The Road Is Long…

A frequent snippet of conversation with my daughter is her assurances to me that she will be self-sufficient soon, just another few semesters, another year or so, and she’ll be back on her own two feet.

Leaving-HomeI’m getting exasperated with her narrow definition of self-sufficiency. She left home at seventeen, and at various times, has paid all of her own bills. Her ethics are impressive—this young lady does not deal in falsehoods, no matter how convenient.

Logistically, she’s a marvel. She grew up in our one-Mall county, but moved to Seattle when she was eighteen. When Seattle was no longer so congenial, she packed up her stuff and kitties, drove across the country by her lonesome, and returned to Maryland. She handled the move to Denver with the same dispatch.

She buzzed through an accelerated AA program in veterinary technician stuff—hematology, anatomy, pharmacology—that makes my head spin, and now she’s tackling international relations, or some such thing.

atlasMorally, logistically, practically, managerially, she’s been self-sufficient for years. I contrast her situation to my parents, who have a tidy income, but can no longer drive, handle their own finances, or manage their weekly groceries. My parents are sad because even though they have no money troubles, they’ve lost the other forms of self-sufficiency. My daughter bludgeons herself, because even though she’s managing a busy life all on her own, she isn’t generating income.

What is this preoccupation we have with self-reliance, and is it over-rated? I can understand not wanting to be a burden, but are you a burden because what you have to give isn’t monetarily rewarded in our society? My daughter is acquiring an education, which she will use for the greater good. My parents are in their nineties, for cryin’ inna bucket, and deserve to simply be appreciated for having come this far in good style.

I want youI raise this topic of self-reliance, because it’s an area I need to focus on. I like being in charge of me, but being the virtual Mountain Woman of Western Maryland is a dicey way to manage an entire life. Everybody’s battery goes dead some time, and when mine is losing its juice, I’d rather call a friend to give me a jump than walk six miles into town.

So the question for the week is… If you were going to ask for help with one aspect of your life, to lean a little on others to carry a small part of your burdens, what would you ask for help with? The electric bill? The house work? The monthly invoices?

Is there a way to have that help without feeling guilty about it?

To three commenters, I’ll send signed copies of Douglas: Lord of Honor, which hits the shelves Tuesday of this week.

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97 comments on “The Road Is Long…

  1. 1
    Shannon says:

    Happy New Year Grace,
    The area I wish I had help in is, some to say “Stop!” I am my own worst enemy in the things I take on. But also having someone to pull me up short when I am obnoxious or doing something stupid, would be good. Help to rub off the rough edges and to become a better version of myself. Bills and stuff, I can do, But I stubble to not become self-absorbed.

    What about you Grace, what areas do you wish you could get help in?

    • 1.1
      Shannon says:

      An also I need someone to check for typos it would seem. Stubble should be struggle. so embarrassed!

    • 1.2

      Shannon, I’m pondering that. I expend a lot of angst getting out my monthly invoices to the state of Maryland, and if any single detail is wrong, they bounce them. I’m usually trying to get them done in a hurry, and usually anxious when I’m working on them.

      Maybe somebody else is better suited to that task, and I would surely not miss it.

      I get help with my housework when it gets too awful, but that office work… Bleah.

  2. 2
    Jennifer says:

    I’d say it’s a toss-up between housework (because I am surely NOT the world’s most consistent housekeeper) and putting meals on the table. Which is funny, since I work with food constantly, but to feed myself seems more effort than I can bear sometimes.

    Re housework, perhaps I should check with my dad to find out how much his cleaning lady charges and see what I can work out for her to get both of us on the same day.

    Re meals, I used to be able to ask my mom to set me up with occasional meals, but since she’s gone now, I might have to check with a friend who is starting a cooking-for-others business and see if we can work out a trade (I supply her with bread and/or writing/editing for her PR materials, she cooks for me).

    Seems like the only way to avoid the guilt that comes with having to ask for help like that is to find a way to make it sound mutually beneficial! :-)

    • 2.1

      Jennifer, I’m not sure it’s guilt (though that was the word I used). It’s as if I’m ashamed to have a gap in my perfect self-sufficiency, and the reason why I pay people for help is so we can agree to ignore that gap.

      What kind of thinking is this? I’m happy to help other people, love a chance to get out of my own ruts, and often, what’s hard for somebody else is easy for me, so it’s more efficient over all for me to–for example–use my truck to haul stuff for them.

      There’s a fundamental truth here and I’m still digging at it.

  3. 3
    Jennifer Wright says:

    Firstly let me say that I love how you think – and how that makes the characters in your books feel like friends.
    Your blog post has sparked a whole lot of thoughts about interdependence being as necessary as independence. Over the past few years I’ve been privileged to be called on to help both my very “structure oriented” daughter when she suffered from post natal depression and my widowed mother when age and frailty caught up with her. I hope they’ve never felt guilty about needing someone to lean on because their worth is in who they are, not what they can accomplish in a day. That might be harder to convince myself of if/when the time comes that the helper needs some help! I’ll try to remember that somewhere amongst all the providing meals, babysitting, cleaning and cups of tea (we drink a lot of tea in Australia) there was the reward of lives sharing lives.

