Friday, May 27, 2011

learning to ask for help

I suck at asking for help. I'm not all that good at speaking up when someone hurts my feelings, either. I have been known to let people take advantage of me and help them out to the detriment of my sanity. Instead of standing up for myself, I'll mutter passive aggressive comments under my breath, eventually exploding from resentment when it gets to be too much.

These are terrible traits for a mother to have, I know. And parenting my son with autism has only highlighted my deficiencies. Ironically, I am the one charged with teaching my son how to express his emotions appropriately, how to ask for help rather than getting angry, how to say “no” when something makes him uncomfortable. Yes, me, the person who is quite likely the worst role model of these traits he could find.

I’ve been working on it, going to counseling, reading books, and stretching my assertive muscles, so that I can better teach my kids not to be a doormat, like their mom.

Still, even after therapy, the best lesson I have had was recently when I decided to start a LEGO social skills club in my town. The training for such a program is very expensive, so I applied for a Pepsi Refresh grant, which requires that people vote for your project. In the $5K category, to win the grant, your project needs to be in the top 20 out of more than 130 applicants.

I want to get this funding and start this group so much I can practically taste it. My son is obsessed with all things LEGO and is in desperate need of a decent social skills group in our town. When I found out I could combine teaching social skills with LEGOs, I knew I had found the perfect combination for my son.

In order to make this vision come true, though, I needed help. Lots of it. I have had to solicit everyone I know and everyone they know and ask them to vote for my project. I have had to send reminders to family members, old classmates, former sorority sisters, church members, acquaintances, and past coworkers, asking them to take a minute and help me out.

I absolutely hate imposing on other people; I feel unworthy of that help and hate to bother people, even if it is just to ask them to take a couple minutes and click their mouse a few times. It doesn't matter that many of these people are my friends and family--I still hate asking for things. I suppose there is a part of me that fears possible rejection. What if they say no to my plea? What would that say about me and what they think of me?

But I did it. I asked everyone I knew and even went further than that. I asked friends and family to post fliers at their workplaces and I asked them to spread the word to their Facebook friends. Occasionally, I apologized for bothering people and I worried that I was being annoying, but I soldiered on, knowing that I had to help my son no matter what it took.

Through it all, I have made some amazing discoveries about myself and others.

I learned how generous some people are; family, friends and strangers alike have flooded me with support and help. My cousin sent out an amazingly heartfelt email to all her friends and family. In it, she detailed how I babysat her newborn daughter full-time for about 6 months while I was in college, how my caring for her baby eased her mind and made it possible for her to return to work without having a nervous breakdown.

Other people sent out similar pleas, making me realize that these people really care about me and appreciate times when I have helped them. Friends like my BFF from high school and another from college who want to donate money and supplies to the group. And there are friends, like my husband's good buddy from Vegas (who I have only met in person once, I might add) who has done everything humanly possible to get his friends to vote for my project. (Thanks, Dan and Heather!)

Then, there are the strangers who have helped me, like the man in my town who donated some LEGOs when he heard about the group. Or Lisa from AutismWonderland who let me guest post and write about my project on her blog.

I can't even begin to list all the people who have graciously helped me. All the people who have somehow been affected by autism and who have tweeted, voted and facebooked for me. All the blog friends who have helped. It's been wonderful to see the power of a community that roots for each other and helps when possible.

And then there were the people who were less than helpful, people who I assumed would be onboard, but who, for whatever reason, weren’t all that supportive. People who refused to vote or spread the word on Facebook, and those who just ignored my pleas for help. Friends who I thought I could count on, but who let me down. People who rejected me. My biggest fear: rejection!

Though the rejection has stung, it didn't hurt nearly as much as I thought it would. I was able to see that their unwillingness to help wasn't a reflection of who I am or whether I'm worthy of help. It's merely a reflection of how far they are willing to go for their friend: me. And that's ok.

So, though my worst fear came true--some people did in fact say no--my wildest dream was also exceeded. So many people have made big sacrifices to help my project, people who know and love me, people in my community who want to make a difference here, and people who are complete strangers and who will in no way be benefited, but who know that helping one cause and group inevitably helps all of us.

I think it's natural to want to protect ourselves from rejection; we want to avoid being vulnerable so no one has the power to hurt us. But what I have learned from this experience is that when we open ourselves up to rejection, we are also opening ourselves up to acceptance and love, the likes of which will most certainly amaze us.

And when we break down and ask for help, we may just learn that there are fleets of people who've been waiting for a chance to assist us all along.

If you are interested in voting for my Pepsi Refresh project, there are a few days left. The grant money will pay for my training and supplies to start a LEGO social skills group in my area. Thanks for your support! Just click here or click the image below.


Lizbeth said...

You are a true sweetheart to be doing this. These are the times I wish I lived closer so I could do more than vote.

Form what I've seen you're no doormat. :)

Heather said...

I too am learning how to ask for help... I'm glad that you are doing well with this. I have voted and would join your group if we lived closer. My son would love it!

Casdok said...

What a fantastic idea! I have voted for you and will ask others.

Also thank you for the suggestion - i looked into it and its only in the US - but will write to the UK lot anyway :)))

Crossing fingers for you.

kathleen said...

Hey just voted..and it is posted to my wall on fb. It is a wonderful idea! :)

Mrsbear said...

That would have been hard for me too, Patty. You've done a phenomenal job getting the word out. Although I'm kind of amazed that anyone wouldn't want to help. When do you find out?

Denise said...

Great post as always, Patty. I was just thinking...I don't know the interaction between you and those that 'rejected' helping you...but I was thinking that it had nothing to do with you but more to do with their comfort level....irregardless of how good of friends you are. Did that make sense? I know if I asked my mom to help with things she would IN SOME CIRCUMSTANCES but in others she wouldn't....not rejecting me, per se, but not wanting to be put herself out there prone to rejection herself. I don't know if ANY of that made any sense...just thoughts from half a world away.

ShesAlwaysWrite said...

Buddy of mine is a hard core Lego junkie - runs shows and stuff. Has $90K worth of (documented, insured) Legos in his basement and works in the Lego store part time to supplement his habit. I don't know if he can help, but I'll check in with him to see if he can get the store to donate something to your club.