Emily Articulated: Asking for and receiving help

By Emily Erickson
Reader Columnist

Lately, I have required a lot of help. I’ve spent the past few months caring for my dad as he navigated doctor and legal appointments, first from afar and, for the past month, from my Wisconsin hometown. This was uniquely taxing for me, as it was both logistically challenging and emotionally heavy — like signing up for a project manager role at a job in which I had no prior experience, there was no manual and the stakes of my mistakes felt oddly high.

Emily Erickson.

Accepting help from others has never been comfortable for me, not wanting my presence in someone’s life to add heaviness or stress to theirs. I’ve shirked offers of assistance; replied, “all good!” to people’s inquiries into my OK-ness; and stubbornly taken on more responsibilities than I knew I could healthily manage alone — all just to bob inevitably in the murky waters of stress and overwhelm instead of accepting the outstretched arms of support and assistance I’m so lucky to have been offered.

But as I get older, and as I have felt the consequences of wedging “OK-ness” between me and the people who care about me, I’m learning that asking for and receiving help from those who are willing to give it is not only a kindness, but also a vulnerable and honest facet of deep and meaningful relationships.

Now, as I’m packing up to drive back to Idaho, I’ve been reflecting a lot on all the different and thoughtful ways people have helped me over the past few months, and various strategies they took when offering their support that I found generous and easy to receive.

First were the people who reached out just to let me know they were thinking of me, or to ask how I was doing in a way that required very little energy or thought to respond. Often, times of stress or hardship are paired with added responsibilities and commitments, making every day a storm of tasks to accomplish and line items to cross off — all requiring brain power when a personal is already mentally and emotionally taxed. 

This was especially true for me, so messages that didn’t make their reply feel like another item on my to-do list, or that were free from the expectation of a quick response, were gentle displays of care and support.

Taking this approach, one friend texted, “Thinking of you and your dad today,” while another wrote, “Hello! How’d yesterday go? Pick one or a combo of the following emojis (spiral eyes, brain explosion, contented smile, cry face).” 

These were both supportive and generous in what little they asked of me to receive them.  

Another way people showed their support was in their willingness to open up their schedule to accommodate the fluctuations in mine. Because my days quickly became a nebulous collection of the moving parts and pieces of my dad’s and my life, making plans to connect with others was a very wanted, but challenging task to execute. Relinquishing me from any guilt around having to reschedule, cancel or cut time short was a kindness I was routinely afforded.

An old friend texted, “I’m open all day today, so just give me a heads up if you feel like getting together,” and my aunt wrote, “I’ve cleared my calendar to help you run around. We can get all your errands done together, if you’d like.”

Finally, there were acts of service. From doing my laundry to taking care of my dog, opening up their homes and making a meal, all the way to flying to Wisconsin to drive across the country with me (seriously amazing, I know), people continuously showed up for me in ways that alleviated my burdens and demonstrated their willingness to be helpful.

I consider myself among the most fortunate to have the kind of people in my life that I do. My friends and family have been gracious and patient, creative and loving, and thoughtful and generous.

Throughout the past month, they’ve shared space and experiences with me, and have added love, lightness and joy to an otherwise heavy time — teaching me not only how to ask for and receive help, but the many and incredible ways to show up and give.

Emily Erickson is a writer and business owner with an affinity for black coffee and playing in the mountains. Connect with her online at www.bigbluehat.studio.

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