    • 3.1

      You allude to two points: If we’ve never felt inadequate, never had to lean a little, we’re probably not as adept at helping. AND, if we’ve asked for help and been refused or helped badly, then it’s harder to trust we won’t be disappointed that way next time.

      All of which says, it’s an ever better idea to ask for the occasional boost onto the bus.

  4. 4
    Sarah R. says:

    This is a really tough question for me to answer. My first thought was definitely housework, but then I think about that answer and realize I don’t want someone coming into my house and cleaning it when I have the time to clean it, but not the energy and strength to do so, not after my head injury and I am sure the anemia doesn’t help, either. I scrubbed the bathtub on New Years Day and spent the rest of the day with a pain in the back of my head that hasn’t been that bad in a long time.
    My second answer was going to be help with the boys, but there again it’s hard to ask for that one, even from my mom. The boys are fairly easy to watch, but on those few occasions it will take someone who really knows the boys to really get what they need are might be trying to tell you.

    Financial help is probably what we need the most help with, but is one of the hardest ones to ask for. Especially when we are both in our late 30′s and should be self sufficient in this area. I stay home with the boys and that has been a sacrifice, but it wasn’t much of one 12 years ago when the twins were born, but two job losses and 3 autism diagnosis later and things are tough. I could go back to work, but then we need to find someone to take the boys to and from all their various therapy appointments and childcare costs come into question then, too. Hopefully this year we can get a few things figured out.
    Definitely a tough question to think about and answer.

  5. 5
    Mary T says:

    I have been a pretty independent person most of my life. The few times that I have asked for help, I’ve requested it from those who love me most and have never felt guilty about it.

    However, at age 69 (and with the onset of serious health issues)I worry about future diminishing capacity to do things I have done for myself all my life. I don’t know that accepting help from others will make me feel guilty but I’m sure it will make me feel vulnerable … and that seems frightening.

    • 5.1

      Mary, I’m in reasonably good health, but that can change on a dime. My very healthy, exercising, nutrition conscious brother had a stroke at 57.

      I am ascared right with you, but I’m also inspired by my mother’s example. She goes for much shorter walks than she used to, but she smiles at everybody she sees. This, she can do, and as she says, it might be the only smile some of those people get all day.

      I’ve wondered if there isn’t a benefit to nursing, as tough as that profession is. Major illness will make or break you, and show you what you’re made of, much like divorce, death of a loved one. Many people hit with major medical issue develop spiritual and emotional resources that make them truly a pleasure to spend time with. I’m a wuss: I don’t want to be faced with that challenge, but I think it’s the last, best accomplishment of our later years. We grow up, even past the point of needing to quack like an adult.

      With our powers waning, we finally ARE adults.

  6. 6
    MzKara says:

    I’d probably ask for help with finances. Money ties to so many stressful things in my life and just to have some relief/breathing room would be so refreshing! If I knew it wasn’t causing the other person any strain, I’d feel less guilty perhaps but its that pesky thing called pride and feeling like you might be taking advantage of someone when you ‘should’ be able to do it on your own is where the emotional/mental strain comes in. Learning to get over your pride, realizing guilt is a waste of emotion, and figuring out a way to pay the kindness forward might be a remedy

    • 6.1

      That pay it forward stuff is powerful medicine. I’m happy to support my daughter in part because my parents have made it clear, over and over again, that my welfare concerns them, and if I’m in a jam, they want to know about it. These later years with them have made up for a much and shed a lot of light on how I’m supposed to parent an adult who’s a lot like me.

  7. 7
    Gretchen H says:

    I definitely could use help with housework and home repairs. My husband has been working so much overtime at work that he has no time to take care of things at home, and it’s showing! Meanwhile, I’m homeschooling half of my kids while I’m Home&School leader for the school where my other half go to school (small private Christian school). We have clean clothes and dishes and have food to eat, but that is really about it. I have the boys all doing chores, but, well, they’re boys, so it’s not up to my standard. I know “this too shall pass,” but ugh, I’m tired of living in this mess!

    • 7.1
      Margo Stanton says:

      Home repairs! That sounds wonderful. I have the same problem. If I had the time and money I would take classes to learn how to do things.

    • 7.2

      Gretchen, I home schooled my daughter for the last three years of high school, and some days, I wanted to flag down that bus just to get a break from her.

      While the boys can help, because they’re home schooled, they’re also underfoot more, making more mess, and tugging at your hems when you might instead be impersonating a house cleaning buzz saw.

      All I can tell you is, it gets easier. The kids take on more and more of the load, you find efficiencies, and you relax your standards. The most important thing is that YOU GET ENOUGH REST.

  8. 8
    Mandy Miller says:

    Happy New Year, Grace! I actually just had that issue. Because of my myriad health problems, I can’t get insurance — let alone affordable insurance. I make sure everyone else is tended to, but I live in fear that I’ll get sick and we won’t be able to afford it. I had an emergency wisdom tooth extraction yesterday morning. It wasn’t pleasant: impacted, broken and infected. I wanted an antibiotic and barely got the money together for an exam to get a prescription. My best friend drove me there and then paid for the extraction out of pocket with no questions asked. I felt guilty that I needed the help, but at the same time, I felt overwhelmingly humbled and grateful for someone in my life like that. “As iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another.” People teach people to be friends… It’s wonderful to be self-sufficient and a blessing beyond compare to have fostered enough love in another person to be the very best kind of friend.

