“I need help.” I resolved things with Jimmy, like I said I was going to do, but not without a struggle. He kept telling me I wasn’t getting responsible, and I kept feeling like I was, and that he wasn’t. He finally did what you really shouldn’t do in an argument with your spouse, which is he just said to me very directly (and somewhat forcefully): “You’re wrong.”
Or at least, in theory you shouldn’t do that. I can’t really ignore it, when he says that. If Jimmy says that to you, you probably are, in fact, wrong. So I thought about it, and I realized that in the end, my meltdown Sunday morning was more a result of my failure to ask for help than it was of anything else. Later we talked about how hard it is for me to utter those words: “I need help.” Jimmy said if you asked me for help instead of blaming me for whatever it is that’s going wrong, you would get an entirely different response from me. I want to be needed by you, I want to support you.
So, I tried to Belanie myself again. I must have a core filter around “I need help.” Belanie would say: “What kind of person needs help?” At first, I thought, a “weak” person. But the word doesn’t feel quite right; it doesn’t sting. If you called me “weak,” I’d look right back at you and say, “I’m not weak,” and that would be it — there would be no energy. I would just say it, matter-of-factly. That’s not a core filter.
Later, though, another word came to me. Needy. A needy person is pathetic, dependent, a joke. It’s someone you roll your eyes at after they leave the room. It’s someone you get exasperated with. I do not want to be needy. If you called me “needy,” I might deck you in the face. I’ve done a lot — a lot — in my life to prove that I do not need anyone.
I found the word by using Belanie’s tactic of trying to find where I feel the pain in my body when I think about asking for help. I feel it in my throat, my hands instinctively go there. It’s sad when I think of why that is. I learned as a child that being “needy” was an undesirable trait. While I have no specific memory, I do recall my parents giving me that impression over and over again. They were not the sort of parents that would hold my hand through anything; they instead would say “figure it out on your own” (and there are probably as many plusses to this as there are cons). I imagine that, as a child, there were probably many times when I wanted to ask for help — but then stopped myself, telling myself, don’t do that, it’s wrong. That’s probably why I feel it in my throat–all those times when the words wanted to come out, but then the muscles tensed and I stopped myself.
Am I willing to be needy? My name is Kyla and what I want you to know about me is I’m needy. I need other people. Because everyone does. We’re pack animals, we humans — we need other people. Can I be okay with that? Can I learn to celebrate that? Can I at least be willing to be needy sometimes, and in turn, ask for help?
Well, I’ve got to be. I cannot allow a character defect that I am aware of — meaning a character defect I can actually address — affect my boys. If I were unaware of it, that would be one thing, but these days once I become aware of something, I have a responsibility to address it, urgently.
So I committed to Jimmy that the next time I feel like blaming him for something, I would take an inventory first. Is it really the case that it’s his fault, that I need to confront him for something, or do I just need to ask for help?
Discovering I have ears in addition to eyes. After Michael shared that “This American Life” podcast a few weeks ago, I thought to myself, hey: I can listen to that all the time on my commute. I’ve heard it before, but usually only when someone shares it with me or I specifically look up a topic and they’ve done an episode on it. So, they’ve done countless episodes I’ve never heard. And it’s right up my alley, because they do different stories every week, usually highlighting people that aren’t well known or famous — they’re just ordinary people (which goes to what I think my purpose/drive is as a writer and singer; to support ordinary people in finding special meaning in their lives).
What has been really great about this too is that I used to read a lot as a child and teenager. When I got to college, I still read a lot, but mostly the books assigned in my classes (my majors were English and Political Science, so these were books I had a sincere interest in and enjoyed spending time with — one of my favorites from college was “Girl, Interrupted,” which may sound surprising, but it without doubt inspired who I wanted to be as a writer). When I got to law school, I stopped reading almost entirely. When I started working, I read even less, with spurts here and there when my old Hawaii English professor would email me to recommend a book he was teaching in his class (his was the class that caused me to move to NYC, he was born in Brooklyn).
The truth is, though, that I’m a little burned out on reading — and in some ways, writing, unless it’s this kind of writing (which is easy, because it’s just putting my current thoughts on the screen), or writing for work (which I’ve trained myself to do without resistance, though my success rate fluctuates). Listening to this and other podcasts, though, have reinvigorated me. It’s amazing the gifts you can get out of something like suddenly having to have a long commute in the car. I never would’ve thought to try audio books or podcasts as a method to get past my burnout with reading and writing. I don’t know where this road leads, but I feel myself getting kind of excited.
I am slightly annoyed at myself that I found a solution through chance, though. Because I know how to get through burnout; as Brandy pointed out to me, I managed to execute a remarkable turnaround with regard to my job. I went from being literally unable to walk into the building (resulting in me habitually arriving at work at 1pm or later) to proactively taking on as much as I possibly could to advance in my career.
How? By being committed to getting past the burnout; that was all. If you’re committed, you find a way, you keep trying until you get there. I tried again and again and again over a period of months, ultimately realizing that what was missing for me all along was a compelling vision.
With writing, what have I done to get past my blocks? Not a lot, except whine about it. Now, through happenstance, I discovered radio podcasts are bringing something in me back to life. Commitment is still missing, but maybe in this case inspiration will be what comes first.