Something I know about myself is that I am very capable. Extremely capable in fact. I've always been really practical and able to work out how to do things, even before YouTube gave us a video guide to everything you could imagine ever needing to know.
When I became a single parent I quickly discovered what I'd unconsciously relied on my husband for. Like a spider in the bathroom, or a screw that I couldn't tighten, or something I couldn't reach. Living alone with young children meant I had to overcome my fear of spiders, and find ways to manage those tasks that previously I didn't have the strength to complete. Power tools are certainly an independent woman's best friend. How liberating it is to no longer need strength, but instead to use skill to complete a difficult task.
But, the downside of being so capable is that I have lost the art of asking for help. Maybe I never really had it. It's not in my genes. Listening to my parents yesterday I heard their pride in being self-sufficient and not relying on volunteers, friends or family to deliver supplies to them.
Back in the mid 2000's I took the huge step of employing a weekly cleaner. It went against everything I believed. If I could do a task myself, then I should. Cleaning was an essential part of running a home and having a cleaner was an indulgence for the wealthy and lazy. Yes, that's what was going on in my head. If I couldn't single-handedly raise two children, run a business and keep my house clean I was somehow failing at being a woman.
My overriding memory of returning home after the cleaners had been was one of huge relief. Enormous. I can feel it in my body now, opening the front door, being hit by the smell of 'clean' (maybe it was furniture polish) and feeling my shoulders drop, the anxiety fade a little, and the sensation of a warm hug from my home, knowing that all this had happened and I hadn't had to do it myself.
The relief, the feeling of being cared for, the sense that I wasn't really all alone in the world having to take care of everything, was palpable. I am so grateful to those two women who'd come every week and fill the house with joy as they busied themselves with the cleaning while chatting away and laughing with each other. It was part of the arrangement that I had to be out - they knew how they liked to work. How brilliant, they knew what they needed, and were clear with clients from the outset.
I'm reminded of this now because I have been struggling these past couple of weeks. I am exhausted, and alone. Everything that needs to be done is down to me. Everything. From food shopping, to cooking, to washing up, to cleaning, to feeding the dog, walking the dog, cutting the grass, doing my work, calling my sons, calling my parents, calling my sister. All of it.
Mainly that's okay. But when I get tired, overwhelmed and am really feeling the impact of 6 weeks without a hug, I begin to see what I am up to. Little miss independent. I can do it all by myself. I can. And I will.
To ask for help feels so vulnerable. So I don't. I don't even know what help I could get right now. I tried to get shopping delivered but there are no slots available. A man was meant to come and cut the grass but didn't show up. The dog hasn't worked out how to pick up his own poo, or open the door to go out for a wee. My sons only call me when they want something.
I have one amazing friend who has really kept me going with regular messages and calls, and she listens to me. She really listens and gives me time to speak. She doesn't try to fix things, she allows me to be heard, to speak out all the stuff that is going on in my head, which usually has no outlet other than the dog. This listening really matters. It is so important to have someone who will listen. Unconditionally. With no need to fix a problem, or take on responsibility for feelings, or blame themselves for not being better.
As someone whose work is all about giving others time and attention, it shouldn't really come as a surprise to me that I need to feel heard too. Sometimes all I need is for it to be about me. Even writing that feels shocking to admit. But it is true and is essential for my emotional and mental well-being.
I can put a very brave face on, I can see the positive in everything. It's my nature, a default setting I have learned to adopt, as generally, it makes life a whole lot more pleasurable. And maybe, that's what people see, and I don't let you (or even admit it to myself) that the reality of being alone, either now, or when life was 'normal' is not what I actually want. Yes, I can manage, I can adapt and make the best of it, even let you know how lucky I am, but really all I want is someone to love me and to give me a hug.
This feels really vulnerable to have shared, but also feels really important. I know I am not alone in my struggle, and that we are each dealing with our own issues around lock-down life at this time. And, in the sharing of it, I already feel lighter and more able to see what it is I need.
What might be bothering you at this weird time? Do you find yourself playing a familiar or expected role, perhaps unconsciously, when actually inside there is a part of you that really wants something different?
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