    • 8.1

      THAT is a best friend, and if it was infected, you were approaching a dangerous situation. Any infection in the head is serious as a heart attack, so to speak. I’ve seen families put under court order because a kid’s abcessed teeth weren’t getting dealt with.

      Glad you got the help you need–or a little bit of the help you need.

  9. 9
    Bonnie says:

    I’m not sure what this says about me, but it is really, really hard for me to ask for help. Many years ago, when we were just married, we got a small loan from my parents to afford a house, but we repaid that. I really hate to ask people for things, especially money. I dread the day when we are older and are possibly going to be in need of help since we don’t have children. Scary thought.

    • 9.1

      Bonnie, I hope old age brings its own wisdom. When I was a kid, and thought about giving birth, I could not grasp why anybody would themselves through that. When the time came, well, I managed. I felt the same way about a forty hour work week (no recess!?), and I put up with years of that too.

      We’ll figure it out. Being able to stay as late as I wanted to was SOOOOO important to me once up on a time. Hah.

      I hope being so all fired independent is the same sort of thing, when viewed from my 90th birthday.

  10. 10
    Sharon F says:

    I would love to ask a few family members for emotional support, but know I probably never will since I don’t want to burden them with the things I have been dealing with. Sometimes I feel guilty about not sharing confidences with them, but at other times, I know it is the best thing for them. Am I being selfish by not keeping them in the loop, maybe, but in the long run, I feel I am protecting them.

    • 10.1
      Margo Stanton says:

      When I ask my mom how she is doing she always reply’s that she is fine. I know it’s not true and it adds to my stress when she doesn’t tell me the truth.

    • 10.2

      Margo raises an interesting point–when we keep important news from our loved ones, are we protecting them? Our privacy? Our dignity? Hard to say. You’ll tell them when the time is right.

  11. 11
    Molly R. Moody says:

    My main need is help with housekeeping, I’m terrible at it but I don’t want a stranger coming into my home so I’m in a “damned if I do and damned if I don’t cycle”.
    As for finances I’m doing okay money wise but I was never taught about how to handle money when I was growing up and I’m still not good at it though I am improving. I know this next will sound bad but it’s the truth, I’m lucky that I’m a military widow because I receive a tax free income for life unless I remarry. This money has carried me for many years and I’m very thankful for it. I also draw early social security so I have in income that I would have given just about anything to have been getting when my daughter was growing up.
    I’ve noticed one thing about asking for help, many people that have said to me “let me know what you need” or “let me know and I’ll take you to your doctor’s appointments” are always unable to help once I actually ask for it. I did tell one of the women at a program my church has that I was in desperate need of a decent box springs and mattress some months back. To my complete surprise last fall she asked me one day if I still needed them and I said yes. I gave her my address and phone number and the following weekend an elderly couple, their son, and grandson all showed up and the two younger men put a nice full sized set on my porch. I was astounded and so thankful and even though I still have pain or getting out of bed sometimes it’s nothing like before.
    I know who I can depend on for help, with no strings attached, and who I need to be leery of because they’ve proven to be untrustworthy at times.
    As always you’ve made me think with your blog post. And I’d love to win a copy of Douglas, I’m so looking forward to reading his story.

    • 11.1

      Molly, I’m glad you took a gamble and spoke up about needing a new bed. It’s probably the first, easiest way to reduce back pain, and most of us don’t even think of it.

      And yeah, I’ve met more than one church lady who offers “anything you need,” but then has choir practice, and pastoral committee, and Junior League, and who knows what other infernally important thing to do every minute of the day and evening. To those people I say, “Just pray for me if you have a minute.”
      Because their horrendous noisy busyness makes me say a little prayer for them.

  12. 12
    Peggy Wright says:

    Lord Love You, Grace Burrowes, too many time you hit the nail in the heart! I’ve always felt I should be the one to provide, everyone, if I was going out to dinner I thought I should pick up tab. If someone did something for me I’m supposed to do even better for them. Gosh, Drat, I’m tired. Still working and will be, no retirement in my future at least not by volunteer. Course it does make a difference when Jimmy is good. (Healthywise, mindwise)because he does do everything he does to make it easier for me to go..And he does his part willing. He would change the battery for me or walk to get help with it. I just don’t understand why it all has to be such a struggle. I’m just Thankful my son’s health is good and improving. Same with my daughter, she does a good job taking care of her family, but she has a lttle farm and doesn’t work out, you know what that does to her future earnings. I suspect I’ve got to find a way to be satisfied with my efforts, don’t know if I’ll ever erase the feeling that I should be doing more, or better. You would think that since we all all living the good life as best we are able that truly would be sufficient. If we could take aging and bad health out of the equation, Yep, that’d do it for me. LOL

    • 12.1

      Peggy, I wish for you some rest, some peace and quiet, some time with Jimmy and your children. A time when you aren’t doing for somebody else, or planning to do for somebody else.

      Maybe that’s why old age comes for us, so we finally take a turn on the front porch, no longer so dang busy.

  13. 13
    Mary says:

    housekeeper – the old fashioned kind that did everything and who anticipated your every need. She can cook, clean and make you look beautiful. Like than Dinah Shore song about cooking up bacon in a pan….cause she’s a WOMAN, W-O-M-A-N! Well, mine would be a housekeeping superwoman!

