A Hex on the Ex: Part 2

When things get difficult, do you:

  • Hunker down and do what you can with what you have;

  • Call Lifeline or BeyondBlue, Kids' Helpline or Men's Helpline, or 1800-RESPECT;

  • Call your friends and/or family, and tell them your woes;

  • Contact the people who love you, and ask them for help;

  • Make an appointment with your GP and ask for a referral to a psychologist or clinical psychologist?

I've recently realised that I need to gratefully accept help when it's offered; because the older I get, the more I'll need it.

I had three reminders, so there was obviously a lesson to be learned!!

The first reminder happened the day a load of aggregate was delivered for a garden path I was building at home. Because of my narrow driveway, the truck couldn't get very far past my front gate, so the driver dumped the load on my driveway. I had spent a couple of days digging a long trench, in which I placed agi-pipe, to improve the drainage in my back yard. On the afternoon after the aggregate arrived, my back (and everything else, truth be told) was aching very badly, so I had a shower and put on my pyjamas .. and took a couple of paracetamols while cooking dinner.


There was a knock at my front door, and only strangers come to the front door. I opened it, to find my new neighbour from across the road. He offered to give me a hand with the aggregate. I was so surprised, and foggy, that I said thanks but no. You know what I should have said, because that job was incredibly taxing! The digging had been mostly clay, so I was knackered. He was so kind and thoughtful, and brave for acting on his tender generosity.


A garden path, of which I can only dream - Giverny!

The second reminder was when I had purchased a stack of big heavy pavers for that garden path, just on closing time at my local hardware store; and they were so awkward to get into my little car. It was getting dark, and a man appeared from out of nowhere to offer, "Would you like a hand with those?". I nearly jumped out of my skin! But, again, like my neighbour; he showed me kindness, thoughtfulness, courage and generosity.


I drove away, telling myself that I should have learned!! I should have said, "Yes, thanks, you're so kind". But no, I said everything except "yes". What's wrong with me? I realised that I was so used to being independent, and having to do everything for myself, that I didn't know how to gratefully accept help when it was offered. You know, if we say "no" all the time, we can't blame others for not offering!


Another garden path, of which I can only dream - Chinon!

The third reminder happened when I was back at that hardware store, buying more pavers, and some besser blocks. More awkward, heavy stuff! I was at the checkout, where there was a second staff member at the exit. She offered to help me .. and you know what I said! Well, at first, taken aback, I said "no, thanks, I'll be alright"; as usual! And then I had the epiphany, that I should say yes - whether I need the help or not. Why? Because it shows acceptance and appreciation of someone's kindness, and it shows gratitude for their helpfulness, and it empowers both of us. It means that I recognise their courage in offering. Their ability to help is respected, and my ability to be helped is enabled.


I had never thought about it that way before.

When all those dreadful things were happening in my life (as described in A Hex on the Ex: Part 1), it never occurred to me that the people who love me would want to be there for me. I was too hunkered down in doing everything that I could with whatever I had, and I didn't reach out to them.


At one point, I thought I should get help, because I had completed the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory, and got a very high score. I saw a counsellor at my university (because as a student I could, for free), and it was no help - she had her computer turned on and open on her email, and she sat where she could keep an eye on it. I felt like it was a waste of time, and being a person accustomed to self-reflection, I went back to doing things for myself.


I wonder now, though, what held me back?

Was it fear of embarrassment? I hate crying in front of anyone else. I could have felt a sense of humiliation at some of the choices I'd made; and whomever I told might have felt awkward on my behalf. But, surely, if they loved me, they wouldn't judge me! Would they?


It may have just been habit - I was used to self-reflection. The other word for all this could be "introspection", and the trouble with being too introspected, is that you stop seeing the beautiful people around you and you forget about how wonderful it is to speak and be heard. Loved ones don't care if you look and sound horrible when you cry, they just care about you and how you feel! They want you to feel cared about!


It could have been self-recrimination. I had made some choices, that were the right choices, which led to awful outcomes. I judged myself harshly, and maybe I felt that I didn't deserve the help of others. My family and friends would have refuted that!


It could also have been a case of "others are are worse off than me". I wasn't the only person grieving the loss of a loved one at the time. I wasn't the only one worrying about postgraduate pursuits. I wasn't the only one facing financial ruin. Others were really worse off than me, but I should not have minimised my situation and how it made me feel. My friends and family would have wanted to be there for me, in whatever way they could.

So, I've also realised that I need to bravely ask for help when things get tough.

When you don't call on the people who love you, and they realise later that you were in dire straits, do you know what happens? Those beloved dear ones feel terrible that they weren't there for you. But how could they, if you don't give them a chance?


That's exactly what I did back then - in my introspection and independence, I forgot to reach out to the people who love me. I kept quiet. Sure, they might not have been able to help financially, and they might not have been able to bring my loved ones back; but they would have given a non-judgemental ear and a comforting shoulder. I would have been able to speak and be heard. I would have been embraced by kindness and love. But, I didn't give those friends and family members a chance to show how much they love me.


I'm sorry about that now, because I realise how much it meant to those who love me to have the chance to show how much they care.

At the start, I asked a multiple-choice question: When things get difficult, do you:

  1. Hunker down and do what you can with what you have;

  2. Call Lifeline or BeyondBlue, Kids' Helpline or Men's Helpline, or 1800-RESPECT;

  3. Call your friends and/or family, and tell them your woes;

  4. Contact the people who love you, and ask them for help;

  5. Make an appointment with your GP and ask for a referral to a psychologist or clinical psychologist?

Hopefully, I have learned my lesson. Hopefully, you have too.


Without knowing it, those people who love me were really there for me, through all my scrapes and mishaps. How? In knowing I was loved, I was able to get through those times. That love was enough for me. It's not that way for everyone, and it's not the same throughout your whole life. So, this is my lesson - to not take anyone for granted, especially when things get tough.


©2018 Mary-Claire Hanlon - The Centre Of Serendipity