How do we ask for help when we are too overwhelmed to ask for help? Packing for a move makes a great case study, and can remind us that there are times when we must trust someone’s judgment that is not our own. And with that trust, friends, comes the beginning of community.
Notes and transcript:
Hey, everyone, thanks for tuning in.
As some of you may know, I'm in the middle of a move right now. Which means everything is through that lens. You know, when you're shopping for a car, suddenly, every time you look around you see the car that you're shopping for. It's that kind of thing where everything right now is about moving, is about packing, is about collaboration, is about community, is about... and oh, wait, that's not really what moving is about. Except it is. At least it is for me. At least it is right now.
So tonight's musings are about getting help.
The hard thing about needing help, when you're in the middle of it, is that when you're in the middle of it, you don't know what you need. You can't even think that far. All you know is that you're drowning. And you're trying not to look like you're playing in the waves. You're just waving your hands above your head, trying, hoping, doing something, anything. Flailing around or lying still or holding your breath or something. Anything to get you through this next moment, this next week, this next year, this next breath.
One day, and then another day. Each day at its time. And yet it somehow feels like they're all tumbling over each other into each other. And everything has to happen right now. And everything absolutely cannot happen right now. It's complicated.
And the problem is that people, well-meaning people, beloved people, people who want to help, will say "how can I help?" And you'll look- you'll look around you with the chaos and the noise and the mess. And the only thing you'll be able to think of is "thank you for offering. If I knew what to ask for I would. I have no idea what I need right now." And we have been well-trained not to give when it hasn't been asked for. And so most people at that point will back off and say, "well, if you figure it out, let me know." And they will be trying to be polite, and you will still be drowning.
But the problem is that the only other option- if you do not happen to have the perspective and the groundedness and the understanding of yourself in that moment to know and to be able to say "yes, please come over at two o'clock, I will serve pizza, you will pack three boxes out of my kitchen." If you don't know how to say that, then the only other option is to be seen in your mess.
To have somebody walk in and stumble over three bags of recycling and two bags of trash that haven't made it out to the garbage yet. To have them realize when they look at your kitchen that the mess there is not just from packing. But is from the weeks of overwhelm and stress that came before. Those dishes didn't get like that overnight. And is to be willing to have them walk in and say "listen, this is a thing that I see that needs doing. So I will do it." And have them wash your dishes and then pack every last pot and pan as soon as it is clean and dry into a box with a label and a marker and some tape and then it's done.
Or to have them open your closet and say, "okay." Take in the chaos that you have lived with, that you have become inured to because it's been like that since you moved in and couldn't figure out what to do in the first place. And just put things in boxes with labels that make some kind of sense. Write on them: bedroom, closet. Knowing full well that the bedroom closet that you are moving to is not the size of the bedroom closet that you are moving out of and who knows where that stuff will go eventually, but at least you'll know where it came from.
Or have somebody who knows how precious the things on an altar can be, carefully wrap each tiny, tiny thing in soft things, in cloth, in bubble wrap. Bless it, place it gently in a box, label it 'altar.' Set it aside. That one's going in the car, not in the truck.
Everything can be chaos and you can still get help. But for everything to be chaos, and for you to get help, you have to willingly submit yourself to the loving non-judgement of a person's deepest, widest, most brilliant heart. You have to trust that that is available to you. And you have to give yourself over to it. In this world full of judgments and takedowns and unpopular opinions, that's a hard thing to do.
This concept of building in public has become really popular in the startup world. This idea of letting your mistakes show, being clear about when your course correcting. And it's a delicate balance when you're a public figure. Because people have to still trust you. You still need people to trust you, your brand, your company, your products. They can't think that you're so unstable, that you will actually disappear out from under them when they are relying on you and yet, and yet, the only way around needing to be omniscient is to let people watch you make all those rough drafts.
How do you make rough drafting a trustworthy process? The only thing there is, is shared humanity. compassion, love. Yes, even there. Love. And also a kind of explaining of the way that you think. You shouldn't have to explain yourself to anyone and yet, sometimes, if you want their trust, you do. Tell them that you're busy. Tell them that you're overwhelmed. Tell them that something has gone wrong. Tell them that something isn't wrong, but it certainly isn't going to plan. Tell them that you have to pack another fifteen boxes in ten days.
It's a delicate balance. You don't want to make the keyboard slippery with blood. But you do want the concert to get finished. How do you get help? Either you know exquisitely well what you need, and how to ask for it. And you have people who can give it to you. Or you trust a little bit. Trust someone's judgment that isn't your own.
And with that trust comes the foundation of community.