  14. 14
    Glittergirl says:

    As always Grace you make me think. And you hit the nail on the head once again. I swear you and Karen Ranney get me every time. I am self sufficient. But in my long life I’ve had help or needed help. My dear long suffering husband has provided the means monetarily to keep me relatively healthy and provided for comfortably. He’s given me companionship and loyalty. I in return have been his help-mate in business, provided for his various physical needs (food/clothes etc) and raised our two children. BUT after the trauma of my parents passing and my serious long term health issues I have taken this last year off from life. I’ve been grieving, recovering from being over extended emotionally and physically. I need help containing the chaos my home has become from my “being stuck” vacation. I have yet to figure out how to solve my problem but it will come. I know I have to get myself moving once again. It will take baby steps at first but I am determined. I have managed to pick myself up many times with God’s help and I will once again. I just have to get the inertia going. 2014 will be a better year. It has to be because the last 3 sucked.

    • 14.1

      You’re in the right frame of mind: BABY STEPS. I can’t think about writing a sparkly, best-selling 100,000 word book in a nine book, three novella series. That’s a million words, fer cryin’ inna bucket!

      I think about, “What should these characters do next? Why should they do that?” OK, then I can write one scene.

      I came across an interesting TED talk on this topic of picking yourself the heck off the floor. Jane McGonigal designs games, but she suffered a head injury, and life screeched to a halt.

      She baby-stepped her way back, and pointed out that we’ve studied determination, and learned that it grows when you feed it. You’re determined that this year start the upward trend and that is the first step.

      http://bit.ly/1gazjj2

      • 14.1.1
        Glittergirl says:

        Thank you Grace. She was inspiring. I recognize some of my strategies in her talk…reaching out to others, getting involved and keeping active. I have some holes that are in God’s hands and we will see what 2014 brings into my life. I got involved with a new group of women in November that are like a Women’s Christian Toastmasters. We’ll see where that leads for my personal growth. Now I have to break away from my internet time to get on the small home goals each day. If I can get some physical healing with my mouth/jaw infection and diabetes maybe I’ll have some energy to get that done…

        Thanks for your support and encouragement.

  15. 15
    catslady says:

    No. Sad I know. I was raised to never ask for anything. Sometimes things are given, but I would probably starve before I asked. I guess that’s pride on my part but if something is not freely given, I don’t want it. I guess that makes me stubborn too lol. I have no problem giving or helping when asked. I just can’t bring myself to do the same thing. And even when asked, sometimes I answer no thank you automatically. Now if I needed to ask for my children, I would. Just not for myself.

    • 15.1

      And no wonder you and those kitties get on so well. Nothing is more independent than a healthy cat, unless it’s an ailing one.

      If you ever need to ask me for something, I will try extra special hard not to let you down. We cussed independent cat ladies hafta stick together.

  16. 16
    Martha Eddy says:

    I am currently the primary bread winner in our household. I would love to have my DH get a part-time job to help ease my stress over money. He retired two years ago at my urging as his former job was killing him. I feel that he spent enough years working hard, so I should just accept the status-quo. Working for myself is not all that is supposed to be at times.

    • 16.1

      Martha, you made a really, really hard choice. Do you watch somebody you love pour the last of their health and vitality into a brutal job, or do you wear down some of your own resources sparing your spouse the grind?

      You chose for love, and that’s never wrong, but geesh, can it be hard. I keep the lawyer job to help that kid get through college, and most days, I’m happy to be able to do it, but some days…

      Then I read a good book, listen to some happy music, and eat good dark chocolate. Getting together with a friend can help too, or writing a fun book. (HINT.)

  17. 17
    Gail Nichols says:

    I think I would like help with my grocery bill. I have two teenagers in the house and I don’t seem to keep up with their appetites. We spend about 300.00 a week in groceries and the day after the kids come to me and say we never have any food in the house– Gah!! I don’t think there is a way to ask for help without feeling guilty about it, at least for me.

    • 17.1
      Margo Stanton says:

      Guilt and I are very close, as well.

    • 17.2

      Gail, I recall my oldest brothers coming home from high school practices to sit at the dinner table. Everybody would eat, and then John and Dick would systematically demolish anything edible that remained. ANYTHING. Not a leaf of salad, not a dinner roll, not a cold hotdog escaped their bottomless feeding.

      And they pulled the same routine on my mother. “Why isn’t there EVER ANYTHING to eat in this house?”

      Poor voracious, lazy babies.

  18. 18
    vickie dailey says:

    i have my own home work two jobs one kid and 2 dogs – sometimes it would be nice not to actually have someone do things for me – just to get away from them for awhile. my parents are older now and can;’t help with things like they could in the past – my son is getting on his own two feet and living his own life – so many added challenges

    • 18.1

      Vickie, I worried a lot about my daughter when she first moved out (still do), but I also found the emotional breathing room a pure delight. I had the house to myself, which, unbeknownst to me, was exactly what I had been craving as she became an increasingly stormy adolescent.

      If you feel the same way when he goes, you must promise me you will NOT feel guilty to have the house to yourself.

