Recently, I was chatting with a person who helps a close relative with a chronic illness, and upon finding out I live alone with my mutt, she asked me, “Who helps you?”
The question really struck me because it was the first time I encountered an assumption that I have a helper, that there should be a helper. There are so many paths of thought and emotion that embark from that starting point. Fortunately, the conversation promptly moved on and I didn’t have to fight to find the positive path.
But I’ve returned to that moment a few times in the intervening days and have mused upon it. Who helps me? There are three answers to this question: none one, everyone, me. All have been true.
So what about you? Are you battling with a disability or difficulty on your own?
Here’s how I do it:
1. I ask for help.
I know not everyone may be as fortunate as I am, living in a community full of kind-hearted, giving, and available people. I also know asking for help is super hard. But if there is something that needs to be done and that I’m unable to do myself, you bet I’m going to ask.
I’ve learned that the empowerment of seeking help in a brave and direct way is a solid part of independence. I’ve also learned that if I’m inevitably going to do something, whether it’s a need, or just I know I’m going to fail to resist that donut, I just go ahead and get on with it, without the emotions. It’s going to happen anyway, so might as well do it without feeling tortured about it.
If you can’t do it yourself, and it needs to be done, just ask. Pick the best person you know for the job and be very specific about what you need. They’ll likely be happy to help. People are nice.
2. I play my own partner.
It’s wonderful when someone does something nice for you just because they care. I’m chronically single, so I have long been a pro at showing myself this kind of care, even before my chronic illness. Why feel sad that no one’s buying me flowers when the grocery store sells flowers across from the blueberries? I take myself on trips for my birthday every year, I take myself out to dinner, or have date nights at home with a steak and a movie.
Sometimes after I get up and let my dog out, I’ll cook breakfast, then change back into my pajamas and have breakfast in bed.
With my chronic illness and chronic pain, and the mental health symptoms that come with, I think about what I would love for someone to do for me, and I do that for myself. I make myself care packages (if you haven’t already, check out my Splatquake kits here).
I do a lot of thinking ahead stuff: What would Later Me like? What would Tomorrow Me like? I’ve begun preparing my dog’s breakfast, with her CBD oil drops and joint pill in her food, ahead of time and I set the scoop in a cabinet so I don’t have to bend over in the morning to scoop her food. I get my coffee ready, too, with the water already in a pot on the stove and the beans in the grinder ready to go, so I have as few steps as possible in the morning.
My new favorite is setting out my clothes before I get in the shower. In the late afternoon or early evening, before I get too tired, I turn down my bed, fill a glass of water for the nightstand, set out pajamas, and make sure my humidifier is full. I might even add some aromatherapy spray on my pillows or set out my favorite aromatherapy lotion. I use tender mindfulness in anticipating what could make my moments go easier.
3. I just don’t.
Sometimes, I just let things go. I remind myself that I still have the rest of my life to write the books. I remind myself that I can sweep up yesterday’s and today’s and tomorrow’s and the next day’s piles of tumblefur on a future day and the floor isn’t going to collapse under its weight. I totally abide my Impact Map with zero guilt.
4. I talk to my people.
If I’m feeling alone, I text one of my tribemates and say so. Instant improvement.
5. I use my grip trifecta.
There are three things I’ve lately made sure I do every day, and it’s been wonderful. I make my bed in the morning. I take a shower before evening. And I make sure my kitchen is tidy before bed. These three things show that I’m still taking care of myself and my home, that I’ve still got a grip on this life thing. What could your grip trifecta be?