Birthing my Book Part VI: Asking For Help
Okay, raise your hands if you think that asking for help is a sign of weakness—or incompetence.
Yeah, well, me too.
I think it all started after I lost my leg. My mom has a favorite story, the kind of story that makes me roll my eyes in an oh-not-this-one-again kind of way. It was one of my first nights home from the hospital and the family had just finished dinner. We all took our dishes to the sink. I was still using crutches, so that was a bit tricky for me. I stacked my silverware onto my plate and precariously held the plate in-between my thumb and forefinger while simultaneously grabbing onto my crutch. I had almost made it to the sink when the knife fell from the plate. “Oh, here, Colleen, let me get that for you,” my mom said as she rushed over and picked up the knife. I’d have nothing of that. No sir. After she placed the knife on the counter, I picked it up, dropped it back on the floor and bent over to pick it up myself.
So, yeah, I have a few issues with asking for help.
I can admit now—though I certainly didn’t see it then—that after I lost my leg, getting help from other people made me feel even less whole than I already was. Not on the outside, but on the inside. When I out went for hikes with my friends when I was in my twenties, I felt abnormal when I needed help crossing a stream or climbing a hill. While they all scampered through the woods, I was the caboose, navigating the path with whoever stayed behind with me on that outing. I absolutely hated that. I wanted to be carefree and wild like they were and instead I was lugging around the ball-and-chain of my prosthetic leg.
I had a fierce need to show the world that I was competent and complete the way I was, even though a huge part of me was missing. It’s not that I never needed help, it’s just that I tried to be sure it was on my terms—and usually only when I asked for it.
This attitude certainly helped me get me back on my own two feet, kept me active and alive, but the shadow side to this attitude was that I associate asking for help with weakness—or lack—or contracting into my smallness.
When I was pregnant with each of my two kids, I needed a lot of help—about something that had nothing to do with my amputation. Creating and birthing a baby is a lot of work. Every step of the way was a new learning curve. How do I eat? What do I wear? What do I prepare for when the baby is here? How will I manage the pain during labor? How do I keep physically fit while I’m gaining all this weight?
Fortunately, there were a slew of resources and people out there ready to support me with each of these issues. I read What to Expect When You’re Expecting, I talked to friends about the best car seats and cribs, I hired a midwife, I went to birthing classes with my husband, and I went to prenatal yoga. Getting so much help was liberating and expanding.
I’ve discovered that publishing my book—birthing my book—is very similar. The actual process of writing the book was such an intensely solo experience. But now that I’m here at the point of publishing, I’m calling on all sorts of experts to guide me on the journey. My midwife—um, I mean, my publisher—is guiding me though each contraction. I’ve had to reach out and ask for help a number of times: from a developmental editor, a copy editor, cover designer, endorsers, and a publicist. And it’s humbling. It’s humbling to say, “I don’t know how to do this part. Can you help me?” And then it’s humbling to trust the very person I hired to help me. Will that person deliver? Does that person really know what she’s doing? Will she treat my book with the love and care that I have for the last five years?
What I’ve discovered through this process of birthing my book is that people want to help and, in fact, people want me to succeed. Their generosity of talent, time and spirit isn’t given to mask a lack of something on my part; it’s given with the understanding that we need each other, we are all playing a part in each other’s story.
Do you have a hard time asking for help? Where does that come from? Think of something you need help with – a household project, getting a job, finding the love of your life. What would happen if you reached out and asked?