  19. 19
    Margo Stanton says:

    The burdens I ask for help with are my mental burdens. When I am running on low or overburdened ready for a break or a breakdown I reach out for mental support. Some good laughs or just listen to me rant until I can’t anymore. Commiserate with me and I feel ready to take on the next dose of crazy!

    • 19.1

      Excellent point, Margo. Sometimes the help we need is just a little company, somebody to say, “THAT was a hard day!” In my family, it’s somebody to go, “Oh, booja, booja, booja…” (as in, you poor baby).

      Can do wonders, to have some commiseration.

  20. 20
    margret says:

    My husband and I had to wait 8 years before we could buy our
    house. I love it, and I don’t see myself ever leaving it. That
    being said, I hate to dust! I live close to a quarry, and while I am glad the quarry is active, providing jobs, feeding the economy, etc., I cannot keep up with the dust. I would ask for help with my dusting.

    • 20.1

      Maybe one of those built into the ventilation system vacuum deals… Dust was the bane of the Victorian housewife’s existence, particularly in London. If you look at their old photos, everything in the parlor of value (the clock, the Bible) was under a glass dome, because the coal dust was so pervasive and corrosive.

      You’ve chosen a worthy adversary!

  21. 21
    Margo Stanton says:

    I’m changing my answer. I want someone to help me with the mice in my wall! Every winter they come and have babies and leave in the Spring after causing who knows what kind of havoc inside my walls. I’ve called countless professionals that can’t even tell me where they are coming in.

  22. 22
    Diane Sallans says:

    at this point in my life I’m responsible for myself and not responsible for anyone else – tho I have care for others and others have care for me. I do ask for help for certain chores when someone is available (like changing lightbulbs in my vault ceiling – I don’t like heights). And when I want to move something heavy. I wouldn’t mind someone doing some of the housework – that would be nice once in a while.

    • 22.1

      I’m where you are, Diane, all the self-reliant vectors are temporarily aligned, but that won’t last. I’m trying to troubleshoot the time when the balance falls apart, and either the money or the logistics or emotions or something needs shoring up.

  23. 23
    Janie McGaugh says:

    I’m much more likely to ask for help with the physical things, like housework.

    • 23.1

      You make a terrific point: The last way I know how to ask for help is with the emotional load. Half the time, I’m not even aware that burden has grown too heavy. I’m too busy sucking up and moving on. Geesh.

      Of course, logistics and emotional burdens are related. Walking into a dirty house takes a toll (as WELL I know).

  24. 24
    Mary Doherty says:

    I have already done this. I am not able to work anymore. I still do everything did before, just not work outside the home. I had to pick, either work and everything else would suffer or not work and be present in my home life. I couldn’t do both anymore. So I depend on my husband to work. We decided together that we needed for me to be well, instead of having my income. It has been hard for many reasons, but it also has good for many reasons. I am thankful every day for my husband, but he says he is thankful for me every day too. I will always have my illnesses, but I control them now, instead of them controlling me.

  25. 25
    Linda says:

    Housework. I am rather slapdash at it & find it terribly easy to put aside whenever I’m distracted by a good book. Good thing mum doesn’t peek in my cupboards much!

    • 25.1

      From time to time my path crosses with a lady who cleans houses, and her example is inspiring. Even when I’m keeping up with the housework, I can’t make it look like she does. She has the gene, and takes pride in the results, and man, it’s worth every penny I pay her to see how good the place can look when a pro takes it in hand.

  26. 26
    Betty Hamilton says:

    This is such a hard question for me as I was raised to work for what I needed or wanted. “Doing without” comes second nature to me as does working long hours or learning new ways to make money (swap shop, crafting, ebay, half.com, etc). I am now retired and sharing my condo with a family member who helps with expenses. He pays certain bills (ex: electric, etc) and I gladly let him. This way no money is handed over, I am just relieved of paying certain bills. It works well for both of us.

  27. 27
    Sabrina says:

    More accurately “if you could ask.” I can’t bring myself to ask for help; not with money, housework, or work. I stress and thankfully my family is perceptive enough to just make me take what I need. Maybe one day I’ll learn to just ask rather than tiptoe around the subject.

    • 27.1

      My guess is, you’re the last one to realize the load is too heavy, Sabrina. Building up more muscles is what you do in that situation, right? And then some more?

      Didn’t Dr. Seuss write a book about situations like this?

  28. 28
    Anne Hoile says:

    Is it difficult to ask for help? Help for a committee or project. No problem. Physical assistance such as mowing the lawn, blowing leaves, housework: not so much (just hate it because of physical restraints such as aging in place). Financial yes. Asking for it from a family member might be easier than traveling to a governmental office and filling out forms which list intimate details of your life. Ugh! Even a small bill such as the power bill would mean one is perceived as not living within one’s means even if that were not really so. Unexpected expenses can blow any budget, even keep one from getting one’s head above water for an indefinite amount of time. But yes, I could ask for temporary assistance with a defined repayment plan from someone. If the future looked bleak for a long period of time, I would sit at Social Services to apply for whatever benefits I might get. I guess it’s survival in the end, isn’t it.

    • 28.1

      Survival… but on what terms? In the courtroom, I see any number of people who were born without much, um, problem solving ability. Or they’re mentally ill, or both, and then, well, because of those low cards, somewhere along the way, they ended up with criminal charges…

      These folks are doing the very best they can with what they have, and they’re the ones we’ll find hunched over a steam grate in weather like tonight’s. They did nothing to deserve such a miserable fate, just as nobody deserves a major illness, a crooked investment bank, or to be the victim of a crime.

