Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What's the difference between wanting to help and hating feeling used?

Things are looking positive with the publisher, so while sitting in the car waiting for my children I've decided on some time for reflection. Why have I not worked on my manuscript today? Because I've been busy doing things for other people. It's been 10 days since I made the decision not to take any thing else on. I've only two more things to do on my to do list, two more meetings to attend and then on Thursday I have a free day. I started this blog almost like a cognitive behaviour therapy to help me see my writing dreams as important, and to question why I get distracted by other tasks.

At the last Sunday service there was the call for volunteers. I sat on my hands while both my daughters jumped up and signed their names, I felt a mixture of pride and worry. They like me are always willing to jump up and help. My husband had come to watch the girls and he, as usual did not sign or feel guilty about not volunteering. I decided a couple of weeks ago when the black dog began to gnaw on my leg that I needed to stop and recoup.

The truth is I love helping people but I hate feeling used. But what is the difference? In both cases I'm helping people. But one feels awful and the other feels great. If “tis better to give than receive,” why would you feel used when you do just that?

I think one answer is that you feel used when you give involuntarily and useful when you give voluntarily. But how do you draw the line? It's not easy.

Over the past few weeks I have be sending a prepared reply email that basically says, I'm a bit down, a bit stressed and I can't help for a few weeks until I feel on more even ground. The response has been over a scale of

no response
are you okay is there anything I can do?
yeah I know you are down but you are the only one daft enough to volunteer for this task in the first place and I really need you to do it, you do did commit!
please, please, please, I won't ask again for at least three weeks and there is a packet of donuts in it
well you can't be that bad because I saw you in ASDA and you are writing your blog

If anyone who reads my blog recognises their email reply, it is not intended to insult anybody merely me reflecting on how not to get over whelmed with other people's tasks.

I saw a friend last Friday who told me that in the seven years she has known me she's never known me to ask someone else for help but I jump up the moment someone asks me. She said, 'do you think that because you find it hard to ask for help yourself, that you assume if someone else is asking they must really need it?'

It made me think. There is only one person in the world that I would say I have rarely seen ask or help and that is my younger sister. I think she has only ever asked me for help maybe one or two times in her whole life.

I think another problem for me is the hint game. This is how I frequently become overwhelmed. If someone asks directly, well then I have a chance to say yes or no in an assertive way. Most people involved in school and church activities know this, it is clear 'can anyone help run a stall?' You look in your diary and the answer is a plain yes or no. And then, you usually get a thank you. Yes you are volunteering your time to help children or raise money for a good cause, but a thank you is always nice. This is easier for me, and some of the nicest reply emails have come from church and voluntary groups. The hard one for me is the steady water torture of hints, if you say I can't help they bristle, 'I didn't ask you to' or 'I wouldn't have dreamed of asking' but you know they are. If you offer to help they take it but don't say thank you - why should they? They didn't ask you to help YOU OFFERED.

And then I begin to feel used, angry or upset. The scales of giving and taking lean heavy one way or the other. I complain and moan when in fact I am the one who gets into the trap all by myself. My old GP use to say to me while writing out a prescription that 'if I could say no and honestly not give a s*** what the other person thought he wouldn't need to give me pills.' I wasn't in a place to hear what he was trying to say all those years ago, but now I am beginning to see the sense in his words.

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