When life hits you hard how do you respond? When life hits someone else hard, how do you respond? I’m one of those people whose first response in the face of adversity is to vent – I talk to my friends and family and I may seem to be “in touch” with my emotions and willing to share my thoughts. But this is just my first phase. Quite quickly I become aware that I may be boring the *rse off everyone and I also start becoming reflective and withdrawn. I need to quickly move into presenting my “coping face”. My father brought me up to be independent and self-reliant – his view was always to do a favour, not receive one. God forbid you might appear needy. Because of this, when I do ask for help, I probably do it in a slightly surly way, qualifying it with “its not a problem if you can’t” and “no, don’t worry I’ll manage” before the person I’m asking has a chance to answer. I think that the truth is I think its weak to ask for help. How stupid is this?
Society is built on the ties that bind us together. Whether through friendship, family or work our lives are built on relationships. And what feeds those relationships is cooperation, mutual support and obligation. Without these society is going to start to fall apart. If we don’t ask for, and receive support what will happen to our relationships? We’ve all had one of those friends who seems to always be in crisis and needing (yet another) favour. But doesn’t it also make us feel good (and maybe a little superior) when we can do that favour? And for every friend like that don’t we also know someone who is always “fine” no matter what life throws at them? Even though we know they’re not fine?
“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” – Karl Marx
People are different and different people need different types of support. And some people can give more than others. For some a neighbour popping in every day is too much. For others anything short of a family member moving into the spare room is not enough. I remember when my partner was ill, I came home from a long stint at the hospital to find a friend had used her key to go in and clean up my kitchen, leaving some soup on the stove and some flowers on the table. If she’d asked me I’d have said “Oh no, that’s too much, I’ll be fine” but faced with a fait accompli I accepted gracefully (and somewhat tearfully, truth be told). It showed how well she knew me that this is how she chose to support me.
It sometimes saddened me that having been in a challenging situation for many years people didn’t ask me to help out. They knew I already had so much on my plate. Now I’m more available they don’t seem to be able to overcome the habit of not asking. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to my work as a death doula. If I can’t offer that help and support to those I know maybe I can do it for others at the ends of their lives. And maybe I’ve got some making up to do.