Day 11 is “A Life Lesson You Learned” (although the original post spells it “learnt” and that is an interesting regional spelling difference but not the subject of today’s blog).
I’m going to pick out a relatively recently learned life lesson, which I feel I have had multiple opportunities to learn throughout my life but only internalized it in the aftermath of the accident: it is okay to ask for help. Literally nobody thinks less of you for it. The only person who has an issue with you asking for help is yourself – your own stupid, stubborn pride and ego. Noooooobody cares. Your friends, it turns out, actually like having the opportunity to lend you a hand and demonstrate the closeness of your bond and what you mean to them through action.
I of course learned this in increments. I was (in my teens and early twenties) incredibly proud of myself as a self-sufficient person (with a hefty dash of the belligerent feminist-adjacent feel of being a woman who don’t need no man etc.), and I still like to be able to accomplish things on my own merits, when I can. But instead of the profoundly isolating self-image of a lone leader (in thought, word, deed, action, or what-have-you), I learned to see myself as a node in a network made up of amazing people, all of whom are good at something, and who are there to support me and buoy me up when I need them (and are doing that behind the scenes anyway). Nobody exists in isolation; even the last person on earth had a mother (or team of scientists who cared about making sure that fertilized egg grew into an organism!)
I’m getting off track. In the first few weeks after my accident, I could not do … well, most things. Ryan needed to help me shower, dress EVERY DAY, position myself in bed EVERY NIGHT, pick things up off the floor for me because I could maybe bend about 20 degrees and that was about it. It was deeply humbling. Even once I could shower by myself, I still had to continually reach out to people to ask for rides to appointments, for help with food, for literally babysitting me while Ryan was at work to make sure I didn’t fall (because I would have just lain there until he came home, unable to move myself).
It was really, really difficult for me to make those asks at first. Luckily, I had a pretty great excuse. I expected people to be sick of me after the first few weeks though, but … they weren’t. Or at least, if they were, they didn’t tell me, and I’m grateful for that. But my asking for help wasn’t a bother, it seemed, and people seemed really happy to have the chance to help me out.
I learned to ask for help in part when I lived in Japan in 2010-2011; at first, my Japanese skills were very poor and I could not read any kanji, so I had to continually ask for help for the most basic of things (directions, tips on grocery shopping, how to find a doctor) over and again. People were happy to help, though. And gradually, I got to know my way around, and was happy to help out new foreigners who would ask me about life in Japan. So I became comfortable asking for, receiving, and giving help when I was in a situation that was drastically different from what I was used to; I learned to be assertive with asking for help from the get-go instead of trying to figure the entirely-kanji map out myself, since it wastes less time and people get an opportunity to do something good that day.
But I didn’t really translate that to everyday life in Canada until post-accident. Pre-accident, I was actually so anxious about being seen as incompetent that I screwed up some relationships and professional opportunities (and made myself so, SO miserable). But post-accident, I’ve learned to let that go, and to be okay with being the person who asks for help. It makes my life better, and it gives others a chance to make their lives better. Win-win.
Day 11, done.