My wife has spent the morning at home today. This is only just slightly disturbing to me (I never know when she is going to pop up) but since she sticks to our study upstairs I mostly forget she is here (even to the extent of lying to the Jehovah Witnesses that called asking to chat to her; I genuinely thought she wasn’t in).
We normally have a routine of tidying up extra things (that is, not the normal day to day things) twice a week for fifteen minutes. I don’t like doing this but I do acknowledge that my wife is happier and our environment is better if I make the effort; so I make the effort Monday and Thursday mornings (though often I forget – bugger just realised it Thursday tomorrow!). However due to several factors, one of which is having lots of people in the house, we haven’t managed an official tidy for a while. So Wife is at home this morning and therefore she suggests to me that she is available to [and point to the side in the kitchen where a pile has accumulated]. Before she can finish the sentence I say “no, I don’t want to” or some such (after all today is Wednesday) and then realise that I have automatically interpreted Wife’s suggestion as a demand. I tell her this as I walk out of the room leaving no room for debate (sorry about that dear) probably because I am already on edge from the mere fact she is at home in the first place, plus the fact that I was already on my way to walk the dog.
I am becoming aware just how often when my wife asks me something I perceive it as a demand. It also occurs at work and if I am on edge, possibly from other sources like my kids and dog. Rarely do I feel my friends are making demands. Yesterday, Aunty was having problems buying some train tickets online. She couldn’t figure what was going on so she asked me to have a look. With my help we eventually sorted out the issue and the tickets got bought. I had no compulsion to say no when she asked for help; I enjoyed helping her and it felt rewarding.
There seems to be a flip side to this as well where I do the asking for help. Generally I find it difficult to ask people for help; it took me a week to force myself to make an appointment to see my GP because I want to discuss autism with him and even then I could only do it in person since I abhor “hanging on the telephone”. Aunty is a physiotherapist by trade and I have a nagging leg pain that I thought I should see someone about (since now I don’t want to ride my bike because it is getting worse). I asked Aunty if she minded having a quick look at my leg and she agreed but nothing happened for a few days. This was okay because she is here for a whilebut after a few days I wondered if she had forgotten particularly because there are other more pressing issues on her mind. I wasn’t sure what to do. I felt bad having to ask her again (perhaps it felt I was making a demand and she didn’t want to do it) but I also wanted to do something about my leg because riding makes it worse, and I’m not sure how walking affects it; plus we have no car at the moment.
I can spend ages debating what to do. This is fairly standard for me. Eventually when Wife and I were in the kitchen, Aunty joined us and an opportune moment came up so I took the plunge and mentioned that I was having a dilemma over whether to ask her about the physio again. It was fine to as I suspected, and now we have set aside some time. Whilst I do get anxious about asking my wife for help, I do know that I find it much easier to ask her than anybody else. I’m not bad with the kids either. I do ask the dog, but I think we have a language issue there.
So what is going on here? I don’t like being asked for help from my wife, but I am okayish asking her for help. I don’t mind being asked for help from my friends but I do struggle to ask them for help. The proverb “familiarity breeds contempt” springs to mind.
From the being asked point of view, I think the answer lies in feeling in control. It would seem that people that have a frequent role in my life have a greater influence over my life and I react to that by being anxious around them. It seems quite natural that if I am in a team (including the work environment too), then that team will influence me but at the end of the day I need to feel in control, that I am the one making the decisions. I don’t want anybody else making the decisions and organising things for me, to do so causes me pain. At work I ask people to email me questions. This gives me time to think about how I am going to solve the problem and when I can fit it in. It also allows me to keep a record of the request because I seem to be appalling at remembering verbal things. The other thing that strikes me is that by asking the other person to write it down, I am getting their exact words rather than my interpretation of their words and that seems important to me. I guess my friends have less influence on me.
Asking for help for me feels like making demands on other people which in turn feels wrong. This seems to be me projecting my anxiety onto the other though. It is also about trust I think. If I trust you then I am more likely to overcome my reluctance because I know you will give me a genuine response. One of the troubles with different cultures is the unwritten expectations. When we went to India and Singapore I found it very difficult when people would say things because they thought that is what you wanted to hear, rather than be honest about the possibility. At least that is what I thought at the time. When someone says that they will do something for me then not do it, I feel I have been lied to, but I think the reality is that at that moment the person had every intention of doing what they said they would do, it is just that later, the event cannot happen for some reason. The difficulty comes when that change is not communicated. I would love everybody to be honest with themselves and me all the time, but that isn’t always possible because situations change. As I increasing find myself saying, life is complex.
I find it strange that control and trust seem to be keys here. Life has taught me that we have very little if any control over our lives (try acute and chronic illnesses to test that one out); and that trust has to be earned rather than expected. I am not sure where that leaves me though.