      Complicated, but here’s where I come down: You deserve adequate heat, Anne. I should feel ashamed if you didn’t have it. Not you, ME.

  29. 29
    Sharlene Wegner says:

    We have been struggling financially for awhile & are trying to straighten things out on our own, but my mother recently offered to help us. I would never have asked, but I did take her up on the offer. It was a temporary fix, but the shoe has been on the other foot in the past, so I don’t feel too guilty.

    • 29.1

      And there you have a little pay it forward magic. Because you could offer to help her, she can offer to help you. Good on you, and good on Mom.

      And you’re right, it’s temporary. Next time, maybe the exchange will be with a sibling or a neighbor.

  30. 30
    Larisa says:

    My definition of self sufficiency has radically changed over the past five years. With chronic illness I’ve learned to ask for help, at different times, with everything: help around the house, medical stuff, rides, and the really hard part: financial assistance (government, friends, grants). Learning to believe friends and doctors when they tell me that just by living alone I am still independent or self-sufficient, that I am resilient…even when I’m on SSDI, Medicare and (sometimes) food stamps aka retired very young. That inter-dependent is healthy. I didn’t have trouble delegating to staff when I was working, and try to see asking for help similar to that – I’m asking someone to work with me on a task or project.

    • 30.1

      You have a lot of valuable insight on this issue, Larisa, because you’re one of those people I mentioned earlier. Your pride might have been the death of you. I AM VERY GLAD IT WAS NOT!!

      And to be able to live on my own… that is really, really important to me. That I can do it now–after my daughter has moved out, before I need a lot of daily support–is one of the most gratifying aspects of my current life. You’re right to value it highly.

  31. 31
    Georgie says:

    There you go again with the kicker thought provoking stuff.. Happy New Year to you and yours and Thank you ever so much for the Gift Card I received today, just in time for “Douglas”…
    I am this independent person, who does not ask for help BUT
    This was my kicker year. Without going into the drudgery of the long winded answer – illness made me do it. Hubby and I landed in the hospital, him unexpected, mine scheduled on the same day. I needed friends to get me home after surgery, and they gladly did, fed me both food and pills and then the phone call from my son that his plane was landing in the morning. He stayed until Dad and I were both back somewhat on our feet. Best Blessing ever.. And no Guilt – Just blessed beyond measure. Sometimes it helps others to help you…

    • 31.1

      Georgie, glad the team assembled to provide the needed support. I knew a guy who’s back went out when he was reading in the smallest room of the house, so to speak. As he put it, “the job’s not over until the paperwork’s done, and THEN you learn who your friends are.”

      A bit too much information, but I get what he meant.

      • 31.1.1
        Georgie says:

        That is just too funny! Thanks for the laugh – needed in this frightful cold weather….Come on weekend warm up…. LOL

  32. 32
    Sheryl N says:

    Happy New Year to you!! I am stubborn and try to not ask for help. I think my husband and I struggle the most in the middle of the month, that’s when my power bill is due. If I could get away with it I would have someone pay it every month.

  33. 33

    I think I suffer from only child syndrome, I never ask for help until I’m so overextended that necessity calls for it. What I need to work on is learning to ask for help the moment I realize I need it.

    • 33.1

      Angela, I think you could do down the list of commenters and find some first borns, some second borns, a few thirds, a sixth (me) and everything in between. You’re in good and very plentiful company.

  34. 34
    Christina G, says:

    I worked so hard to try and be a Responsible Adult that it makes it difficult to admit I can’t do everything alone. It seems that the more I try to do Everything on my own, the more of a tangle I make of things.
    I’m lucky that I have the love and support of my family through all the detours I’ve made. That in turn make me want to prove to myself and everyone else that I can do it THIS time and no longer need any help.
    And wouldn’t you know that is always the time when I have to swallow my pride and admit I need help again. But, for me at least, it’s not about feeling guilty. Everyone who knows me knows I would back them 110% in the same situation. For me it’s more embarrassing to admit that I am NOT Wonder Woman, that I AM human and occasionally need help, regardless of how much I try to do it ALL on my own.

  35. 35
    Susan Gorman says:

    It is hard for me to ask for help.
    My husband retired five years ago and I am working full time.
    I have asked him to participate in the housework. I was frustrated during the summer and fall as I was spending a total of 7 hours cleaning each weekend. He does the grocery shopping, pays the bills and takes care of my dogs. I told him he could choose the task. He cleans both bathrooms and they are spotless! I wish I had asked him last year!

    Grace, thank you for the gift card. Ethan and Beckmann have joined the lonely lords on my kindle.
    I really enjoy your blog and look forward to it.

    • 35.1

      Susan, I wonder if he was hanging back, afraid of overstepping if he chiseled in on your household territory. Glad you did ask, and glad he stepped up. Somebody has to get after the bathrooms!

  36. 36
    LSUReader says:

    Can we ask for help without feeling guilty? I don’t know. If so, I haven’t found out how! If I could get help in any area of my life, it would be with housework. My husband ignored my requested Christmas gift (a paid house cleaning service once a month)and instead gave me a lovely pair of diamond earrings. Really, they are lovely. But they won’t clean the toilets! And most days, I’d really prefer clean bathrooms!

