All my life, my mother worked very hard to teach my sister and me to work for everything we have. In essence, don’t expect hand-outs. Don’t expect people to hand you everything you want. Don’t expect to be waited on hand and foot. If you want something, earn it, work for it, do your best to attain this thing on your own. I suppose every parent tries to teach this to their children. Where some are successful, others are not, but I don’t blame the parents (not all the time, anyway.) This is a very basic value, moral, what have you. It should be human instinct, but it’s not. More and more often, I see kids, and some adults, expecting things to be handed to them, and putting forth no effort to work for things, and then throwing a tantrum when they don’t get it. It’s always someone else’s fault.
It took me nearly twenty-three years to grasp this concept. Growing up, I was a very entitled child. I expected things to be handed to be, I hated that there were expectations placed upon me that I had to live up to, I hated that anything was expected of me, period. I wanted to just do what I wanted to do, have what I wanted to have, all on my time and terms. If I wanted that new Barbie Doll, I expected my parents to buy it for me immediately, without questions of cost or reason. If I wanted to lie on the sofa all day watching movies, neglecting my chores and responsibilities, I expected everyone else to be perfectly okay with that and leave me alone. And I always got irrationally angry when they didn’t do what I expected them to do.
As an adult, I continued to struggle with it. I had allowed myself to be okay with doing nothing and expecting everything in return. I allowed this to become my way, my routine. As time progressed, and heavier expectations were placed upon me, I started doing a little work–a little cleaning, a few small chores, meeting (and sometimes exceeding) expectations every once in a while. To put it simply, I was lazy as all get out. Lazy and entitled. But I overlooked this, ignored it completely, in fact, by focusing on all the “good” I was doing. I wasn’t a “bad” kid. I never did drugs, never got in trouble with the law, never went to parties and got drunk underage. Never “majorly” disappointed my parents. I tried to redirect my parents to focus on this when they were scolding me for something minor I didn’t do. ”Well, at least I’m not out partying, getting high or getting arrested!”
I feel I have since come a long way from that kid I once was. Am I still lazy? Yes, it’s a daily battle. I constantly have to push myself into taking care of my responsibilities and living up to expectations. It’s so much easier just to sit on the sofa for sixteen hours, watching movies, than it is to get up and clean the house or run errands. And, there are days when I do just that, and am perfectly content. But, I can honestly (and gladly) say that those days are few and far between. I clean for at least a half hour every day, and make sure the day’s responsibilities are taken care of before I glue myself to the sofa or my bed. I’ve gotten myself into a routine of sorts that I do my damndest to stick to. It’s partly because I finally recognize that I can’t just let responsibilities and priorities fall to the wayside in favor of what I want to do, and partly because I got so sick of being reprimanded for not taking care of things. I weighed the consequences against the benefits and, shockingly, the benefits won. Finally.
But, now, I find myself having a difficult time in another related area. I am absolutely loathe to accept even the smallest bit of offered help, and I often have trouble asking for help in any regard. When my sister still lived with me, the house would be in a constant state of disaster. Anytime I’d clean, the house would be destroyed just hours later. It was a never-ending cycle. I got so tired of cleaning that I just stopped. It was pointless. I’d no sooner have one mess cleaned up than there were five more made. It was frustrating and infuriating, so I stopped trying completely. When my sister left last winter, I was determined to get the house in order, but soon realized that, on my own, it would take weeks, maybe months. I felt so overwhelmed. And soon, discouraged. And soon after that, completely unmotivated. This clashed with my desire to have a clean house, so, I had to swallow my pride and call in reinforcements. I put a call in to my mother and asked if she would help me. She said she’d help, and came over, and we got to work. It took us an entire Sunday just to clean the kitchen.
I don’t know if I’m the only one who experiences difficulty in asking for or accepting help. I always feel so guilty about it. My brain tells me, “No, you’re a grown-ass woman. You should be able to do this yourself. You should have your shit figured out enough by now that you shouldn’t need to ask for help.” And it’s true. I am twenty-three years old, I should be able to do it myself. I should have my shit figured out enough by now. And, I suppose, in a lot of areas, I do. Granted, I’m still learning, still adjusting, but I’m doing okay. I get so damned uncomfortable when I need help. I want to die a little anytime anyone asks me to do go out to eat and I say that I can’t, and then they offer to cover me. I appreciate their generosity and kindness, but, ugh, I feel so awful when people spend money on me like that. Even the offer is enough to make me want to disappear.
