A Little Help From my Friends

You know I’m sort of a realist- pragmatic, analytic, ruled by logic.  But sometimes I wonder if the Universe does really play with my mind.

A few months ago I read a piece about how women who don’t ask for help are lacking self esteem.  Which I sort of called BS on.  But somewhere between the idea and the post, something happened.

You’ve heard about my movie friend J.  She’s a woman in her 70’s who lives in my building, and we see movies together.  That’s pretty much the context of our relationship- going to the movies, and talking about movies.  But on the 15 minute walks to and from the theater, we would share little stories of our lives, and it was obvious we had a rapport.

J is one of those women I admire.  She’s never been married, doesn’t have a significant other, and has never longed for one, nor bemoaned the fact that she is alone.  Quite the contrary- she embraces her singledom.  She has traveled the world, her only regret being that she has never been to Antarctica.  She spends her days as she pleases, and is perfectly content.  She is fiercely independent and doesn’t need anyone.  She is the last person to ever ask for help.

Then one day, after her routine check up, her Doctor saw something he didn’t like. He wanted her to come in and have a little surgery to remove a little something to have a little biopsy.  You know that after a procedure, hospitals don’t let you leave without someone- you need to ask for help.

J has family close by in New Jersey, but as asking for help is foreign to her, the thought of asking them to come into the city to help her was not an option she wanted to choose.  So she asked me.  She asked for my help.  I sort of downplayed it, not wanting to spook her into running into the woods like a deer. But of course I would help her, pick her up from the hospital. I gently asked if she wanted me to take her in the morning. She answered brusquely, of course not.  She was fine.

Then the day before the procedure: I’m pretty sure she hung out in our building lobby until I went to walk the dog.  And she gently asked, “Do you mind coming with me in the morning?  I’m a little more scared than I thought I would be. It’s early though- we need to leave at 6:15.”  Of course I said yes.

I know how hard it was for J to ask me, or anyone, for help.  She is proud of her ability to fend for herself.  But sometimes you need help.  Sometimes you can’t do everything by yourself.  Sometimes you need a friend.

I got up the next morning and took her to the hospital.  I sat with her until they took her in, and I hung out for a bit in the day surgery unit until it was time for her to go in for her procedure.  I left and came back at 330, the appointed time, and waited for her to feel better so that she could be released.

And a week went by, and I didn’t run into her.  I started to get a feeling.  My logical mind was being overtaken by intuition.  I “knew” the test results were not great.  I just felt it.  But, do I ask her?  Will she take offense to this overture and run away?  That’s the thing about proudly independent people- they can be proudly quiet and hold things to the vest.

Luckily, as we walked to see “Ocean’s 8” the other day, she just said the words.  Cancer.  Small.  They think they got it all with the biopsy sample, but they wanted to make sure.  Would I pick her up?  The procedure would be easy- ten minutes.

Of course I would pick her up.  Of course I would do anything she needed.  I was glad that she trusted me, to share this news with me.  I was glad that she wasn’t too proud to ask for help when she needed it.

So next week I will accompany my friend.  And I will marvel at friendships, whether they be people in your neighborhood, of friends far away.  I will sleep better knowing that there are people who will reach out to me in their time of need, and there are people I can reach out to.

And though I remain a practical, evidence based person- I can’t help but wonder if some greater force propelled me to read the article about needing help.  I can’t help but wonder if certain people come into your life for a reason.  I can’t help but wonder how much I am going to analyze these thoughts…