This is a weird landscape our family is walking in right now - it is super humbling to receive so many well wishes and offers of help. When I say the word "humbling" I want to clarify a bit what I mean by that, which is REALLY hard to explain with how my brain currently works. I think I can give you a few sentences with similar wording and hopefully you will get the gist of what I am trying to get at. If you don't, you will at least learn that brain tumors make you terrible at at explaining things.
Friends, below are the types of conversations my husband and I have had all week. I hope you see what your help has done to lift us up. I hope you see YOU in these conversations because, well, there you are. On the flip side, any "negative" examples are not true of our situation, we have been absolutely, wonderfully taken care of, I put them in merely for illustration (besides, Martha Stewart would never make me a casserole).
What I mean by "humbled"
"You have no idea how much I needed that text. It just made my day"
"Holy crow. I NEVER thought of offering that kind of help. That is absolutely genius. We need to remember that."
"I hope I can do that for our kids/friends/parents/coworkers one day. Wow. Just wow.
"Despite ________ he/she came through so above and beyond, I did NOT expect that. That is so sweet, I want to cry" (then Michelle proceeds to ugly cry for a few minutes while Phil looks at her awkwardly and then they proceed to get back to the spreadsheet)
What I don't mean:
"That pasta salad made me change all my bad habits and be better at budgeting"
"I can't wait till _______ goes through a time of need, then I can show her how to really vacuum a carpet"
"Thoughts and prayers" #blessed (nothing against actual thoughts and prayers or blessings, but I do want to make the point that I am not using the word "humble" like it's dressing on some sort of b.s. word salad. I actually mean it.
Also, feeling humbled and humiliated are two very different things. It is highly unlikely Geraldine is going to take the time to make you a casserole in order to make you feel humiliated. You might choose to feel that way, but it was most likely not her intent. Now, if Martha Stewart was making you that duck pate casserole with handmade macaroni and Gruyere or that casserole is actually just a Pyrex dish full of flour, I would of course question the motives, but like I said, those types are in the minority, and its usually already easy to dislike them a little already anyways, so you won't really be surprised.
I also realize that helping people is FILLED with landmines. I can think of a bunch of situations off the top of my head (either via the news with the latest gofundme scam or that friend from school with the martyr complex) so I'd like to offer some tips on how to give and receive well (knowing full well that I will screw each these up personally at some point)
- Be really clear with what the needs are. I had a friend who moved, I offered to bring a meal and she said "if you really want to help, could you help me paint my kitchen? I don't really need a meal." I had the choice then to help in that way or politely decline. Simple. I did help her her paint, and true story, I'm TERRIBLE at painting walls and yet, we are still friends.
- Set boundaries. For those who are asking for help, if you are not comfortable with people being in your home or eating food you don't cook, just politely say "no thanks" to whatever is offered and restate what kind of help you do need. For those of you who offer to help and Thursday is a crazy day, say you are unavailable Thursday but available ______ (insert very specific time if needed here) Often, it is super helpful to look at the options and know who is unavailable right off the top so you don't even have to text them to inquire. You just move right on to the next name on the list.
- Realize everyone does things differently. If you ask for help and your friend folds towels one way (or doesn't fold them at all) and they come to do your laundry... you have two obvious good choices you can make. a) Thank them for helping and give them instructions before they start OR b) Thank them and let them fold the towels however they choose to fold them. Don't refold them after they leave. Don't tell everyone in your social circle that they don't fold towels correctly, Don't passive aggressively post You Tube tutorials to your Facebook wall that detail the intricacies of the health and safety benefits of correctly folded towels.
If you are providing help, and someone gives you some loose guidelines on folding towels, realize that this is not a reflection on your intellectual capabilities. Sometimes it is because your friend is super Type A (and you already knew that, didn't you?) OR there is some reason why they are asking for something to be done specifically. Maybe the cupboard is long and narrow and the towels only fit that way. Maybe they have a child with special needs. Maybe they like origami. Just go with it. Also do not go home and post You Tube tutorials about your method of towel folding in response to theirs. No one wins this game.
*Please note, we will not be asking anyone to fold towels. Why start now?