    • 36.1

      Why do people DO that? One year I told somebody to get me something pretty, anything pretty. A silk scarf, something to hang on the wall, a bunch of flowers. PRETTY!

      They got me this big old honkin’ microwave that didn’t fit on my counter, despite the fact that the one I had that did fit was only seventeen years old and perfectly functional.

      Geesh. You might have to renew your request at birthdays and on your anniversary. Or get yourself the service and inform him it was his gift to you. I like that idea.

  37. 37
    Kathe says:

    Isn’t it “odd” that we all seem to look for something to beat ourselves up over? Your daughter is learning essental skills and yet she’s worried about her self sufficiency. I wish they would hear us when we tell them how marvelous they are.

    My family is generally helpful, I just wish my three daughters, 22, 20, and 17, would do their ONE chore each day without me having to nag about it. What a blessing that would be!

    • 37.1
      Kathie says:

      Dang, spelled my own name wrong…lol…I apparently need a nap!

    • 37.2

      Maybe give them the chores that aren’t time critical, and see if they get around to them? The dog MUST go out, but the waste baskets don’t necessarily have to be emptied this instant.

      But really, ONE chore? They don’t know how lucky they are.

  38. 38
    Mary O-K says:

    Ah, Grace. Such is the life of the “Sandwich Generation.” My husband and I have, in the past 5 years or so, worked to guide our daughter (an only child, as well) through the joyful accomplishments of grad school and first jobs. At the same time, we were the primary caretakers for my cherished parents, each struggling with horrid diseases that eventually took their lives and, at times, their dignity.

    Now I feel a a great sense of peace, but that does not keep me from wishing for just a bit more: someone to organize my life’s accumulation of stuff! I have stacks of books on the floor, kitchen cupboards that appear to have survived an earthquake, a craft room that resembles a toddler’s playroom, and a laundry room with no place to put the laundry.

    Grace, how the heck do you do it? You not only write such a multitude of glorious, lyrical books, maintain a separate career, provide support for your family. . . but also manage to keep up this blog, not only reading each of our comments, but responding, as well. Bless your heart!
    Best wishes,
    Mary

    • 38.1

      Mary–I took a week off from the blog over the holiday, though I did miss it.

      How I do it: I have no TV, and haven’t had one for the duration of my post-college adulthood. My darling child is out from underfoot; I have no spouse expecting anything of me; my house is more of a campsite than House Beautiful (though a comfy campsite), and I don’t need a lot of social interaction.

      Then too, at work I am the boss and my most of my clients aren’t available until 3 pm, so the best writing hours for me–first thing in the day–are readily available.

      Mostly, I’m lucky, though. And I did write for several years before I pursued publication, and the backlog resulting is coming out as the Lonely Lords. By late 2015, things will slow down, I promise.

  39. 39
    elaine says:

    Totally off the discussion but I finished Douglas Lord of Heartache last night and it is one of my favorites among your Regency works.

    Count me among the many who were just dying to know the story that came before “The Heir.” I felt there were similarities in how Gayle approaches Anna’s resistance and the bit of effort we see of him trying to convince Gwen that they will make a good couple.

    And I was so glad to finally get the back story on Victor Windham and what in the devil he had done to cause all this fracas. If you are a Windham fan you MUST read this book.

    Someday I hope Grace will share the original order in which the books were written. I have a possible sequence in my head, but I’m dying to know.

    It would also be interesting to see a list organized by the timeline of the characters lives vs. the sequence of publication. It seems to me that the Alexanders marriages came BEFORE the Windham brothers and the Lindseys and Haddonfields came after, more or less (with Darius and Valentine having some overlap).

    And now I can’t wait for David’s story, since he’s lurked in so many Windham books and been a key player in the Alexanders’ lives and in Douglas and Gwen’s romance.

    • 39.1

      Elaine, Glad you enjoyed Douglas’s story. That business at the end, where he’s all traumatized and dispirited, but then he finally slogs through the puzzle pieces and rides once more into the breech… I do love that guy.

      As for the order of go… ARGH. If I had it to do over again, I would not have compressed so many stories into the same narrow timeframe. Darius is a real problem, because his story must take about a year to play out, and during that year, a lot of other couples were frisking about. I’m working on a FAQ section for my website, and the order of go will be one of the first topics addressed. For now, here’s a tentative list:

      The Courtship
      The Duke and His Duchess

      Gareth, then Andrew, then Douglas

      The Heir, David (sorta at the same time)

      The Soldier, then Nicholas, then The Virtuoso
      Darius (or Darius, then Virtuoso?)

      Trenton Lindsey (April 2014)
      Hadrian (June 2014)
      Ethan, Beckman, Gabriel,

      Worth (May 2014)
      Lady Sophie, Lady Maggie
      Morgan and Archer

      Lady Louisa, Lady Eve
      Jonathan and Amy (February 2014)
      Lady Jenny

      Best as I can figger it. Trenton, Worth and Hadrian will be self-published, which means they will not be available for pre-order (unless I can beg a miracle from Amazon).