A few years ago, I was kind of dating a guy who lived in another state. We were planning for him to come up to visit for a weekend. At the time, I still lived with my mother, and him staying at the house was not an option, and he didn’t have the money to stay in a hotel. So, my mother suggested I ask some friends if he could stay with them. I immediately wanted to throw up. I didn’t have anything to offer them in return, as any kind of payment for their possibly helping us out, for one thing, and I didn’t want them to think I was taking advantage of them or being ungrateful. I got in touch with a good friend of mine and asked him if there was any way the almost-boyfriend could stay at his house during the weekend. I was overly apologetic for my audacity to even ask, and fell over myself trying to explain that if he didn’t want to let him stay, he by no means had to. After ten minutes of my rambling on about it, I think he picked up on the fact that asking for help made me feel awful, and he said, “There’s nothing wrong with asking for help, Cass.” I’ve tried to make that statement stick with me, and remember it when I have to ask for help, but it does little to calm me down. I just hate the thought of asking another person to put aside their responsibilities, lives, whatever, in order to help me out. And what’s worse is when they agree to help. That puts me in a tizzy. I immediately think, “What can I do/give/say to express my thanks or reward them or repay them?” And then I panic when I realize that I have little to offer other than a sincere “Thank you,” and that it might not be satisfactory for them, and then they might hate me and think I’m using them or taking advantage of them or their kindness. Gah. It’s so nerve-wracking.
And I will admit, there are some people’s help that I do take for granted. For example, I know, without a doubt, that my mother, stepfather, grandmother, best friends and their families will always be there to help me when I need it. And they know that I’m not taking advantage of them or using them. And I tend to take that for granted. I hate that I do, though. I hate that I take them all for granted. I think it’s the fact of knowing that they will help me if I ask them to. I know that Andrea would bend over backwards to help me in any way, be it financially, emotionally, or physically, and I can take advantage of that. I know that if I ask her to help me clean, she will. She will stop whatever she’s doing and come over to help. And I appreciate it, but it still makes me feel like shit, because she had to consciously drop whatever she was doing, no matter how important or minute, and come to my aid, and she didn’t have to. She chose to, because of me. I don’t want people to feel like they have to, or are indebted to me, or are expected to help me. Especially when I’m not able to help them as much as they help me. Andrea has by far done more for me than I have done for her. Not because I don’t want to help her, but because, a lot of the time, I’m unable to help, and for various reasons. I’m working, I’m broke, I’m not home, the list goes on and on. But any time I can help, I jump at the chance to. The same goes for my mother. She’s done absolutely everything in her power to help me any and every time I’ve needed it. But I feel like I can’t do much to help her back.
I enjoy helping people, and I hate it when I’m not able to. So why is it so difficult for me to accept help? Thursday night, after our writing class, a group of people decided to go to the truckstop for dinner, and they invited me. I declined because I didn’t have the money for it. Immediately, two people offered to cover me. While I appreciated the offer, I felt like shit that they would offer. Tyler said, “It’s what Jesus would do,” but that didn’t make me feel any better. I struggled with whether or not to accept, because then I would have felt like a jerk for refusing their generosity because I know how I feel when people refuse my help, no matter how graciously. It hurts. It’s uncomfortable. Instinctively, I wanted to politely refuse and thank them for the offer. But I felt pressured to accept, so I gave in, and Tyler generously bought me dinner. I thanked him afterwards, and expressed my gratitude not only for dinner, but for also being such a good friend to me. I told him his kindness, generosity, and friendship did not go unnoticed or unappreciated, and I meant it. And I got hardly any sleep Thursday night thinking about it. I felt like shit for allowing him to spend his hard-earned money on me like that. Sometimes I wonder if I would feel any better about it if I were to put up a huge fight about it. If I were to insist that they not spend their money on me. I suppose it might in some circumstances. But in most, it would probably just aggravate whoever was offering and make them upset with me, which, I think, would be worse.
So, I’m working on allowing myself to ask for and accept help when I need it. I always strive to show thanks in any way, but I always feel that I fall short there, as well. How much thanks is enough? What is considered thanks? I can’t compute!
Anyone have any good tips for this sort of thing? Help!