- Don't ask for more than you need don't give more than you can. New born babies and deck renovations are two different things. Don't lump them together. If don't have room to take a bunch of frozen meals, don't accept that offer. Don't go into debt to donate cash to that gofundme that touched your heart. My kids don't have brain tumors, they can clean their own rooms. *glares at kids* (I kid, I kid,)
Further to that idea, see what you can take care of first on your own before asking for help. People shouldn't have to dig you out of every mess because you refuse to change. Most people will stop helping you pretty quick anyways. One thing that really helped us navigate this before we even go started is the fact that we have a monthly budget and we know EXACTLY how much comes in and mostly how it goes out. We are not perfect, but we are frugal by necessity. We looked at our budget, we trimmed some fat, we renegotiated some of our bills, we put some plans on pause for a set time frame, we discussed our non-negotiable needs, we saw our short fall THEN we let people know how we could use help.
This website, The Simple Dollar, is invaluable to anyone who is intrigued by ideas of starting a budget, being frugal or renegotiating bills. In times like this, you should be prepared to make cuts and not "profit" from the generosity.
- Set some targets, based on what you know at the moment Be prepared to adjust those targets as needed. If things go better than expected, awesome. Adjust that target. If things go worse than expect, that is hard. Adjust! Adjust! Ask for more or less help as the crisis unfolds. Keep people posted on how you are doing. They are busy and they are assuming you are getting better because you aren't asking for more help. Make each other's job easier in this way - ask how your friend is doing, tell your friend how you are doing.
Base those targets on the idea that things take time, but look at the average outcome, not the worst case scenario. If it's medical related, ask your doctor. Our family has a few targets we based our ask on: 6 weeks including hospitalization where I will feel like I have been hit by a bus and/or heavily medicated. 6 months no driving. 6 months probably to regain a sense of normalcy. Notice I did not say "to get back to normal" that idea is false. There is no one single time in anyone's life where everything is perfect and normal. Especially if you are a runner. You will always be nursing some injury, or kind of broke or ate too much. Always. Its part of life. Experiences change you. Crisis will really change you. Make your goal healing and independence and you will be far happier in 6 months than trying to "get back to normal"- that doesn't exist.
- The point is to help, not fix or be fixed Give and receive based on need, not on merit. Really, at the end of the day no one fully deserves any of this. We all screw up, we all have SUPER irritating habits, there will be some political point that neither giver or receiver will see eye to eye on. That's okay.
Don't project the stuff you should be seeing a counselor about onto the situation. View giving and receiving as a respectful, consensual partnership and you will both get through it with your relationship intact
- Crisis is exhausting My mom likes to say "keep it simple" and "like things together" both of those are great pieces of wisdom. (The "like things together" thing isn't relevant to this discussion but probably a factor in me naming my Label Maker "My Precious")
Receivers: Copy and paste those texts, Givers: don't expect people to respond with lengthy in depth personal answers (or if they do answer you in a lengthy manner, chalk it up to a good day and enjoy it). Receivers: tell people when you are not up for a visit, Givers keep your visit short. You get the point. I feel like there is a speech for a wedding reception somewhere in here...
Pain and fear make people weird. Meds make them weirder. Also it makes them forgetful. Or makes complicated instructions hard to read. Repeat stuff, say thank you all over the place and always remember, just because you had an etiquette class in high school that taught you that it is proper form to send a thank you card by x amount of time, not everyone went to your high school. So try to extend grace and accept the verbal or implied thanks. If your reaction to something in your giving/receiving partnership is to be offended, try to figure out why, check your own motives and either voice your concern, chose to not participate or let the issue drop. Life is hard sometimes and it is times like this where people just show you how amazing they are. It gives me hope for the future.
UGH. I typed a bunch of stuff and closed the browser window without saving. Surgery is going ahead on Tuesday Jan 16th. Expected hospital stay is around 3 days if all goes as planned. While I don't really care if my hair is long or short, I get to keep my hair rather thank look like I'm a forty something revisiting her punk phase on purpose, that is always awkward. So, for that, I am glad. Sally measures in at a bountiful 4.5 cms and at the moment is happy and healthy and kicking the part of my brain that takes care of language, reading and writing. No surprise there. An eviction notice has been served.
A Meal Train email has been sent out. If you didn't get it or want it again, message via text, email or FB Messenger. I don't to post the link all over the place.
Thank you all for everything and then thank you again in case I forgot the first time.
To read the whole story of my Meningioma click here.