Who knew there’s something really nice about driving to swim meets way out on the Kitsap Peninsula. Or more specifically, driving home from them.
Four years ago, following the South Kitsap meet, Nineteen and I started out listening to National Public Radio, and then as the sun set on Commencement Bay and the Narrows Bridge, talked about the world, her world, our worlds. Not a top-down father-daughter talk, a balanced adult one.
Last week, as Sixteen’s (S’s) passenger, I was in the right place at the right time for another thoughtful and memorable conversation. I mostly listened as she described a moving letter she had received earlier in the day from a close friend who struggled with anxiety last year. The friend wanted S to know how important her help had been and how much her understanding presence meant to her. Her other friends, she explained, ran a little hot and cold, which made her especially appreciative of S’s consistent care.
“What I like about A.F. is she’s vulnerable,” S reflected while hugging the right line of the two lane highway. “She’s not afraid to admit everything’s not all right. That gives me the opportunity to help.” She explained how good it felt to help her friends, to share insights from the serious difficulties she experienced as a middle schooler. It gives purpose to that especially challenging chapter of her life.
S’s story reminded me of two important steps in developing in-depth, intimate friendships—admitting one’s vulnerabilities and humbly asking for help.
Taken together, sometimes saying, “I’m afraid. I’m anxious. I’m lost. I’m stuck. Can you help me?”
Knowing that doesn’t mean I do it well. I don’t. At all. I probably inherited my stubborn, sometimes self-defeating self-sufficiency from my parents who grew up in barren eastern Montana on the heels of the Depression.
Paradoxically, I enjoy helping my friends whenever they ask for help, but I don’t like inconveniencing them. At all. A tip of the iceberg example. I spent twenty minutes in the garage last week unsuccessfully trying to tighten a bolt, while holding a washer, and screw in a very awkward position because I didn’t want to inconvenience the wife. Finally threw in the towel, asked for her help in applying pressure to the top of the screw, and had everything assembled in less than a minute.
More significantly, I’m almost always resistant to counseling, yet the few times I’ve committed to it, it’s proven helpful.
Obviously, everyone has to be somewhat self-sufficient, but there’s a point of diminishing returns, a point I cross fairly regularly. I’m not sure how to explain my stubborn, sometimes self-defeating self-sufficiency. It’s irrational. If I could throw a “start depending upon others more on occasion” switch, I would have already.
I’d ask you for help, but I don’t want to inconvenience you.
Maybe I’ll just groove some more to Bill Withers in the hope it’ll eventually sink it.
Thanks S for the inspiration.