  40. 40
    Ellie W. says:

    I think the only socially acceptable way to have someone else clean my house is to pay them. And that’s probably the thing I would most want done.

    There are things that I can rely on my parents for–picking up the kids when I can’t, contributing to big gifts for the kids (like the computer we bought them for Christmas.)

    Really–for most things–I like to think this biblical verse is applicable: A workman deserves his wage. People deserve to be paid for their work.

    • 40.1

      We seem to have a theme here of the housework being something we’d let somebody else do, and I’m in the same boat.

      Does ANYBODY enjoy keeping up with all those chores? DOES anybody keep up with them?

  41. 41
    Joanne Gamache says:

    Self reliance is, to some degree, a myth. We are social creatures and, as such, we rely on each other. We lean on each other and that is a good thing. When we love people, we want to be there for them. We want to serve them in some way. And to be a server means that someone is being served. Sometimes that is us being served. It is part of the elegant give-and-take of relationship.

    • 41.1

      Joanne, I think you should pay a call on my daughter. You explain it so succinctly, and it sounds very reasonable in your words. Then too, Darling Child will not respond with, “But Ma….” before you’re done speaking.

      You also put me in mind of Milton’s poem about being a blind poet, who felt keenly how few ways he could contribute:

      On His Blindness

      When I consider how my light is spent
      Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
      And that one talent which is death to hide
      Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
      To serve therewith my Maker, and present
      My true account, lest he returning chide,
      “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
      I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
      That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
      Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
      Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
      Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
      And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
      They also serve who only stand and wait.”

      John Milton

  42. 42
    Michelle Johnson says:

    To the question What would I ask help with. I have find my self at midlife in a seperation situation, unemployed, two teenagers and no court ordered child support yet in place. I am give 500 a month. This question is very real to me.. first is forgiving one’s self for being in the situation of need. From there I ask what are my needs that if met would put me in a situation to beter care for myself loved one’s and move me heyond this point. First was food budget – SNAP, gas budget, car repair and Norton for the computer to be able to apply for jobs. The later three I have help with from friends and church. Everyday I remind myself that in. my admitting my need I am allowing those who care to express that caring and that I will share with others in the future

    • 42.1

      Michelle, I’m so sorry you’re in this crunch, which I call a compression phase. I got laid off when the kid was six months old and I’d just taken on a mortgage (child support wasn’t forthcoming for years).

      It was REALLY scary, but my family was very helpful, and you are absolutely right: Now is not the time to sort out the past down to the last detail, it’s a time to focus on practicalities and small miracles. We’re all pulling for you, and many of us can say that those compression phases led to better things than we could have foreseen at the time.

      Hang in there!

  43. 43
    Tracy says:

    I have three childre ages 9, 11, and 13. I am getting the feeling that things will continually gain in difficulty as time marches on. My husband often has more patience than I, and an oft repeated phrase in the house (if I can control my impulse to lose it long enough) is “take over for me before I become a screaming shrew”. As a mother I think we have vision best suited for the “long game”. We can extrapolate behaviors and decisions to results years into the future. I have to ask my husband to keep me in the here and now. I will miss the time spent “just living” if I am chastising one for forgetting to practice her violin, another to just “eat your vegetables for Pete’s sake”, and my son to stop fighting with his sisters. I need help remembering that perhaps the best preparedness we can send our children into the world with is just plain old cofidence in them and a place to return for hugs.

    • 43.1

      Tracy, you are in kid jail. When you’re in there, it seems like time has stopped, your children will forever be teenaging under your roof, and you will never have time for yourself.

      It’s an alternate reality, is kid jail, and I’m here to tell you: They grow up. Pretty soon, one of them will either start driving, or will have friends who drive. The little dears get jobs, they drift off into the orbit of their peers, and… I am not making this up… you will soon find yourself missing them.

      None of which is any comfort right now. One of my brothers had teenagers underfoot while his missus was approaching a Certain Age, and the emotional volatility of the household allowed him to shine as a peacemaker for the first time in the marriage. Maybe handing off the reins to Himself functions the same way, and models for the kids that a) they have TWO competent, involved parents (two more than a lot of kids), and b) when we’re ready to act in ways we’ll regret, we can give ourselves a time out.

      Well done, I say.

  44. 44
    Melissa says:

    I wish that there were more ways and time for me to help my grandmothers. Neither drive much and do not get out as much as they should. Struggling with getting them to appointments, grocery shopping, etc, while trying to work forty hours plus trying to support my parents while they decide what to do with their small business is just getting to be overwhelming.
    Remembering that I do have a support system in place for my grandmas and that this is all temporary, is great. And Girls night out once a month is a great relief!

    • 44.1

      Melissa, you strike me as Yertle the Turtle, with four elders all leaning on you, when to some extent, your parents at least, ought to be part of the support, not part of the supported.

      Yes, I know, we all support each other, but two grandmas can be a handful. Sometimes, it seems old folks do nothing but sit in doctor’s waiting rooms: The primacy care, the eye doctor, the dentist, the dermatologist, the rheumatologist, the cardiologist, the the gerontologist, the hearing aid people, back to the primary guy, and then one of these -ologists finds something or wants more tests…

      You’re wonderful to try to cover all the bases, but I sure hope at least Mom and Dad can hear you when you hit those innings when one busy granddaughter CANNOT do it all.