learn.

A big thank you to all those who are helping me, so I can better help them.

11 comments:

  1. You are awesome! I am lucky to be your sister.
    -Lauren

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  2. Aren't family and friends the best! Thanks for sharing! I love what your brother said. Sometimes we as moms think (know) we can do it all on our own. Now it is time to let someone help so you don't get sick or worn down.

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  3. Annaka, one of the most wonderful things I've read. Every post you write speaks so clearly to me. Thanks for your example!

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  4. You make me cry....thank you for sharing the email from your brother, what a wise fellow. Trust me i know how you feeling. I also have a hard time asking for favors. I felt so loved and supported when I had the twins, especially Maya was in NICU for over 7 wks and Emorie was home. I felt like I was wounded but an army of saints came to my rescue. They helped me with all kind of things even when I told them we could manage. They did so much for me even with the move. Sad isn't it? I left an army for a new place so cold and a new ward. Good thing their examples had helped me to deal with a new place. I'm grateful, love meeting new people and listen to their life stories and struggles as well as happiness. I love you. You're amazing; the Lord know you and Salesi are the perfect parents for Nami and Kope.

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  5. I love this post and your family! You have always been an example of strength to me in my life. Just when I thought you couldn't get any stronger you just did. Thanks for your example... Seriously.

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  6. Thanks everybody! And Fenima, I'm glad you're at least closer to me. =) I will try to be a better support to you. Love you!

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  7. Yes, lets please make the walk an annual tradition. Love you!

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  8. I started reading this blog and want to tell you that reading your story has helped me so much. I hate the idea of being grateful for the hard things you're experiencing, but your perspective and advice because of it is full of so much that I have needed to hear. I don't know what prompted you to devote so much time to a blog with all that life is throwing at you right now- but it is a beautiful gift you are giving to all who read it. You have a beautiful family, and an amazing story. Your kids and husband are lucky to have you.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. This kind of response is the reason I do this blog and it really means a lot to me!

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