Guest Post by Kim W.
I finally had surgery to fix my knee penguin. Apparently I tore my meniscus over a year ago and have been ignoring it (read: making it worse) ever since. The surgery didn’t scare me as much as the recovery. The last time I spent an extended time on crutches, things didn’t exactly add up:
+ first semester of grad school
- friends and family
+ shitty insurance
+ third floor apartment
+ public transportation
- seats on public transportation
+ one billion degrees of Austin heat and humidity
= sweaty, whiny, disaster
I dropped out of grad school and moved several states away. It was that bad.
Now, things are different. I’ve got sick days, a great support network, and most importantly, an elevator. My mom planned a four day visit. I promised friends that I’d ask for help if I needed it.
I didn’t ask for help.
As a yuppie, upper middle class, post-feminist, chock-a-block with WASP-y guilt, I have trouble asking for, or receiving help. Trish has written about this before:
We are taught that giving is good, great, grand, wonderful (and it super duper is!) but never really trained to receive in big, bold, beautiful ways as well.
My house was filled with flowers, everyone kept saying "get well" and asking to help, but I could not believe these people really wanted to help me. Or that I should accept their help.
My mom was the first to point it out. "Oh, ok, you just want to do it yourself. You’ll probably hurt yourself. Ok. If that makes you feel better, go ahead. Let me know when you’d like some help." Smooth move, mom.
Cookie asked if she could bring anything when she stopped by to visit.
This is what went down:
What I should have said was: my mom and I can’t cook our way out of a paper bag. Even if we had four functional legs between us. I should have said, Cookie, please save us, we’re broken and hungry. My mom saved the day again, "If she’s offering to help..." Cookie brought the guacamole. You’d think the positive reinforcement would help me learn this lesson: Ask for help, get guac.
But asking for help - receiving all this love - just didn’t come naturally.
E. picked me up from work and brought me ramen.
A. helped build a console table in my living room.
The "So You Think You Can Dance" crew came to my house, brought me food, walked my dog, and made fun of that one girl’s eyebrows.
Husband bought every Get Well balloon Safeway had to offer.
I felt like I was getting away with murder. Not at all deserving of such riches.
Then my mom went home and I went stir crazy. I managed a shower, put on a flowy, hippie skirt to hide my bandages and off we went to see a movie. On the way out, we went down the theater’s series of six escalators. (San Francisco movie theaters are like Escher paintings.) On the third escalator, I lost my balance and reached backwards to grab the moving railing. I missed. Hard. One crutch went flying and I tipped, trying to protect my busted knee. The remaining crutch somehow wedged between my good right ankle and my left shoulder, effectively pinning me to the descending escalator. I couldn’t do anything without causing serious damage to my injured knee. Completely immobilized, I had two thoughts:
"I hope this escalator doesn’t rip my skirt off,"
"I cannot solve this."
After a week of reflexively refusing assistance, I had to accept help. I just waited for someone to swoop in and haul me off my broken ass. Which husband very effectively did.
Aside from some new bruises to my ass and my pride, I suffered no ill-effects from receiving a little bit of help on the escalator. In fact, it could have been much worse if I’d refused help.
Graciously saying, "Yes, thank you," doesn’t make me weak or greedy or selfish. I can be two things simultaneously: a strong, self-sufficient woman, who also occasionally needs guacamole delivery and escalator rescue. That’s a dichotomy I can live with.