Asking for Help III

I feel like I’m in the middle of a horrible infomercial, those things that go on for what feels like hours, in the middle of the day or late at night, all gaudy colors and loud noises. “BUT WAIT!!!” the voice bellows. “THERE’S MORE!!!” A lot more…so apologies for the lengthy post. I want to get it over with, this infomercial, you see.

That’s because after I’ve defeated my own inner demons in an epic battle, I’ve yet to actually go ask someone for help. Time for the practical bit of asking for help… the actual asking. I arm myself in bulletproof, blow a hole through the television, and settle down to tactics. Diabolically, I consider the approaches:

  1. The Stealth Attack: ambush a person in the bathroom. They’re too embarrassed to say no.
  2. The Frontal Assault: Charge straight up to someone and spill everything directly, overwhelming all resistance.
  3. Shock and Argh!: great for during a migraine or med reaction, simply barf on someone’s shoes and then ask for a ride home or an excused absence.
  4. The Cold War: trade text messages, smoke signals, and semaphore back and forth for the eternity before a scheduled procedure until ultimately arrangements are made.
  5. The Plea Deal: offer to exchange a ride for pet-sitting an aged and cantankerous terrier mix for help, or the ilk.
  6. The Fork: employ the help of a wingman to maneuver someone into admitting their availability and generous personality before unloading the Assistance ICBM into their position.

Seriously, sometimes it does feel like one needs to have studied battlefield strategy to ask for help. I simply need to identify who I’m going to ask, use some form of communication, and then clearly put forward all the details of what you need. There’s your basic journalism questions to answer, really: Why, Who, What, Where, When, and How.

Why I know. However, I might have to tell the person I’m asking help from something. How much depends on the person, you, your relationship with them, and the situation.  With some people, it might be fine to simply say you have an appointment you need a ride to… with other situations and people, I’ve found I really need to tell them that I’m having heart surgery, what it’s for, and that I need someone to do XYZ tasks.

Who…. “select your target, cadet.” Over time, I’ve learned a lot about the people in my orbit from struggling with health conditions. I have my best friends’ class and teaching schedules memorized. I know who has a car, who gets off work early, and who is (sorry, mate!) undependable. There’s also support services usually available through local health groups and hospitals (depending on your condition), FB support pages for conditions, and medical taxis if you live in a big enough city. I tailor my request to what I know the people in my life can do, now, because I know something of the discomfort of having someone ask something I’m unable to give.

What/Where/When: The actual request. I usually go for a two-fold approach. First I hit my target(s) with an initial tentative strike… the warning shot. I give a little information: Email Group Assistance, this is Cadet 996R, requesting aid on 30 May 2016 from 9-4. (Who they are, who you are, where you are, what you need… the basic communication pattern of flight operations.J )If someone’s available, they can telegraph me back in Morse code, or whatever line of communication suits them. Then I can dump the rest as needed:

“Hello [insert name], thank you for your reply. I need [a ride to the hospital for some tests, whatever]. I have to be there at [00:00]. My address is [Starship Academy 593], and I’m going to the [downtown university hospital] —- it should be about a [30 minute] drive from my home. You don’t need to be around the whole time. I’m going to need someone to pick me up [at this time]. Because of hospital regs, you’ll need to actually be in the waiting area to pick me up.”

I always include addresses and approximate times for everything and as much of a schedule break-down as I can.

I break this pattern and give more information in the first strike when there’s going to be heavy lifting or something that involves long distances, because I know that not everyone can mow a lawn, carry groceries up to my third-story walk up, or drive an hour to pick parents up from the airport.

Finally, there’s the how. Humans have struggled with communication for millennia, writing down things on clay tablets, making pidgin languages, and chucking their smart phones through 3rd story windows. Fortunately this struggle means there’s lots of methods: asking in person, text messages, phone calls, emails, Skyping, setting up Facebook pages and Care Calendars. With each person I ask, I usually find myself adapting to their chosen mode of communication. One friend deals best with phone calls and text messages, but never checks email. Another can be reached best by FB messenger, but never picks up the phone. It would be sweet to think that I’m the one that gets to choose the mode that’s easiest for me, but I’m the one asking, and the important thing is that the message gets through.

If you have long-term and largely predictable needs, I’ve investigated a few different options:

  • Google Docs/Calendar/Excel: Can be shared around easily and set up by anyone with tech-y skills. (I.e., not really me. J )
  • Mealbaby: A free website, but really only for providing food. One step in the process even offers gift cards for restaurants and groceries as well as an option to send a meal.
  • MealTrain: Much the same as MealBaby, but only one meal a day can be set up for free. And like MealBaby, it is only for providing meals, so it won’t help organize rides to doctor’s offices or any other needs.
  • Take Them A Meal: YET ANOTHER meal-scheduling service! Also free. This site provides the option of sending paper flowers or VISA gift cards, and has a list of recipes that transport well. I didn’t check it out beyond that, but the website brags that it helps coordinate over 1.3 million meals a year.
  • CareCalendar: More comprehensive, but with the trade-off that it’s also a lot less user-friendly. A coordinator sets up the initial calendar, and then there’s a lot of data to be filled in, verification emails, account setup…. It also requires each individual step of the multi-step set-up process to be completed in fifteen minutes. So make sure you know what it is you/someone else needs before starting! You can specify a calendar for virtually everything from military deployment to childbirth. Similarly there’s a lot of options in the “what you need” category, from meals to lawn care to doctor’s office rides. You can spend a LOT of time setting up the calendar (and it still won’t visually be as appealing as Mealbaby).

These online options can free you from the burden of having to schedule each event individually… and it can be an emotional, time-sucking, and brain-power draining experience, this “asking for help.”

Being ill has isolated me in many respects, but it’s also connected me far more with the lives of others. I sometimes feel guilty and awkward that I’ve built up a network of people to ask for help, and that I know so many more people now because I’ve been hurt and sick. But the overwhelming gladness of getting to know others usually far outweighs the negative feelings. The what that brought someone into my life is usually less important than the resulting who…including all the wonderful other titanium butterflies I’ve met through this blog. Fly high, stay strong. All the best. J


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